Common Household Pests
The term household pests refers to any of those organisms that infest human habitations and which are considered undesirable either because of damage and disruption caused or merely because the organism in question is generally thought unattractive or a nuisance. Plants and fungi can be classified as pests but are generally easily remedied either by controlling their spread or by eradication using either physical or chemical methods. In this article, we will take a look at some of the commoner animal pests that may be found in your home and at some of the available methods of dealing with them.
Mice were once effectively controlled by means of rodenticides, toxins especially formulated to be fatal to them. However, as these poisons have been overused, mice have built up a strong resistance to them and are now immune to poisoning by all known substances including once common rodenticides such as warfarin and arsenic, along with nerve agents such as VX and sarin gas. Studies have shown that mice can in fact live healthily and even thrive on these substances alone - there is even evidence that they will actively seek out rodenticides and deliberately ingest them as a form of recreational drug use. This has made them extremely hard to kill and it now appears that total extermination is impossible, short of detonation of a nuclear weapon which is generally considered impractical for use in the home due to possible damage to crockery, scorch marks on the wallpaper and cancerous tumours/mutations in family members and pets.
The only solution is to learn how to live with them. Although a single mouse can eat over 24lb of your food each and every day (the fact that they will also produce 37lb of droppings a day - usually in whatever container you keep your brown rice in - is explained by the fact that they will also chew up and consume your furniture and curtains), there are also a number of positive aspects to allowing them to live in your home. First and foremost - mouse wool is a soft and insulating material that is ideal for knitting warm clothes. To make mouse wool clothing, you will need to trap your mouse. This is easily done by making a trap out of an empty plastic container, baited with grains of wheat that have been soaked over night in whisky or any other alcoholic spirit. Place the container on the floor with the opening facing downwards. Prop it up with the cork from a wine bottle. The mouse will crawl under the container, eat the grain and become very drunk, so that when he tries to leave he will knock over the cork and be trapped. You can tell if a trap which appears to have worked has in fact been successful by listening - if a mouse is inside, you'll hear him roaring. Slide a piece of flat plastic under the container so you can lift it without the mouse escaping - once he feels himself being picked up, he'll realise he's caught and give up any hope of escaping, glad that he's been caught in this way rather than by an owl. Extract mouse from container and place him on a table - if he does make any further attempt to run away, simply fasten him in place using a hammer and a six inch nail. The best way to remove the wool from the mouse is to use a standard electric shaver - one mouse yields up to 8lb of wool which, once washed, can be spun into yarn ready for knitting.
See also: HowTo:Catch A Mouse.
Imagine a mouse. Vermin they may be, but they're also kind of cute, aren't they? Now imagine that mouse on steroids. And crack. And crystal meth. With teeth like chisels, claws like knives and an attitude to match - that's what a rat looks like. If you have a problem with mice stealing food from your cupboards, it's usually possible to work out how they get into them and prevent it by blocking off their access routes. Rats, meanwhile, will kick the cupboard doors in and take whatever they want. If you have metal cupboards with locks, they'll beat the crap out of you until you agree to open them and let them take whatever they feel like taking. If you're not home, they'll just use an oxyacetylene torch. Then they'll steal your television and DVD player and sell it in order to get money for more crack.
Rats have been blamed for housefires, started after they've chewed through electrical cables and caused short circuits. This is partially true - they have caused fires, but not by chewing wires. In fact, they've deliberately cut them so that they can be attached to a computer which monitors your phone line so that they can steal your credit card details. One homeowner attempted to draw money out from an ATM and discovered that rats had stolen his identity and then cloned his card, which they sent to other rats in Turkey who cleared out the account. He immediately phoned the police who sent a heavily-armed riot squad to raid the house, where three rats were arrested. He was lucky - usually, once they have the data they need, they set fire to the house to destroy evidence and move on to their next victim.
Attempting to exterminate cockroaches is pointless. They survived the cataclysmic end of the universe that preceded this one, thrived in the void of no matter and no time in between, positively enjoyed the Big Bang and virtually came in their pants when the meteorite hit Yucatan. They've got along perfectly happily ever since and will continue to do so long after humans have vanished. Even decapitation, fatal to all other creatures, leaves them unharmed. Cockroaches can be trained to negotiate simple mazes - cut their heads off and do they die? No. Place a beheaded cockroach in a different maze, and it learns its way through quicker than a cockroach with its head intact. Direct strike from an SS18 warhead? They sunbathe in the thermonuclear blast. Absolutely nothing poisons them. They are immortal. Stamping on 'em seems to work. But as soon as you turn your back, the victim's cockroach friends emerge from under the fridge (if you've seen one cockroach, there'll be at least six million others under there watching you) and drag back the body parts which they will use to somehow build four new cockroaches, each one with - incredibly - even more legs and other unpleasantries than the original creature.
