If you have "no place to go," come here!

Household remedy request: Water Bugs

DCblogger's picture

I live in a basement apartment with a SERIOUS water bug infestation. I also own a dog, so have to be careful how I fight this.

Any suggestions?

No votes yet


Dario's picture
Submitted by Dario on

Boric acid in crevices, (unaccessible to the dog) is the best insect deterrent I know. Hardware stores sell it to remove cockroaches and ants.

Submitted by lambert on

If clogs up their little pores (i.e., is not a poison, and they cannot develop resistance.)

* * *

It sounds like it's toxic in large amounts only, and so a strategy would have to be developed for the dog. Not sure!

Looks like Terro is a pet-safe granulated form:

Sounds like a call to a real vet.

Submitted by hipparchia on

you could try this flea remedy. i've had good luck with the dishes of soapy water for drowning fleas [whenever i can rig up some way to keep the pets out of the dishes] even without using any light source. waterbugs are roaches and soapy water will drown roaches, so a deep enough pan of soapy water ought to work.

going on the "waterbugs are just another roach" idea...

i've tried the boric acid mixed with sweetened condensed milk paste, because the idea is that you can put the paste in places where pets can't get to it, like the undersides of countertops, but it didn't seem to dent the roach population noticeably. still, here are some other variations you can try.

speaking of bay leaves... bay leaves, catnip tea, and beer and peanut butter roach traps; and more roach traps. i wonder if that means that the honey-type flea traps, mentioned in the first link above, would work for roaches?

speaking of using smelly liquids as repellents, this is one i learned from a college room mate... every night just before going to bed, mix some bleach in about a half saucepan of water, use this to wipe down the stove top, counter tops, sink in the kitchen, leave the rag you used out to dry [hanging on the faucet or the sink divider, lying flat on the counter, whatever], and if you don't have pets that can get to the kitchen sink, leave the half-full pan of bleach water sitting in the sink overnight. it didn't seem to cut down the overall roach population any, but if you got up in the middle of the night and turned on the kitchen light, at least there was no horde of roaches madly scrambling across the counter or out of [or into] the sink.

Submitted by lambert on

Here is a fine explanation of how it works and how to apply it:

Cockroaches succumb to boric acid when they crawl over treated areas. The tiny particles of powder adhere to the cockroaches' body, and the material is ingested as the roach preens the powder from its legs and antennae. Some boric acid is also absorbed through the greasy outer covering of the insect's body. All species of cockroaches are susceptible to boric acid provided the powder is applied into areas where the roaches are living.

So that's why the paste won't work: No powder.

It seems to me then that the main issue is preventing the dog from licking it. But it sounds like that can be solved by proper application:

Key areas for treatment include under/behind the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher, into the opening where plumbing pipes enter walls (such as under sinks and behind the commode, shower and washing machine), and into cracks along edges and corners inside cabinets and pantries. Oftentimes, there is a void (hollow space) under kitchen and bathroom cabinets which becomes a hiding place for cockroaches. This area can be accessed and treated by injecting powder through any existing gap at the top of the kickplate, or if none is present, by drilling a few small holes.

NEVER apply boric acid onto countertops or other exposed surfaces, especially those used to prepare food.

The dog isn't going to lick in any of those places.

This living space does not sound ideal. I'm sorry.....

Submitted by hipparchia on

from your source, "[boric acid] is ingested as the roach preens the powder from its legs and antennae."

the idea behind the paste is (1) the paste stays where you put it, and (2) the roaches eat the sweetened condensed milk, thus ingesting the boric acid that you have cleverly disguised.

it appears that maybe no one really knows why or how it kills bugs:

As an insecticide, boric acid's mechanism of action is not fully known-- it may involve destruction of the foregut lining of cockroaches, possibly causing starvation (PMID 7607296).

although people will tell you that it works two ways:

As an insecticide, boric acid acts as a stomach poison for ants, cockroaches, silverfish and termites, and as abrasive to the insects exoskeleton.

