Pest control is an ongoing battle on Anna Maria Island, as it is in most subtropical places. Instead of pests, many Islanders like to call them critters. It sounds less disgusting or frightening than the real names for some of the creatures who share the environment and homes of most Floridians. Sometimes it’s possible to see the critters in a positive light. This article is about trying to do just that. It’s an exercise in trying to change your attitude if you can’t change the situation. Because our situation in Florida is that the critters are as determined to be here as we are.
One critter that is considered a pest by some, but a beloved pet by others, is the squirrel. As long as their numbers are not too great, and as long as they nest in the trees and not your house, squirrels can be very entertaining little visitors. When storms blow baby squirrels out of their nests, Wildlife Education and Rehab takes in hundreds of them, and with the help of volunteers raises them until they are big enough to run wild. It’s easy for many Islanders to see squirrels in a positive light, not the target of pest control measures.
Another critter of questionable reputation is the raccoon. Beloved by some artists and some wildlife supporters, the raccoon is feared by others, and considered a pest, because of the possibility of rabies. They sometimes raid sea turtle nests, requiring that cages be placed over the nests to prevent raccoons from digging. Anyone with a problem raccoon should call Wildlife Education and Rehab in Bradenton Beach for instructions or help on how to have the raccoon taken away under humane conditions.
Now we get to the critters that are more difficult to love. Rats are a concern because they multiply so quickly. In trapping or poisoning rats, it’s very important to think beyond the rat and to consider what other animals might be affected by your method. For example, a poisoned rat might be eaten by a bird of prey, killing a magnificent bird as well as the rat. I’ve even seen a great blue heron swallow a rat, with the tail being the last thing to disappear into the bill. Too bad we can’t rely on great blue herons to rid the island of all the rats. The classic rat trap might maim or kill an innocent squirrel, or even a small dog or cat. Therefore, effective pest control in this case may best be carried out by purchasing a couple of humane animal traps, such as Havahart, from the local hardware store, or by calling a professional pest control company.
Another critter loved by very few is the cockroach. Around here, the term “palmetto bug” is more appealing. But the roach is still a roach. Believe it or not, I have found something to like about one member of the cockroach family. The green Cuban cockroach is actually quite beautiful. It’s amazing what color can do to improve the looks of one of Nature’s ugliest pests. Cuban cockroaches seem to fly at night, landing on the window. They are delicate compared to palmetto bugs. As for the rest of the cockroaches, the best plan is to hire a pest control company and be done with it. Good exterminators can rid your home of roaches for six months at a time. If you want to try doing it yourself, stores such as WalMart, Home Depot and Lowe’s carry pest control products that are effective.
Dare I bring up termites? The only nice thing I can say about them is that they think of our houses as trees. They mean us no harm. But they must be controlled to prevent major structural damage. Termites are a permanent part of the Florida environment. Subterranean termites must retain contact with damp soil and tend to build mud tubes in or on walls while consuming wood. Drywood termites live within the wood fiber and expel debris (frass) from small exit holes in siding or drywall.
I think we have to resign ourselves to calling an exterminator that can use tenting to fumigate and kill the termites periodically. Call a professional the minute you see signs of termite activity, including frass or detached wings, which indicate the termites are swarming. Be sure to call several pest control companies who know which type of termite is present and how to best treat your pest problem. One needs to be very careful in dealing with termite control companies that charge a lot for ongoing visits. It’s best to get several evaluations and bids before choosing which exterminator to use.