Sunday, June 6, 2010

Us vs. the Termites

We’ve battled against roaches, rats, and mosquito’s. Now a new challenger to the title of ‘most annoying household pest’ has arisen. Termites. They first arrived about a month ago, when a pile of tiny wings mysteriously appeared in our spare bedroom and hallway. We swept them up, unsuccessfully looked around for their source, and forgot about them. It must have been a freak occurrence, we thought. Then, weeks later, we found a couple of half inch sized roach-looking bugs crawling around on our couch. We debated about whether they were baby cockroaches, or some other sort of random Micronesian insect, but didn’t think too much about it. We should have taken immediate action, but it’s only a couple, right? That’s when the invasion began in earnest.

We’d be sitting on the couch, relaxing after a long, hot day when out of nowhere one of us would feel that telltale crawling sensation on our leg, neck, or arm. For the first few nanoseconds, the mind thinks, “It’s just the breeze or something.” Then we’d feel the crawling start to move. Sure enough, another of these little bugs was there, roaming across our skin. We would kill it and hope more don’t appear, with some half-hearted talk about buying Raid or a bug-bomb. Since it didn’t happen that often, we just chalked it up to the fact that our house has a lot of bugs. We’d seen roaches before in the cupboards and ants if we didn’t wipe down counters well enough, and learned to manage a somewhat uneasy truce with these co-inhabitants of the house. This would be something completely different. This would be all-out war.

Every couple of weeks, we’d experience these nights when the termites would start falling from the ceiling above the couch. It always happened at night, around 8:00 pm. The first time, we’d kill twenty or so over the course of the evening. The next time, it was more of them on the couch… and the floor… and in the hallway. They’d run in and out of the occasional gaps where the baseboard doesn’t sit flush against our tile flooring. Disturbingly, they seemed to concentrate right outside our bedroom door. The termites swarmed around a wooden ladder that leads to a ‘storage space’ above our kitchen where the roaches and the geckos fight their own private nightly war. We walked around the house, crushing termites as best we could. There were so many it seemed like a fight we couldn’t win. Then, as suddenly as they arrived, they stopped for the evening and we sighed a breath of relief and hoped that would be the last of it.

Of course, it wasn’t. Last night, the termites arrived in full force. There we were, innocently watching the series finale of our favorite TV show “Lost”. We’d settled down to watch the episode, which we’d both been anxiously awaiting for the past several weeks, and got comfortable. Then, without warning, the termites were on the couch, in numbers we hadn’t seen before. Again we tried crushing the termites we saw, but there were too many to handle. At one point there were at least twenty five crawling on the couch, with more falling down from the ceiling with each passing minute. They must have gotten together and strategized the attack last night. We were too distracted with crushing couch termites to notice whole platoons advancing from other areas of the house. They were in the spare bedrooms. They were in the bathroom. They were falling out of the ceiling all around the house! There were flying termites swarming in tight formation around our outside lights. A few very smart and very happy geckos positioned themselves on the lights and joined us in the battle, eating their fill. But even with our hungry gecko allies, we were no match against the sheer numbers of termites. Hours were spent roaming the house with paper towel and Raid in hand killing as we went. We went through almost an entire roll of paper towels that night. Miranda feared the worst, termites falling into her hair and crawling around, which happened only twice. As before, the termites retreated unexpectedly into the various holes and cracks throughout the house. Some we were sure lived to fight another day. But little did they know; we too had a plan.

After consulting with various long-time residents of Yap, we settled on using bug bombs. People said that it wouldn’t work on termites anyway, and we too knew this after researching, but we had to try something. A line had to be drawn in the sand, saying this far but no further. So Miranda went out to our oddly named hardware and general store called PBC, which stands for “Pacific Bus Company”, and bought a small arsenal of bug killing supplies. We got bug bombs, we got more Raid, and for good measure, we got some roach killing bait. This morning, we woke up earlier than usual for a Sunday and began covering, closeting, or closing anything we didn’t want coated in a layer of pesticide.

The brightly colored packaging of our Japanese manufactured bug bomb promised to “evolve all species of roaches, bedbugs, fleas, flies, mosquitoes and small flying and carwling insects”. While having the termites evolve into a stronger, more virulent pest isn’t what we had in mind, we decided to take our chances. The package included a plastic jar, and a small metal can with holes poked in each end containing dangerous looking yellow crystals. The instructions said to fill the jar partially with water, and place the can in the water. With the windows closed as tightly as possible, we simultaneously ‘set off’ one bomb each, which resulted in nothing more than a slight crackling noise. Nevertheless, we quickly ran out of the house, holding our breath.

Now we had time to kill, a much more difficult thing to do on Yap than you’d expect. CIMG1210 Since killing termites is hard work, we drove into town for lunch. We went to the Marina Restaurant, actually called the Marina Sports Bar and Grille but has neither a grill or a television or anything sports-related, and ate a tasty lunch of fish and chips and iced tea. Even though the restaurant was one of the few places open, it was mostly empty.

A traditional canoe was moored out in the harbor a few feet from the restaurant. This canoe recently made the 500 mile journey to Guam and back. CIMG1209Another canoe accompanied them, but got separated from them one night on the return voyage. For almost a week, search and rescue  boats from the coast guard looked for the missing canoe. Everyone  in town was talking about what had happened to the crew, whether they had encountered rough waves on the open sea or got lost and sailed in the wrong direction. Thankfully, they were found near the island of Palau, no worse for wear, and were flown home to their worried families.

After lunch, we drove the ‘loop road’ along the western coast of the island. CIMG1221 It’s by far the best maintained road in Yap, without the usual potholes every few feet, and allows for driving at breakneck speeds of up to 40 mph. With the wind whipping in Miranda’s hair, driving is often the most enjoyable form of air conditioning. It was a good time, but as we circled back towards town we wondered what the state of the house would be.

Back at home, it didn’t look any different than how we’d left it. There wasn’t smoke or poisonous fog billowing out of the windows, in fact, we weren’t sure if the bomb worked. Then we opened the door. Roaches were scattered literally everywhere, lying on their backs motionless or with legs twitching rapidly. What looked like dirt, but later turned out to be ants covered certain corners. As far as we could tell though, there were no termite corpses. Only dozens of giant roaches, more than we’d ever thought was possible.

Warning: The following image is of a graphic nature. Parental discretion is advised.



Several hours later, we’d cleaned out all the numerous dead roaches, and sanitized every possible surface. Now we have to wait and see whether the bomb did anything about the termites, or if we should consider having an exterminator flown out from the US. Just kidding.

As night begins to fall, we hold our breath and hope that whether or not the bombs scared away or killed the termites, that at least tonight will be a termite free night. Keep you fingers crossed for us!

The adventure of Yap continues…


  1. Hahaha! Gross. I feel like there are bugs crawling on me. :-)