Bugs. Insects, creepy crawlies. They’re everywhere. And especially in the warm climates… the ideal climates for cruising. We may be on boats but at port or on the water bugs have their insidious tricks to make their icky way on board.
Insects like to eat the same sorts of things we do. Luckily we can get the upper hand in keeping them away. Without poisoning ourselves in the process.
These are 10 easy tips to naturally keep bugs off of your boat, away of your pantry, and out of your life (at least for the most part).
- Keep it Clean – It may seem obvious, but cleanliness really is next to godliness on a boat. Especially in the tropics those crumbs left on the table or the countertop are like beacons signaling every flying, crawling, and creeping insect within 100 miles. Umineko has a crumb brush for the table and countertops, and another for the floor.
If you spill something immediately wipe it up. I try to wipe down the stovetop and the counters after cooking. Once a week I like to do a serious galley cleaning.
2. Vinegar – Fruit flies are a pain. They seem to materialize out of nowhere and in a matter of minutes they’ve called all their buddies. It is even worse when you are trying to extend the life of your produce until the last breath.
The trick to ridding yourself of these insidious insects is simple, nontoxic to you, and lethal to the dreadful little monsters. Just put out small bowls of your basic apple cider vinegar and add a few drops of dish soap. Not only is the dish soap poisonous but it breaks the vinegar’s surface tension. The little pests think they can alight on the surface only to drown.
You only need a drop or two of dish soap in ½ cup apple vinegar and a few shallow bowls or plastic containers strategically placed around the boat.
3. Cardboard So many things come in cardboard, from boating supplies to beer. But keep cardboard off your yacht at all costs. Cockroaches lay their eggs in cardboard and just bringing the boxes onboard can get the dreadful creatures on your boat. Leaving them on the boat is even worse.
Play it safe by preventing infestation. Once the loathsome pests are on board holding them at bay is certainly possible but irradiating them is a nightmare. Don’t take any chances. Unload your cardboard on the dock and leave it there.
4. Freezing: Depending on how much extra freezer space you have you should try to freeze flour/rice/grains 24-hours as a cautionary measure. A sort of just in case.
if you need to rescue stores and aren’t prepared to just throw infested ingredients overboard, simply freeze infested supplies for 2-3 days and the dreadful little pests will die.
Heating to 140◦ F in oven for an hour also kills the insects, unfortunately heating grains can turn rice into puffed rice, change the flavor of flour, etc. My advice is to stick with freezing . If you don’t want to just throw them overboard that is.
5. Oldest First: Use up your oldest stores first and make sure not to open a new package when there is already one open. Organizing the pantry of one boat I crewed on, I found 5 boxes of half-used spaghetti! Surprise surprise, several had bugs in them. The packages went overboard and I made sure to consolidate the open packages into one Ziploc bag.
At sea it can be difficult to keep track of what you have opened. Try and move the open items to the front of the shelves or have a special air-tight container for open food stuffs.
6. Essential Oils: You think we hate bugs? Plants like them less than we do. After all keeping bugs away can be a life or death matter for the plant. Because of this a number of species have developed odors that repel insects.
Lucky for us many of these strong scents are wonderful for us. If you really want to get serious about natural bug prevention pick up the ultra-condensed version of the plant scents: essential oils. Mint and citrus work extremely well. Simply paint a line of mint essential oil around your pantry. It will prevent infiltration and has the added benefit of making your shelves smell lovely.
7. Bay leaves: Bay leaves are the magic bullet against bugs in your dried foods. Keep a sprig of bay in your flour, rice, baking mixes, powdered milk, etc. This will evils, cockroaches. As a bonus, ants also loathe bay leaves.
Keep bay leaves in airtight sealed containers for up to a couple of months but when placing them on shelves or in the open it is better to replace them on a weekly basis
8. Airtight Containers Store foods in air-tight plastic insect-proof containers. If there is something infested it keeps the problem inside that way the problem is contained literally, and doesn’t get into any of your other stores.
9. Boric Acid When spices aren’t doing the trick, it is simple to make yourself some DIY roach killer using boric acid. The powder itself is odorless, but it is also a main ingredient in laundry detergent. So it doesn’t smell as nice as herbs and is a bit messier, but boric acid is one of the most effective cockroach killers. If you use it correctly that is.
The University of Kentucky’s department of etymology has an excellent article on roach prevention Mixing boric acid with flour or powdered sugar and blowing it under the refrigerator, oven, in crevices, or putting a thin layer (if it’s too thick the roaches will walk around it) on the pantry shelf is the ideal roach killer.
When the roaches crawl through the powder particles of boric acid cling to them and when they groom themselves they die.
Though not toxic to humans in small doses boric acid is not as innocuous as herbs or essential oils so be sure to mix it in a well-ventilated area. Also, be sure not to put it on counter-tops or places food is actually prepared.
10. Examine all items before you buy them. Prevention is always the best method of keeping insects out of your life. Try to make sure package seals are intact and plastic bags or wrappers don’t have any holes or rips or any openings for hitchhikers to get in through.
Insects can bore their way through plastic and paper and leave tell-tale holes and signs of their presence. You probably can’t examine every inch of every package in the thick of the prodigious task of provisioning, but definitely give everything at least a cursory glance. More than just insects, opened containers allow food to spoil or spill in your cabinets so giving packages a once-over before buying them just makes sense.