www.tomduggan.org.uk

Disclaimer:

I take no responsibility for anything you do after reading this page.

What is written here is speculative and experimental, and is presented as-is.

I am not trained to give advice or instruction regarding pest-control.

Pests can pose serious health risks, always consult a professional if you have them or come into contact with them.

The writing here is notes and fiction and will probably be revised several times.

Some thoughts I've had in regard to an ongoing attempt to try and apply veganism to pest-control.

If, as vegans, we can avoid getting into situations that would often be resolved by the extermination of an infestation of creatures, then isn't this a route we should try to seek out with a similar degree of importance as we seek out produce free from egg, dairy and other animal products?

Many animals have largely evolved alongside humans, becoming creatures reliant upon us for their food and habitats; some, like cats and dogs, don't provide many obstacles for cohabitation within domestic households, while others such as mice, cockroaches and rats are both unpleasant and unhygienic for human-animals to share domestic space with, while others, such as bed bugs may not pose any immediate health risk, but are certainly very unpleasant domestic companions - it is in regard to these particular animals, and with veganism in mind, that I want to try and think of ways human-animals and pests can avoid and reduce getting in each other's way, without resorting to extermination.

Animals only become pests when viewed as such.

perhaps a useful distinction in how these animals are perceived could be made when thinking of when they become pests; really, it is only when they are in the way of humans, that they are pests.

The majority of animals that become pests are drawn to the stored-food, food-scraps, waste and crumbs frequently found in and around domestic homes; - if these are left lying about, pests are being invited to move in.

By taking care to secure food in air tight containers [ideally metal tins and glass jars, which toothed rodents cannot easily chew through], and by habitually cleaning up after ourselves - keeping floors and surfaces clear of traces of food and disposing of waste properly, pests can be discouraged from settling.

It should be noted that no matter how clean a home is kept, it is no guarantee to prevent common pests from entering or settling, it will however greatly reduce the likelihood of this happening.

Even composting food can theoretically still be done without it becoming an attractive food source, by using a tough composting bin and ensuring organic waste is loaded into it cleanly and that spills are cleared up - if wandering animals cannot use the compost as a food source they will be much less likely to settle nearby, similar attitudes should be taken to waste disposal ensuring that waste foodstuffs cannot be smelled easily by searching animals, and that bin lids are closed properly.

Pest control beyond prevention.

Common pest control primarily involves extermination, and may also involve restricting food sources.

Vegan pest control involves making a concious effort to make homes unappealing places for pests to settle in, and to lead any animals that do enter, or which have already nested, to a place they can inhabit that is away from humans.

Vegan pest control generally speaking is effective because of three main actions:

1. Removing or making food sources inaccessible - so they leave trying to seek out new sources.

2. Reducing pest mobility - blocking small holes and gaps in the home and building humane traps in these thoroughfares.

3. Removing existing pests from the home - far away enough that they don't return to their nest.

I am going to outline the principles of gravity traps that will lure and capture various wandering pests for relocation, they can probably be improved, but can generally be made with very little money and primarily utilise common household items.

These traps won't work unless spills are cleaned up, sources of water are removed, any bins have sealing lids and are kept shut, and that all food is secured inside air-tight containers; it's essential that the pests find themselves short of food, only then will they be forced to investigate and fall into traps.

Conventional pest control often does not require such thorough cleaning because poisoned and dying populations of pests usually disappear regardless; people often talk about pests returning despite having had an exterminator around months prior - this is because their homes are still inviting places for pests to move in to.

A thorough clean involves pulling the fridge, bin, microwave, toaster etc. away from the wall and cleaning behind them - it is possible to disturb a nest doing this, so it can be a good idea to have a bowl or container ready to capture any potential fleeing pests.

Hot soapy water and a sponge should be adequate for cleaning intended to remove food smells thought to be attracting pests - disinfectant should be used for food preparation areas, especially when first tackling the presence of pests - labelling with a permanent marker should make sure gloves and sponges used for pest control aren't mixed up with those used for dishes at a later date.

