One simple thing is keeping our boat pest-free despite being in southern Florida.

Getting Tough on Ants & Roaches

We try hard not to have ants and roaches on the boat. But this summer we are living on the northern edge of the Everglades. Ants and roaches are a fact of life around here.

Talking to people on the few other boats here in the yard, I think ours is the only one without an infestation of ants or roaches.

From our conversations, I think there’s only one thing that I’m doing differently. So I have to assume that’s what’s making the difference.

Every time we start a new trash bag, we spray a squirt of ant and roach killer into it before we put anything into it. Ditto for the bag lining the trash can in the head, and the recycled bags and jars that I use for garbage (food scraps) in the galley.

I can’t just spray around the floor or really anywhere on the boat, as we have a small (7 pound) dog. Paz is the licking-est dog I’ve ever encountered, but by spraying inside the bag when it’s empty, it’s nowhere that she can get into.

NOTE: when we first got the boat out of storage after just two months away – with plenty of ant and roach traps set out and no food having been on the boat while we were gone – we did have some ants and even a couple of roaches aboard. Within just a couple of days, there were none.

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21 Comments
  • Liz Andrews
    Posted at 22 August 2015 Reply

    Which spray do you use? Have you found some more effective than others?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 22 August 2015 Reply

      I just buy whatever seems to be the “extra strong” at the grocery store. Since it’s usually not the same store as I bought it from the last time, it’s never the same. In general, I like Raid or Hot Shot but anything seems to work.

  • Lyn
    Posted at 22 August 2015 Reply

    When we were in a marina in Bali, all of our neighbors had an ant and roach problem. We started spraying the ropes with the same spray we used in the rubbish bins. It must have helped as we were the only ones in the area who were ant/roach free.

  • Robyn
    Posted at 22 August 2015 Reply

    If you have concerns about toxic chemicals I would & have used successfully cayenne pepper for ants. I don’t know if it is effective on roaches or not.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 22 August 2015 Reply

      I don’t like to use toxic chemicals — I prefer things like the cloves and cayenne — but sometimes I’ve found that the sprays are the only things effective in a particular location.

  • Becky Kyes
    Posted at 25 August 2015 Reply

    Is there a reason that something like Roach Pruf won’t work on a boat?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 25 August 2015 Reply

      Roach Pruf is basically boric acid and works well, but you can’t use it anywhere that kids or pets could get to it. Boric acid isn’t all that toxic to humans and dogs/cats except for kids and small animals small size. We used a Mexican version of Roach Pruf on our first boat until we got Paz — but at 7 pounds, and the lickingest dog you’ve ever seen, we don’t want to risk having it anywhere that she might decide to lick. I could sprinkle a bit in trash bags, but the spray is easier.

      • Becky Kyes
        Posted at 25 August 2015 Reply

        Thanks Carolyn:

        I can still put it inside places my cat cannot go like behind electrical plates and under trim. I have always used it on land because I am sensitive to the poisons, I had just wondered if it worked, I am currently a live aboard in Florida, looking to set sail next year.

  • Don
    Posted at 25 August 2015 Reply

    Diatomaceous earth. It’s a fine powder that is used for a wide variety of things. We buy it at the hardware store, where they sell it both as an insect killer and as filter material for pools. Farmers mix it in with the feed that they give their livestock to kill bugs. It is also one of the few insect killers that can be put on crops and still be considered 100% organic. So, not a poison, and not harmful in moderate amounts to any non-insect.
    But it kills any exo-skeletal insect (of which ants and roaches are just two examples). It kills them by mechanical means, rather than by chemical means. It gets into the crevices in their exoskeletons and basically grinds them to death. (Gruesome, eh?)
    We had a serious ant problem in our home that we were not able to control until we discovered diatomaceous earth. Sprinkled it outside around the home, inside in corners, and around cabinets. Ant problem completely solved.

  • Denis
    Posted at 29 August 2015 Reply

    I worked on a merchant ship with a serious infestation, even fumigating the whole ship (everybody ashore!) didn’t work. I found the best by far are roach motels – ‘they can check in, but they can’t check out’. They are cardboard flatpacks that fold out as little triangular houses with bait and a sticky floor. After a few weeks the infestation had gone. Best to leave a couple of them out.

  • Michelle
    Posted at 22 August 2016 Reply

    We don’t have ants and roaches, thank God, but we do have a serious fruit fly infestation on our boat. I’ve tried the wine traps with different combinations of liquids and a drop of dishsoap that you read about on the Internet, but none seem very effective. Any advice, friends?

    • Jackie
      Posted at 15 November 2016 Reply

      Michelle, I don’t live on a boat, so not sure if this will help. I had a bad fruit fly infestation last summer. As they only live for a few hours, I put any left over food stuff and fruit skins/cores, whatever, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. As I recycle it is easy for me to keep the trash can empty. I also use the apple cider vinegar, with dish soap. Put it in small container. Fill it to the top. I stick with this until they are gone. This year when they showed up, right away, same routine. Hope this helps in some way☺

  • Rachel Roy Smith
    Posted at 22 August 2016 Reply

    excellent tip……

  • Sue Webb
    Posted at 22 August 2016 Reply

    Thank you for this tip!

  • Judith Nelson Cruzan
    Posted at 23 August 2016 Reply

    Great ideas. My daughter had what I called psycho ants in Key West. They would make you psycho.

  • Louise Stanley
    Posted at 03 July 2017 Reply

    Suggestions came in handy on land today. Company and lots of junk food eveywhere.

  • Amelia Reiheld
    Posted at 25 July 2017 Reply

    Our boat is made of plywood. We have been doing battle with carpenter ants that have made a nest in the overhead batts of insulation. We e tried a number of potions that promise to eliminate the problem, but it’s like whack-a-mole writ small. We get rid of one nest,, spay vigorouslyand pretty soon there’s another little pile of sawdust and ant debris on the floor in a slightly different spot. Yuck. Open to suggestion, grateful for good ideas.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 26 July 2017 Reply

      I’d call in the professionals. I’ve found that with stubborn infestations of any type, it costs less to get them dealt with by an exterminator than for all the DIY potions I’d buy. And they had results whereas I didn’t.

      • Amelia
        Posted at 26 July 2017 Reply

        Thanks! Good idea. Funny, when one has built an entire 50′ houseboat from scratch, it is hard to imagine calling for outside help for much of anything, but those bug guys can buy better poisons than what they sell at the grocery store.

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