You see a cockroach scuttling across the floor and you don’t have a flyspray handy.
What do you do?
Well if it is true that there is more than one way to skin a cat, it is also true that there is more than one way to kill a cockroach. Insecticides are of course the most popular way, but there are other approaches.
You see this if you look in the gardening chemicals section of Bunnings. One of the products they sell is simply called white oil. White oil is designed to be sprayed onto plants and its purpose is to kill the little bugs that eat plants – aphids and so on. But they don’t contain any insecticide, they simply work by suffocation. The tiny little insects are smothered in this white oil (which it is essentially light paraffin oil). It fills all their orifices and they simply suffocate.
Cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes are similarly prone to many forms of attack other than insecticides. Insecticides, such as the synthetic pyrethroids that you find in Mortein, work by attacking an insect’s nervous system. They are very specific to insects, and very deadly, with extremely low human toxicity.
But they can be killed other ways as well.
One of the best approaches is the use of alcohol-based products – examples would be any personal products such as hair sprays and deodorants.
We’ve all seen the classic cliche on police shows where the cop has been involved in a fight with a bad guy, and is being debriefed by his superior officer while his minor wounds are being attended to by medical officer. Between questions, when the medical officer dabs his wounds with alcohol swabs, he winces.
The reason is that while alcohol has a cleansing effect on skin, if it comes into contact with any exposed wounds or mucous membranes it stings like hell. I’m not sure of the mechanism for this, but insects are not covered with skin like we are, and have lots of delicate membranes that the alcohol will play merry hell with.
Today I killed a fly with “vanilla fresh” fridge and kitchen wipe. It’s an alcohol-based kitchen cleaner with a vanilla fragrance. It was buzzing around and had landed on the kitchen benches. The only thing handy with the vanilla fresh – I got to within about a foot of the fly and then gave it a single squirt. The fine mist hit the fly and disabled it immediately, and my foot did the rest.
The alcohol won’t kill insects – it merely disables them for a few seconds while your foot or a flyswatter does the rest.
Hair sprays are particularly good, as they also contain all the sticky resins that are designed to hold your hair together. Sprayed onto a cockroach, they make a real mess of them.
The best ever was Preen aerosol, as the trichloroethane actually dissolved their outer shell – but that formula is no longer with us.
Essentially, if you can get a direct spray onto the fly or cockroach, then virtually any aerosol will disable it – whether it be a cleaning spray, degreaser, WD 40, ironing aid or air freshener. When the insect is smothered with either alcohol, a solvent, or an emulsion, it will disable them long enough for your foot to finish the job.