PESTS must not become PETS

Some pests may seem cute, but wild rats and mice frequently carry very harmful diseases; no pests should be kept domestically.

When relocating pests from the home, if handling pests [whether living or dead] becomes necessary, gloves should always be worn and hands washed thoroughly.

Please read disclaimer at top of this page.

Gravity trap

Can be used for: Roaches, Rats, Mice.

Lure

A food that attracts the pest - this often requires a bit of experimentation; things worth trying are peanut butter, bread, banana peel, fruit, coffee granules, etc.- a small handful or even a single piece of food will nearly always be enough provided it is the only piece of food in the home giving off a smell.

Container:

Must have steep sides to prevent pests from climbing out and be tall enough that they cannot jump out - lubricating the upper walls and rim of the container with Vaseline is essential for cockroaches which are otherwise excellent climbers.

Ramp:

A surface such as fabric or kitchen towel is good for roaches to climb the sides of the trap.

For mice and rats, an actual ramp made of wood or cardboard may be necessary.

Placement:

Drains, bins, dark corners, near fridges, cupboards & pantries are likely locations, as well as anywhere they or their droppings have been seen, or where there is evidence of food having been consumed.

Relocating captured pests:

Some more persistent pests may find their way back into the home if not taken far enough.

Roach trap:

Large plastic tub with 'skirt' attached to outside that roaches can climb.

Fruit bait inside.

Top half of inside wall of tub is smeared with Vaseline to prevent the roaches exiting the trap.

Trap should be located near to where it is suspected they are nesting - in cooler climates roaches are often attracted to electrical devices that give off warmth.

Trap should be emptied daily in a location far from the home where the roaches can make a new home.

Traps will be much less effective if roaches can smell and feed on other food in the home.

roach trap

Window isn't necessary, this trap only has one because i ran out of kitchen towel, suppose it's helpful in that I can see the trap has caught anything more easily.

roach trap

Mouse and Rat trap:

Involves the same principle of getting the pest to fall into a container that it cannot escape from.

Whilst the roach trap required Vaseline at the top to prevent captured roaches from climbing out, rat and mouse traps instead require a deep container with steep and smooth sides that they cannot climb or jump out of.

Using a bucket or large tub with a lid that airholes can be drilled into will allow for the pests to be transported away from the home much more easily.

The lure pictured in these traps is peanut butter.

The following links often talk about drowning the rodents in water, obviously vegan pest control would involve relocating the animals instead.

Original design for this 'walk-the-plank' style trap taken from here

walk the plank trap

Original design for this 'rolling barrel' style trap taken from here

walk the plank trap

This video shows a fairly impressive trap, although i suspect that once the trap is occupied, it will not capture any other rodents.

Bed Bug traps:

Firstly, I have to give credit to Joel Z Williams, whose videos have been a great resource of information regarding bedbug behaviour, and whose videos have explained the CO2, and thoroughfare, trap-types I have detailed below; his channel is a great resource for anyone who wants to know more about bedbugs and how to construct cheap and effective traps at home

In order to bring vegan-possibilities to pest-control in the case of bedbugs, I first need to explain the behaviour of these unique creatures; again I have Joel Z Williams to thank for much of the knowledge set out here

Information about bedbugs

Bedbugs are an incredibly unpleasant companion to be living with, mainly because they are so persistent - they can live for over a year without feeding, and are incredible at hiding.

Bedbugs usually live in fabric or wooden furniture such as mattresses or bedroom furniture.

Home cleanliness has absolutely nothing to do with their presence or spread.

They are amazing hitch hikers and are a global problem spreading in the luggage and clothing of travellers.

Bedbugs cannot survive at temperatures above 48'celcius/114'fahrenheit - when returning from holiday it is wise to immediately wash all clothing on a 60'c / 140'f cycle for an hour as well as vacuum/wash luggage.

Bedbugs feed solely on human blood.

They come out at night when it is quiet.

