What are the most common pests on board Cayman Island boats and yachts, and how do you avoid or remove an infestation?
Leisure watercraft are highly vulnerable to pest infestation, especially if they are left unattended for any length of time. Here are the most common pests that affect boats and yachts moored in the Cayman Islands and the measures you can take to prevent infestation.
Cockroaches: Cockroaches like it dark, damp, and warm, meaning a boat can quickly become infested, particularly when food sources like garbage cans or pet food are available. Roaches are well-known spreaders of bacteria and disease, leaving their droppings on food and stains and bad smells wherever they go. They are also prolific breeders – a single female can be responsible for 300,000 new roaches in a year.
Foggers and ‘roach bombs’ are traditional methods for dealing with a cockroach infestation. But they are not very effective at reaching all the inaccessible nooks and crannies where roaches live and breed. Roach motels can keep you on top of a mild infestation but not a full-scale invasion. The only sure way to remove cockroaches from a boat entirely is to take it on a long voyage to someplace very cold, where insects can’t survive. But if a journey round the polar seas is too inconvenient, then a regime of scrupulous boat cleanliness and removing access to all on-board sources of food and fresh water will hopefully starve them out and deter newcomers.
Rats: The black rat and the brown rat both originated in Asia, and both are now ubiquitous wherever there are humans, thanks to their centuries-old love of stowing away on boats. Apart from being a disease vector, rats, mice, and other rodents are destructive, chewing wires, furnishings and fittings, and nesting in inaccessible places.
The simplest rodent deterrent of all is keeping a dog on board, but this is not usually feasible for occasional-use weekend leisure craft. Preventing a rat infestation requires making it difficult for them to access sources of food and shelter. Keep all foodstuffs in sealed glass containers (rodents can easily chew through plastics), clean and remove garbage and declutter lockers, secure mesh over vents, seal cracks and crevices, and lay traps baited with peanut butter. If rats reappear, then call a specialist in boat pest control in the Cayman Islands; because of the ease in which rats and mice are gaining entry to your boat and surviving suggests you are going to need some professional help in getting rid of them permanently.
Fleas and Bedbugs: They’re not just fans of pets and hotels; fleas and bedbugs like boats too. Both pests are easily brought on board in luggage and on humans and animals. Once established, they are as challenging to remove on a boat as they are in a house.
Removing blood-sucking pests like bed bugs and fleas from either your home or your boat can be a lengthy process. And the chances are that both spaces will have to be treated for infestation because the critters are conveniently transported by people, their possessions, and animals between living spaces. Bedbugs hide in luggage, clothing seams, wooden bed frames, in the seams of mattresses and box springs, in electrical outlets, and in the joints of furniture and fittings. Fleas, while mostly preferring to live on their animal hosts, will hitch a ride on any passing warm-blooded food source. Both pests thrive in a cluttered and messy environment, so thorough cleaning and decluttering of all interior spaces will be necessary, with the help of a professional pest control service, to completely eradicate the problem.
Termites: Both the drywood and subterranean types of termite are a problem on boats. The subterranean version tunnels from a damp nest site, often near the bilges, to the wood it feeds on, the boat’s furniture, fittings, and wooden structure. Drywood termites are less destructive but, given enough time, can do a lot of damage. No wood on a boat is safe from a potential termite infestation, meaning that even a fiberglass boat is at risk from structural damage if termites get into the hull and start destroying wooden structures such as stringers.
If you think you have a problem with termites on your boat, a professional termite inspection in the Cayman Islands is your most sensible course of action. The destruction caused by termites may not be apparent until the infestation is advanced. Only a professional inspection can determine if the problem can be cured with a spot treatment or whether complete and thorough fumigation, even multiple fumigations, is necessary.
Birds: Gulls, pigeons, and seabirds are attracted to boats the way flies are attracted to dung, and sailors have been waging war on the mess they create for centuries. Bird droppings cause ugly stains and can corrode structures, finishes, and fittings, as well as weatherproofing. If they begin to nest, the problem gets much worse. Their droppings encourage ‘fouling,’ the growth of algae, barnacles, and weed, and they carry parasites and bacteria that pose health risks to humans.
The methods used to deter birds from damaging a boat are as varied as the birds themselves. The most obvious is to never feed birds on or around your boat, so they don’t get into the habit of associating it with a free meal. Other methods include bird spikes to prevent settling, decoys such as a plastic crouching cat, or plastic birds of prey secured in a prominent position on a deck or railing. Simple pinwheels, flags, and shiny ribbons flapping in the breeze are also good deterrents. As a last resort, try giving your boat a high wax finish, mostly to help protect the finish against stains and corrosion but also to make surfaces too slippery for birds to stick to the landing.