Submitted by lambert on

... we'll just have to go with experience: You agree paste doesn't work; my experience is that powder does. From the provider link you gave that has cites:

Boric acid may be used either in a bait formulation containing a feed attractant or as a dry powder. The powder may be injected into cracks and crevices, where it forms a fine layer of dust. Insects travel through the boric acid, which adheres to their legs. When the insects groom themselves, they then ingest the poison, which causes death three to ten days later of starvation and dehydration. As long as the material is not allowed to become wet, its continuous presence ensures that hatching insects, which sprays commonly spare, are exposed and die. Many insecticidal formulations can be effective for more than a year.

Pretty much what the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture said. I love the extension service! You're right, it doesn't "clog their little pores"; but the powder application seems to be essential.

UPDATE Adding, here's an HTML link to the EPA study on animals eating it

Submitted by hipparchia on

the powder application seems to be essential

maybe, maybe not. i only said that it did not SEEM to work very well, but the fact that you can buy commercially-prepared boric acid gel for killing roaches suggests that homemade paste might work too. if boric acid works both by poisoning and by abrasion, then powder is a good choice and saves you trouble and mess of mixing up a paste.

along those lines, i've used powdered borax and boric acid both off and on for flea control and had, at best, middling results. little dishes of soapy water all over the house, otoh, have worked far far better for flea control than any other single thing i've ever, in a lifetime of having flea-bearing pets, tried. so phbbbt on your powder-uber-alles!

Submitted by hipparchia on

the abrasion effect only works (if indeed it does work that way) if the powder stays dry.

if you apply boric acid (or borax) to the soil in your garden, your plants will absorb some of the boron. boron in trace amounts is thought to be good for humans, but i wouldn't recommend anybody go wild with it.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

dunno about water bugs.

In the really old research building I used to be in, there was a huge ant problem.

The person in charge of facilities would put out dabs of boric acid mixed with mint jelly. With ants of course, it was easy for him to spot their usual trails, and choose locations with this in mind. Oh, it did work, and kept the boric acid in place.

As far as how boric acid acts on water bugs, I see no reason why it wouldn't be the same as for ants. (Prior is an informed statement.) They eat it mixed with something else, it kills them. Re: Hipp's link above, boric acid ~33%, "inert ingredients" ~66%.

So, in the case of the ant bait, the 66% "inert ingredient" would be mint jelly. I have no knowledge as to whether or not water bugs would like mint jelly. But anything they like should do as the inert ingredient. Should I mention the cat litter box at this point?

Submitted by lambert on

I haven't seen any, but that doesn't mean they won't arrive.

This year has also been very good for butterflies!

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

That theory works, b/c it seems the only way insects would ingest a powder. I'd have to go do more research, but it probably gets into saliva, then into gut.

btw, I checked out google scholar- it seems that how it works as an insecticide has been debated. From 1995:

Boric acid is a slow-acting, inorganic insecticide whose mode of action has not been satisfactorily elucidated. Reported here is evidence which shows that ingested boric acid destroys the cellular lining of the foregut of German cockroaches,Blattella germanica (L.). This effect appears to be sufficient to bring about the death of the insects, perhaps ultimately by starvation. This finding is important because resistance to conventional insectivides may re-establish boric acid as a prominent cockroach control chemical.

btw, German cockroaches are the little ones- not the water bugs Periplaneta america.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

Heh, I've sorta lost track of the conversation. For a moment there, I thought Lambert had a dog. And, not sure how Lambert used the powder.

And, I agree with DCBlogger, that it would kill innocent insects, if put in the wrong place. All insects groom themselves.

I use tablets of boric acid and put them places inside where I know the cat absolutely does not venture. A powder is not easy to contain, and might inadvertently get spread around to places where she does venture. I don't want her to get powder on her fur, and end up taking it in during her own grooming.


text says they contain a "special lure". I have no idea what this might be.