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Insects: 5 Things Renters Should Look Out For

Sharing a space with other people often means sharing things you don't necessarily want. Like bugs.
Sharing a space with other people often means sharing things you don't necessarily want. Like bugs.
Larry Crowhurst/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Most of us have or probably will live in an apartment at some point in our lives. And why not? Along with affordability, many apartment complexes boast amenities and features that rival some houses. In a lot of cases, they allow us to live closer to a downtown area than a house might.

But while there are many advantages to apartment renting, sharing a big space with many other people often means sharing things you don't necessarily want. Like bugs. From flies to roaches and the dreaded bed bugs, an insect infestation at an apartment can be very hard to get rid of.

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In many cases, the apartment owner or leasing company is responsible for taking care of the pest problem. That can vary from state to state and even apartment complex to apartment complex, so it may fall upon you as the renter to handle the issue yourself.

We'll look at five insect pests renters should look out for, what they need to know about them, and perhaps most importantly, how to get rid of them.

A common house fly.
A common house fly.
Don Farrall/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Flies are pretty common as far as household pests go, but they can be quite difficult to get rid of. The first thing you need to know is that flies feed on trash, old food, animal feces and other decomposing matter. So here's what you need to do: Clean up!

Get rid of old bags of trash and make sure the kitchen is tidy. That will keep new flies from being attracted to your apartment. You can also ask your landlord to beef up your weather stripping, or put small packets of crushed mint leaves near windows or doors.

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There are also a number of ways to get rid of the flies you already have. Fill a jar with apple cider vinegar and cover it with a tight-fitting paper funnel secured with tape. The flies will be attracted to the vinegar and fly into the jar, but they'll be unable to leave. Hanging plastic bags full of water outside your apartment will also help to repel flies -- the flies think it's a predator and will stay away.

Every pet owner should know about the dangers presented by fleas. They can attach themselves to your dog or cat, then hop inside and multiply like crazy as they make their way into your carpet and furniture. In addition to bites, they can also carry diseases.

But even if you don't have pets, you could "inherit" them from your apartment's previous renter if the problem wasn't taken care of. Your neighbors' pets may have fleas as well. But while they can be very stubborn, fleas aren't impossible to get rid of.

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Here's what you do: First, if you have pets, get them treated with a bath or spray. Make sure they're on preventive flea medicine. Clean and vacuum any beds where your pet may sleep.

The pets are only half the battle, however: Flea eggs can be all over your apartment. (Gross.) Get a decent vacuum cleaner and run it everywhere, including your couches. Then strip the sheets and wash them in hot water. If all else fails, you may have to set off insecticide flea bombs.

Nothing is more disgusting than seeing a roach (or two) crawl across the floor of your shiny new apartment kitchen! Roaches are incredibly resilient insects whose ability to survive is almost unparalleled. They can go for very long periods without food or water, which is why they tend to head to kitchens and bathrooms when they do appear. The little pests can hide just about anywhere.

But while roaches are pretty tough, there are ways to get rid of them. First, lay down some traps. Consider getting live traps so you can figure out where the roaches are hiding. Other traps are designed to kill the roach immediately using some type of bait. You'll also want to spray insecticide around your kitchen, bathroom and other roach-infested areas. Just make sure whatever you're spraying is safe for you, your kids and your pets.

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To keep the roaches from coming back, keep your house extra clean; keep faucets from leaking and make sure bathrooms and other areas aren't damp. That means you'll need to caulk up openings from the outside, too.

Like flies, ants are often common pests in apartments. While they're not dangerous and don't carry disease, they are annoying. They can also be hard to shut down once they get out of control.

Ants come in from the outside because they're attracted to the food in your apartment. Are you noticing a trend here? Most insects head inside because they need a snack. Ants are especially attracted to sugary treats, so your kitchen will be a target that's high on their list.

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Your tactics here depend on how bad your infestation is. Laying down some pesticide along the baseboards and openings of your apartment may take care of it. If not, consider laying down some bait -- preferably something sweet like brown sugar -- and then sucking up as many ants as you can with your vacuum cleaner. You could also invest in some ant-bait poison, the kind ants take back to their nests, so that you can wipe out the entire hive at once.

Pestec technician Carlos I. Agurto walks with Ladybug, a Beagle trained to sniff out bed bugs, as they inspect a bed in an apartment with bed bugs in San Francisco.
Pestec technician Carlos I. Agurto walks with Ladybug, a Beagle trained to sniff out bed bugs, as they inspect a bed in an apartment with bed bugs in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There's a chance that you may never have heard of bed bugs until a few years ago. Starting around 2010, New York City became the center of a massive bed bug epidemic. It has since started moving into other parts of the country, particularly in places where lots of people sleep, like dorms, hotels, hospitals and even apartments. Many of these bed bugs have proven resistant to traditional pesticides.

What exactly are bed bugs? They're small, parasitic insects that bite your skin and suck your blood, often leaving an itchy rash. They're nocturnal and like to hide in tight spaces. They do not transmit diseases to humans, but are notoriously hard to get rid of.

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If you think you have bed bugs, and your apartment complex management is lax in handling the issue, you need to take immediate action. Odds are, your neighbors have bed bugs too because the creatures spread easily throughout buildings. You need to get in touch with the people who live near you and implore them to treat their units also. Clean up the clutter around your apartment, vacuum it thoroughly, wash your linens and clothes, and set off pesticide bombs. Steam cleaning is also pretty effective at killing them. If all else fails, you can always move.

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Author's Note: Insects 5 Things Renters Should Look Out For

In my time in apartments, I've dealt with every creature on this list with the exception of bed bugs (and I hope to keep it that way.) Honestly, the worst pests I've experienced weren't insects -- they were mice. Those little jokers are notoriously hard to get rid of once they get in the walls. One summer, I caught more than 10 of them with glue traps. It was truly awful.

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Sources

  • Apartment Therapy. "Dealing With Flies in the Home." Apartmenttherapy.com. (July 31, 2012) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/dealing-with-flies-in-the-home-117918
  • Oh My Apartment. "How to Kill Cockroaches." Ohmyapt.apartmentratings.com. Sept. 11, 2006. (July 31, 2012) http://ohmyapt.apartmentratings.com/how-to-kill-cockroaches.html#b
  • PR Web. "The Recent Bedbug Epidemic Is Spreading Nationwide Says New Report from Planet Amazing." PRWeb.com. April 24, 2012. (July 31, 2012) http://www.prweb.com/releases/planet-amazing/kill-bedbugs/prweb9430703.htm
  • Rapp, Jessica. "A lesson in apartment living: The ants come marching." STLToday.com. July 6, 2011. (July 31, 2012) http://www.stltoday.com/suburban-journals/metro/article_3b86fa58-9c23-5613-978e-8734dfe91b46.html
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. "Bed bugs and your apartment." Citybugs.tamu.edu. (July 31, 2012) http://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/others/ent-3013/

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