How to Get Rid of Waterbugs

Catching and killing all the bugs in your house can be a challenge. But using these crazy tech tools can save you big time.

How to Get Rid of Waterbugs

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DEAR READERS: Welcome to the latest Swarm Tank, a handy guide to how to make your house a more welcoming place to live. This installment was written by Michael J. Wilson, OCS, MPH, an associate professor of medicine and health promotion at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Enjoy!

At first, the smallest fly disappears almost too quickly. Next, it disappears quickly enough for even you to miss it as you tumble blindly into the corner of your kitchen or frantically flick the remote control to catch it before it’s downstairs.

In a world of swift in-your-face exterminators, these noisy, tiny creatures are a last hope for pest controllers. Their stealthy movements can evade us because they don’t attract a daily volley of annoying bites. To better understand how we’re getting away with it, consider this: I found some very disturbing statistics about what it takes to teach a fly to stop flying.

Unlike a human, these critters will never run from any threat, so the fastest way to destroy them is to confuse them. They typically don’t fly away from a person on the way into your house—instead, they latch onto a wire sump pump, sending their small bodies floating downward while they siphon whatever they can.

Then comes the most difficult part: once they’re on the ground, how do you get them to stop? Force is rarely needed, and that’s why we use rat poison: it’s by far the fastest way to kill a fly. To make matters worse, poison takes up to two days to be effective, which is often not enough to kill them on their way out. It takes us mere seconds to kill an osprey off the water by snapping its wings.

More techniques: A lightweight spray can spray from overhead or a 3-foot mallet can scrape them from the wall. If we have more time, we can apply chemical hairspray before we run in. It works by creating tiny quilt-like particles on the fly’s skin. These balls have a chemical reaction with the fly, with irritating fumes that will render it unable to fly. It takes two to three minutes to work, so we’re talking seconds here to finally get rid of a fly.

You might think that killing tiny critters is like killing tiny spiders or wasps, but it’s different. The fly never flies away: We close the door, and they stay put until they’re showered with their toxins.

The above is my imagination, of course. In my house, I use a stream to kill them, and no one ever complains because we find this to be a hugely successful strategy. Plus, we aren’t as delicate with our electronic devices as you might think.

I have one request: Please don’t let your toddler run in here to check out the garden and sprinkle poison on the grates, in case she can’t decide between waiting outside for the rat poison to work before she tells her teacher about the swarming tentacle army—or meanwhile, you accidentally inject her on the way.

The main point is that you don’t have to put a plan together for every threat that will come into your house. It’s not just keeping vampires at bay: mosquitoes, fleas, fleas, scorpions, and a veritable bag full of things should be checked on a regular basis. But it all has to start with individual precautions. Just like a dog, you have to be careful about what you can’t see, in order to do nothing worse. I always put the cat’s chair with its ducktail out in the living room before I set up the remote control, instead of in the kids’ playroom, which is a welcome relief. Because, like a mosquito, they can hide inside really quickly.

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