I was talking to a friend who lives in Florida, because we're thinking of maybe moving there. A couple things she said got me thinking. She said her kids spend every minute of every day swimming in their pool, which I thought sounded awesome. What lucky kids! She also mentioned when we talked about living costs that you need to get your house sprayed for insects every month, or she buys it herself and does it.
So then I got thinking, how good is it really to swim in pools every day, and even ever, in all those chemicals? I take my kids swimming once a week to an indoor pool and never thought of it this way, but our skin absorbs everything right? And I take such care to not have toxic things around, yet I take them swimming in chemical filled pools every week?
And this insecticide thing, how safe is that? You have to spray chemicals around your house every month? Are there natural options? Now I'm wondering about moving to Florida! Do any of you live there and can you comment on this?
I live in Southern Florida, and have for the better part of 11 years. I do not use chemical insecticides. Natural options are a bit more work than signing a contract with a pest control company, but I don't like blowing the money, I don't like having poisons in or around my home, and natural options aren't THAT much work anyways. Also, it takes a certain amount of understanding that certain pests are just a part of life, and while you can control their numbers, nothing is going to keep them all out. Whether you have a pest control contract or not, you will at some point have palmetto bugs (that's Floridian for big freaking cockroaches) in your house. If you always go to bed at a reasonable hour, you may have the good fortune to never see them and thus be able to convince yourself they aren't there, but they will be there. And if you happen to decide to hop up for a midnight snack some night, one might happen to chase you around the kitchen.
The most important thing (even if you have a pest control contract) is making your home as inhospitable to pests as possible. Spiders and palmetto bugs (and other pests) are attracted to cardboard boxes, so try not to keep any around. Pests like clutter, so keep your home uncluttered. Keep your kitchen clean. Make sure no crumbs or dirty dishes are being left about anywhere. Most people forget about the toaster, microwave, and between the cabinets and stove. Don't leave piles of clothes lying around. Also, it is important to keep your home from being too damp. Not only can mold become a terrible problem incredibly fast down here, but pests love a damp house, too. Fix leaky pipes promptly, keep the bathroom and kitchen dry, don't hang dry clothes in the house, et cetera, and get a dehumidifier if necessary.
If you find ants in the house, find where they are coming in, clean the kitchen, and eliminate anything they might be using as a water source. Then go back to their entry point and put down a line of cayenne or cinnamon. They won't cross it. Powdered sugar mixed with borax is a good roach bait, but palmetto bugs will snort a line of it and then laugh at you. Your best bet is to just prevent them from getting comfortable by keeping all food and water sources from being accessible. And if you see one, you have the option of beating it to death with something heavy, but be warned, they're nearly indestructable and flip flops will only tick them off. Oh, and they fly. And hiss. If you end up with a spider problem, you have some other pest problem, even if you don't realize it. They don't eat air. Get rid of food and water sources for other pests, declutter, get rid of cardboard boxes, wipe down webs frequently, and I've noticed cleaning everything down with a citrus based cleaner helps a lot. Spiders don't like citrus. Actually, orange oil and lemongrass oil are pretty well hated by most pests. Eucalyptus oil and neem oil are very useful, too. If you have pets, planting pennyroyal around your yard will help keep fleas away. Planting citrusy herbs like citronella, lemonbalm, and lemongrass help keep mosquitos at bay. Boiling water works pretty well to rid your yard of fire ants, but you need to hit every hill in the yard for several days in a row to wipe out the colony. Just getting them once won't do it. Planting mint and catnip around your yard helps keep ants away. If you garden, depending on how far south you want to live, you may want to consider picking a home away from water, canals included, as we have a bit of an iguana problem and they'll eat pretty much everything. Things they aren't supposed to eat (like jalepeno peppers), they'll learn to like just to tick you off. And they spread salmonella. They also happen to be pretty much impossible to discourage outside of not planting anything they will eat (which is basically everything), and neither animal control nor pest control companies will deal with them. You have the option of live trapping them and then, as releasing them is illegal, either keeping them as a pet (don't, feral iguanas are not cuddly), or humanely killing them. I suggest the latter. Preferably before they lay their eggs, because each couple will make hundreds of tomato thieving monster babies per mating season. If you decide to trap and kill, they happen to be delicious, especially after living on an organic diet of lovingly grown heirloom tomatoes, squash, peppers, and nasturtiums.
As for the pool bit, I've had concerns about that, too, but when it comes right down to it, for most people, when you live in a house with a pool, eventually the novelty wears off and it becomes nothing more than an expensive pain in the butt to maintain. I don't know anyone who regularly uses their pool after the first year. Besides, we're just a short drive from several beaches (real beaches). Beach trips are more fun than pools anyways.
Wow, thank you so much for all that info! So, with little kids around and a scattered brain, is it possible to do all that you said, I mean remember to clean under toaster and microwave, etc etc etc? I pretty much never ever do that where I live, and don't have to, but if I was in Florida would the threat of those creatures keep me from forgetting maybe? Do you remember to do all that?
It's possible. I've known mothers down here who are excellent at keeping a near sterile home. I am not one of them, though, and I won't say I never forget or just plain don't find time. Thankfully, it isn't necessary to be religious about it, though, and usually pest issues can be headed off before they turn into big problems. I'm a single mom of two (one of which is a 2 year old), but for the most part, pest control has been pretty easy to manage after I figured out what needed to be done. Most of it is just second nature now. I happen to be terrified of spiders and palmetto bugs, though, so that does give me incentive to make a point of giving everything a thorough cleaning at least once a week (though not typically all in one day), and I do make sure the kids help out. DD (8) and DS (2) clean up after meals, put away their own laundry, clean the floors, and water the garden. DS loves the last three, and they both fight over who gets to do the last two. Also, for some reason kids think it is a hoot to sweep the ceiling. Saves me from web sweeping, which is great, because I hate it. It helps that I have no qualms about kicking the kids out of the house for a large portion of each day since I'm of the opinion that they need the fresh air, sun, and connection with nature... and that the house happens to stay cleaner when they aren't in it. To be fair, it also seems to stay cleaner when I'm not in it so I kick myself out, too. I have gardening to do anyways.
I have had to learn to be savage when it comes to decluttering, though. We seem to accumulate so much junk so fast, and I used to hate getting rid of things. However, I tend to be in a better mood in more simple surroundings, the house is so much easier to keep clean without all the crap, and pests like clutter, so I overcame it. We declutter at least every 6 months. If we haven't needed something in 6 months (with a few exceptions), I figure we don't need to keep it, and what we do keep goes into cabinets, and cloth or plastic storage containers, not cardboard boxes. Now that we're in the habit of decluttering on a regular basis, it doesn't tend to be a big thing when it is time, as there isn't as much to sort through anymore.
My home is rarely pristine (okay, never actually), but we take care to keep up with the most important things (food, water, clutter), and pest problems don't get to be more than we can handle. It's when things start adding up that you have trouble.