Bedbugs move quite quickly and when disturbed can spread to other parts of the home easily.

They are attracted to warmth but more significantly by CO2 as is given off by the skin and breath of a human.

When they feed they usually leave a track of 2-4, [commonly 3] marks in a line about 1-1.5cm apart, these will nearly always appear in a straight line.

They are not renowned for spreading disease, although it is thought to be possible and is undergoing further research.

They are incredibly frustrating and distressing pests to come into contact with; the mental well-being of people whose homes become infested should not be overlooked

Bedbugs have 2 weaknesses that can be exploited in order to remove them from the home.

They require a blood meal to shed their skin and grow; each stage of growth requires a blood meal; once hatched from an egg they must feed and shed their skin five times to grow from a nymph into an adult; only adults are capable of laying eggs.

They can't jump, and they can't climb slippery/smooth surfaces.

The following methods are intended to aid with catching bedbugs early in order to preventing a more significant infestation from occurring - if discovered or suspected, bedbugs should be taken seriously and professional advice should be sought out.

Bedbug problems can escalate and become uncontrollable very quickly if appropriate action is not taken - please refer to the disclaimer at the top of this page.

Shielding / Mattress Encasement: the most important action.

Wrapping the mattress in tough and durable plastic sheeting, and making it airtight with duct-tape prevents bedbugs already nesting in the mattress from being able to feed on the occupant - if bedbugs cannot feed, they cannot breed.

As detailed here [19min 56s - 21min 08s], a shield/drape is a very wise addition to mattress encasement - the drape should be between the mattress and the bedsheet.

Provided all bed-linens have been washed on a high heat [an hour at at least 60'c/140'f], when a shield is in place over the mattress all bites will immediately stop, and only when a shield is in place will any traps stand a chance of being effective at reducing the bedbug population - it is common at this point for bedbugs to seek out new humans to feed on so it may well be necessary for all beds in a home to be protected.

Because bedbugs can live for up to a year without feeding, the plastic can only be removed once the occupant and household have been bite free for 400 days - I have outlined an experimental technique [mattress-siphoning] below which I think may allow for this time to be shortened.

Moving house / disposing of furniture and mattresses:

People troubled by bedbugs can often feel hopeless and even consider moving house with the hope of escaping an infestation; moving is incredibly unlikely to help, since it is almost guaranteed that an infestation will travel with the humans and furniture during the move, only to re-infest the new home.

Vacuuming and bed positioning:

Bedframes should be vacuumed thoroughly, and the vacuum emptied into an airtight bin bag that is promptly put in the outside bin with the lid securely in place - bedbugs can squeeze through tiny spaces and can easily return to the household - if possible bedframes should be disassembled and all surfaces and joins vacuumed.

Ensure the bed is a few inches away from the wall so they cannot reach the occupant by climbing the wall; the distance between the bed and the wall should be adequate that a quilt will not touch the wall during the night when the occupant may move around in their sleep; alternatively/additionally, plastic sheeting dusted with talcum powder could be fixed to the wall to prevent bedbugs from scaling it.

Thoroughfare trap:

If the bed, mattress and bed-linnens have been dealt with, a thoroughfare trap could well be all that is also needed in order to remove the problem.

thoroughfare trap

It is common for bedbugs to nest in nearby furniture or part of the home and travel to a sleeping occupant during the night; if so they will almost definitely climb up the leg of the bedframe in order to reach the occupant, a gravity trap placed in this thoroughfare will prevent the bedbugs from feeding and contain them so that they can be removed the following day.

Two bowls with steep sides, one large and one small placed inside one another with the leg of the bed inside the central bowl, form the basic structure of the trap.

thoroughfare trap

The inner bowl needs its inner surfaces lined with fabric [rolls of plaster/band-aid-tape or other fabric tape can make this easier] to form a ramp that the bedbugs can easily climb, while the outer bowl instead needs its outer surfaces lined with fabric.