Ants and Termites
Both ants and termites live in rigidly-structured societies made up of several thousand individuals, with each individual fulfilling a specialised and highly-defined role within that social system. As such, in addition to being a pest due to stealing all your sugar (ants) and chewing anything made of wood to dust (termites), ants and termites are highly likely to introduce extreme left-wing or communist political philosophies into your home and in doing so can become a real nuisance - not least of all because once they persuade your dog to purchase and read a copy of the Socialist Worker newspaper or Das Kapital, he'll soon be casting off his chains and before you know it he won't do a damn thing you tell him too. Try shouting at or retraining a dog like that and he'll be straight on the phone to the United Nations complaining that you've been suppressing him and his right to socio-economic freedom. Within a few days, there'll be UN peace-keeping forces all over the house and if you bear in mind what a monumental fuck-up they made in the former Yugoslavia you can imagine what a mess they'll make of your carpets. Seriously, it could happen - so if you think there might be a colony of ants or termites somewhere in your house, you need to act now.
The first - and trickiest - step in dealing with an ant or termite invasion is to locate the nest, from which daily patrols and raiding parties set out to explore your house in search of any salvage that can be carried back. Attempts have been made to place miniature radio transmitters inside grains of sugar in the hope that this would enable a tracker equipped with a receiver to follow the ants' progress back to their base. Although this process met with some success early on, both ants and termites have since developed highly-sophisticated tracking bug detection devices which are sufficiently advanced as to be able to detect even the most modern and discreet bugs. However, a low-tech solution exists and is successful in 99% of cases -
- Buy some microwavable toffee popcorn. Ants and termites find the sugary flavour impossible to resist.
- Leave a few unopened packs lying on the kitchen floor overnight. The ants will discover these and carry them back to their nest. However, when they open the packs, they will find the unpopped kernels unpalatable and upon reading the cooking instructions will discover that they now need a microwave oven.
- The next night, the ants will send a patrol into the kitchen in search of a microwave. When they locate one, they will unplug it from the wall socket and carry it back to their nest. They will then install it and begin cooking popcorn.
- The following day, listen carefully for the sound of the microwave alarm going off to indicate that the food it is being used to cook is ready. Good places to listen include under floorboards, inside hollow walls and the garden. Once you have worked out where the nest is, ant/termite elimination measures can be carried out.
A wide range of anti-ant and anti-termite poisons are on sale. Save your money - none of them are effective as both creatures are known to employ rigorous food safety testing standards (that's why they don't steal your Pop Tarts, despite the high sugar content). You will first need to gain access to the nest, which may involve ripping up floors etc. or a meticulous search of the garden. Once access has been achieved, boil some water and pour it into all the entry-exit points of the nest. This, unfortunately, will not kill the entire colony as you will discover if you look at the nest a few hours later. During this time, the ants will have used dirt and small twigs to construct elaborate earthworks including walls and trenches. A miracle of entomological engineering and design, these defences are utterly non-boiling waterproof, so simply give 'em another couple of litres to eradicate the nest.
Like many household pests, woodlice can be put to a good use. When you discover a colony of them (look in damp, dark places such as cellars, under carpets, in your underwear), select the largest male and female. It might be best to catch a few of the largest since woodlice display no outward indicator of sex (leading to higher instances of bisexuality amongst woodlice than any other species) so that you have a higher chance of obtaining both males and females. Place them into a plastic container with a tightly-fitting lid, having made sure that you've punched some airholes through it - there's no need to place any food into the container, as woodlice don't eat anything. Before long you will have at least one litter of woodlice kittens, as the young are known. Select the larger specimens and keep them - any smaller ones can be fried in butter to make a great-tasting hors d'ouevre. Once again, select larger kittens and continue this process until you have created a race of giant woodlice which can be used for a multitude of tasks. This program of selective breeding has been taking place in Europe for many centuries, beginning around the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 CE. William's army brought with them stocky woodlice capable of carrying the warriors of the day in their heavy chainmail, and it was through their use on the battlefield at Hastings that he was able to score a decisive victory over King Harold's English forces. The worth of the giant woodlouse as a weapon of war was proved.
The first records of distinct breeds date from the early 13th Century, when several were mentioned in a farming manual entitled Yeoman's Yeare Booke, Includyng Moderne Farmynge Practyces. An illustration of a shyrelouse bears a striking resemblance to the Shire louse which was a common sight on British farms until halfway through the 20th Century, when tractors began to be widely used, suggesting that the breed has changed little since that time. Other breeds mentioned include the Percherlouse, a French breed still common in some of the more backward rural areas such as Provence and Paris, and the Suffolk Punchlouse.
In times gone by, poltergeists were considered as undesirable in the home as rats, mice and cockroaches - Victorian poltergeist traps can be seen in many museums, and poltergeist-catchers could find work in any town as recently as the 1970s. However, it has since been shown that poltergeists actually do a great deal more good than harm. For example, they do not chew holes in clothes, as your grandmother may have claimed, and the camphor balls she placed in the wardrobe (she just told you they were to keep moths away so you wouldn't get scared when you were a kid) would have had little or no effect as poltergeists have no sense of smell. They also do not suffocate sleeping children by lying down on their faces - if that ever happens to your child, there's every chance it was actually the cat that did it. However, poltergeists do catch and eat a number of other problematic household pests, including dust mites, curtain beetles, wallpaper mites and carpet munchers.
