earth-friendly pest control

A cockroach scuttles across my kitchen counter late on a Tuesday night.

“Bah-mom!” I cry. I am on the phone with my mom.

“What,” she says.

“There’s a cockroach. Kitchen, counter, it’s gone, wherediditgo.” I freeze, eyes wide.

“Uh oh,” she says. “That’s not good. Where there’s one cockroach, there’s always a ton more.”

Which is not really what you want to hear when you’ve just spotted one cockroach in your kitchen on a Tuesday night.

A Tucson friend had just spent the previous weekend dis-mantling and de-roaching her entire apartment after a dozen had clambered up and out of the drains and into her apartment, escaping the heat or the general loveliness of the city’s sewers. Texts are sent, consultations are given. I go to CVS. “Can I help you find something?” the clerk asks, and I yelp back at him: “Boric acid!” Boric acid is a non-toxic powder—a slightly acidic version of boron—that evidently sniffs its way into exoskeletons without much of a chemical footprint.

CVS does not sell boric acid. Instead they sell many varieties of RAID, the insecticide that kills bugs dead. The only difference between RAID and a pesticide like RoundUp! seems to be locale and purpose of application—one on your garden, another in your home. I am now midway through a year dedicated to avoiding all the toxic chemicals in our food supply. It seems a bit irrational to now turn around and personally patronize these same chemicals, albeit in different packaging. A bug on the field—a bug in the home. What, really, is the difference?

Well, really, roaches are not run of the mill bugs, they are primordial stew kind of creatures. I didn’t particularly want to return to my quiet apartment to cook dinner with the creatures of primordial stew scuttling around me. I stood, I debated. And then I spotted a pale green bottle of RAID labeled “Earth Friendly.” I chuckled at the irony of Earth Friendly bug killer. And then I paid $6.99 and took the oxymoron home with me.

I placed it on top of my fridge. I surveyed the kitchen. What now? Was I supposed to just stand there, RAID cocked and at the ready? Was I to go about my business until I saw my next roach, when I would leap for the RAID and spring into spraying action?

I went about my business. I cooked and ate dinner. I read my book. I went to sleep and when I woke up, the roaches had not taken over my kitchen, had not pitched tiny roach tents in my cabinets. I went to work and came home and still, the roaches remained dormant.

I blather on, every so often, about relocating nature from out there to in here—in, where all the people live, where we go about our day-to-day, a part rather than apart. I tolerate the ants that go marching two by two up a crack in my shower when it rains; I let the spiders scuttle But what’s the line? Between nature friendly and unfriendly—between bug and pest. Part of me worried about the sanitation of these scuttling creatures who might leave droppings all about, tainting my food supply and making me sick. But a clean, safely pest-free kitchen is one thing—and life another, that thriving, bacteria ridden thing that swirls around us whether we like it or not.

On Friday, when no more roaches appear, after bright light of day forces me to reckon with these chemicals I’ve brought into my home, I go back to CVS to return the unopened Earth Friendly RAID. I gratefully accept my $6.99 back and resolve to spend it on something a bit more… natural.

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