Bedbugs approaching the bed will climb the outer wall and fall into the pitfall between the two bowls; while any bedbugs leaving the bed will climb down the leg, up the inside of the inner bowl and fall into the same pitfall.

The smooth surfaces of the bowls forming the walls of the pitfall should be dusted with talcum powder to make it even more slippery and difficult for bedbugs to escape from.

CO2 trap:

Bedbugs are attracted to CO2 - by mixing lukewarm water with sugar and active yeast, fermentation will occur releasing CO2 consistently for about 2-3 weeks; the CO2 can be siphoned from a bottle and used as a lure, drawing bedbugs into a pitfall trap - [lukewarm water is essential, 40'c/100'f - colder or hotter water will kill the yeast and fermentation will not occur].

This type of trap, as with the roach, rat and mice traps, works only when alternative food sources are unavailable; only with effective mattress encasement, shield, and thoroughfare traps will the CO2 produced by any sleeping humans be unreachable, forcing the bedbugs to investigate the trap instead.

CO2 trap

The pitfall should be placed under a bed or where it is suspected the bedbugs are nesting.

The CO2 duct could lead directly into a thoroughfare trap for increased effectiveness.

CO2 and thoroughfare trap

An unfolded wire coat-hanger fed through the rubber pipe will help position and direct the CO2 duct.

The seal in the bottle-lid must be air-tight, use a glue-gun or silicone putty; the pipe should not reach the fermenting liquid inside the bottle.

CO2 trap

Further details on how to construct an effective CO2 trap can be found here.

Mattress syphoning: an experimental technique

Combining the concepts of the CO2 trap and mattress encasement, I wonder if it is possible to create an opening in a mattress encasement that leads directly into a CO2 trap.

If CO2 enters the mattress encasement through a duct that funnels into a pitfall, would hibernating/dormant bedbugs [perhaps over a month or two] wake up and seek out the CO2, vacating the mattress only to fall into a trap where they can be siphoned from the population? - if so, the 400 day bite-free period could be dramatically reduced.

Plumbers pipes could be lined with fabric and a u-bend intended for sink/bath drains used for the pitfall.

The drainage cap at the bottom of the u-bend would allow for captured bedbugs to be removed and relocated without disassembling the trap.

ubend trap

Applying veganism to relocation in the case of an animal that lives solely off of human blood.

Bedbugs are really unique and amazing creatures that have evolved alongside us essentially as a parasite.

I think that there's something quite beautiful about them as creatures that have survived primarily by hiding and which can hibernate for potentially over a year - how, as vegans, do we ethically and physically separate ourselves from a creature that is so dependent upon us for their food?

Bedbug paranoia:

Partly because bedbugs are incredible at hiding, even people suffering no infestation can become convinced of their presence; equally strangely, people can live unaware that they are feeding a family of creatures every time they sleep.

Vampires:

With hindsight, we are able to narrate the birth [of the mythical figure] of The Vampire, as belonging to the discovery of a pair of bedbug bites, by someone with no knowledge of the creatures.

Misunderstanding these phantom marks as being left by a pair of teeth, and finding no beast within a locked and sealed home to whom the teeth belonged, gave birth to an imaginary predator whose body was physically missing, and which therefore existed in an indeterminate state that allows for the figurative vampire to be considered both alive and dead, real and imaginary.

Veganism and the Vampiric figure of the bedbug:

Can we really say that it is [ever so slightly] more vegan to release captured bedbugs into the wild, where, they will probably starve and die; but will not at least simply be being killed because they were in our way?

Once captured, could we instead keep them in jars, occasionally pouring our blood inside; or lowering a finger into the jar to feed them?

Perhaps..., but in all honesty, i don't think that veganism needs to have an answer to the problem of an incompatible specie that has evolved along side us, veganism, at least for me, isn't about achieving an absolutely symbiotic relationship with the world and all its creatures, it's just about avoiding exploitation wherever possible.

So i don't think we need to feel bad about capturing and releasing bedbugs, and i don't think it's our responsibility to feed them either.