Poltegeists can easily be enslaved and made to carry out domestic tasks. First, construct a poltergeist trap - this is easily done by using a large box with a tea cup in it. When you see the poltergeist enter the box and begin playing with the cup, quickly close the lid. Carefully reach into the box, taking the poltergeist by the scruff of the neck - don't worry, poltergeists have no teeth and so cannot bite you. Turn the poltergeist upside down so as to reveal its belly, where you will find a switch marked +/-. If it is set to +, simply change it to -. By doing so, you have reversed the poltergeist's polarity. Now set it free - rather than smashing stuff and knocking things to the floor, it will start tidying up and mending things. They can also be trained to carry out slightly more complex chores such as washing-up, and nothing scrubs an oven clean quite like a poltergeist does. In addition, poltergeists have a natural love of children - their gentle, caring natures make them excellent childminders.
Younger siblings come in two varieties, male (known as a 'little' or 'kid' brother) and female (known as a 'little' or 'kid' sister). Both types are extremely annoying and destructive and have been shown to carry several diseases that can be contracted by humans. In addition to this, they have proved extremely capable at thwarting any attempt to prevent them from entering the home. Both are common in family homes and are a particular problem for people aged between 13 (the beginning of the teenage years) and 18 (at which point it becomes possible to leave the family and set up a new home free of such pests).
Though they are in general larger than most household pests, which prevents them from gaining access to rooms via cracks in walls, spaces underneath doors etc., methods sold as younger sibling control devices (such as bedroom door locking systems) are likely to be ineffective and they will soon find ways to circumvent such measures. In earlier times, the chief nuisance caused by younger siblings was their habit of 'borrowing' vinyl records and scratching them - although vinyl records have been largely replaced by compact discs, younger siblings will also 'borrow' these and forget to return them. The CDs will end up either being used as coasters upon which cups of hot fluid such as tea will be placed or will find their way under the younger sibling's bed, where large quantities of rubbish are stored. If the CD is retrieved, it is likely to be badly damaged and in all probability will be unplayable.
Younger siblings will also steal objects such as pornography and birth control devices including oral contraceptives and condoms. These will often then be taken to school and shown to the younger sibling's classmates who will then form the opinion that the older sibling is a slag (in the case of the stolen item being an oral contraceptive). If the stolen item is a condom and the older sibling is male, they will decide that he is gay - precisely why this should be the case remains unknown, but provides proof that simple logic is beyond the mental grasp of children. This will lead to the owner of the stolen item being forced to endure constant verbal taunts from the younger sibling's comrades, who will shout the corresponding accusations loudly in the street whenever they see them. That in itself would not be entirely impossible to endure, since children have very short attention spans and will soon forget. However, items such as birth control devices and pornography in the possession of younger siblings will soon attract the attention of teachers, who will notify social workers and/or police in the fear that the child is either sexually active or is being exposed to obscene material. Parents will then be brought in which, since the older relative shares parents with the younger sibling, results in embarrassment and in many cases punishment.
However, despite the major nuisance caused, younger siblings are not yet classified as vermin under the law of any developed nation and as such cannot be controlled by extermination as can rats, cockroaches, squirrels and so on. Precisely why this is the case is not understood, but several studies have suggested that it may result from the younger sibling's habitual behaviour of 'telling Mum.' The younger sibling is likely to be the fresh-faced apple of Mum and Dad's eye, whereas you - if you suffer from younger sibling infestation - are likely to be an awkward, spotty, gangling and generally unattractive teenager, parents will automatically side with the younger sibling. This will result in grossly unfair punishment such as cessation of pocket money and/or denial of permission to attend events such as parties and cinema film showings. If the parents are approaching late middle age, it may be possible to dispose of younger siblings during parental absence by killing them, burying them at the bottom of the garden and later claiming they ran away to live with the gypsies or circusfolk - parents in this age bracket are old enough to have been raised on a literary diet of Enid Blyton stories and will be well aware that running away with these types of social groups leads to the kind of character-building experiences and fun adventures that every mother and father dream their children will enjoy, so they won't ask questions.
If, on the other hand, your parents are of child-bearing age, killing existing younger siblings will quite possibly only lead the parents to produce more offspring, possibly even a greater number of them in order to have spares should any further mysterious disappearances take place. If this happens, you'll be in a worse state than you were in the first place and so it may be necessary to tolerate those you already have - however, with practice it will become possible to administer painful punches and kicks without leaving bruises, a system used by older siblings throughout history.
- On the other hand, this has advantages - these extra siblings will have compatible organs should you ever be in need of a transplant.