Bed Bugs. These parasitic insects (chinche in Castilian and xinxa in Catalan) quickly multiply and are difficult to detect. They make their home in the warm folds of bedding and mattresses, and feed primarily on human blood. Physical symptoms from bed bug infestations include skin rashes and large, red bites. The adults measure between 4-5mm in length and 1.5mm-3mm in width, and are of light to dark-brown colour, making them definitely visible to the naked eye. However, though this may make it sound like checking for bed bugs will be easy, they are mainly nocturnal and hide from sight until coming out to feed. Check under mattresses and around sleeping areas for small blood smears, tiny, dark and grainy fecal droppings, light-brown, translucent exoskeletons, and the bugs themselves (immediately after turning on the lights). If renting a room always ask to see it first so you can check around the bed, furniture, skirting boards and electrical sockets for signs of bed bugs. When purchasing a home, employing the services of a specialist in property inspections or one that uses bed-bug-detecting dogs may be worth your while. If you find bed bugs at home, you can sterilise your clothing and bed linen in boiling water and hire a professional to apply pesticides and perform a heating/drying vacuum treatment. Neighbours in your building should be informed so they can check for infestations as well, since once in a building the bugs can easily spread from one flat to another. This also means they may return to your home even after a costly and time consuming house cleaning.
Indian Meal Moths. They may not sting or bite, but these little critters (palomilla bandeada in Castilian and arna índia de la farina in Catalan) are still a pest that nobody likes to find in their kitchen. The name might suggest that the moths stick to a strict diet of dal and papadums, but that’s not the case. They have eclectic appetites, feasting on any and all types of grain products, spices, seeds and dried fruits, amongst others. They have a nasty habit of burrowing into flour with their silky webbing and spawning little white larvae. Otherwise known as pantry moths or weevil moths, the Indian meal moth earned its name because it was often discovered in stocks of cornmeal (which in the 19th century was called ‘Indian meal’). They are usually most active during the summer, but will overstay their welcome for as long as they possibly can. The best way to deal with the pesky things is to store flours and other bulk-buy food products in airtight containers and give your cupboards a good old-fashioned (and rigorous) clean. Infested packages of food should be thrown away. However, you could try and salvage them by putting them in the freezer for four to seven days, baking them in the oven at 60 degrees Celsius for two hours, or zapping them in the microwave for five minutes. Pest strips (sold at places that also sell cleaning supplies) can help to reduce infestation.
Ants. As temperatures rise during Barcelona’s summer months, people aren’t the only ones searching for a cool place to be as colonies of ants (hormigas in Castilian and formigues in Catalan) begin to invade homes foraging for food. The colony consists of the egg-laying female (the queen, who rules the roost), the short-living males and the workers (sterile females); the ones that you see scuttling around your house are the workers. Aside from the sight of them making you feel itchy all over, ants can cause severe property damage, digging tunnels through the walls and floors of your home to build their nests. They also pose a health risk because they may contaminate any food that they manage to find. If you want to avoid an ant infestation this summer, make sure that all internal and external cracks in the walls of your home are properly sealed. Spreading salt, talcum powder and even washing-up liquid (although keep in mind that the latter is poisonous if ingested and must be kept away from young children) around any entrances and exits that they may use will act as a barrier against them. If natural deterrents don’t work, go for the approach advised by experts: if you see a lone ant crawling across your kitchen counter, kill it, as this will send a message back to the colony that the space is no longer safe.
Tiger Mosquitoes. Named for its distinctive white and black striped legs and body, the tiger mosquito (mosquito tigre in Castilian and mosquit tigre in Catalan) was first detected in Catalunya in Sant Cugat del Vallès in the summer of 2004 and quickly swept through the region. Originally from the jungles of Asia, the insects can transmit tropical diseases, including dengue and yellow fever. Tiger mosquitoes smuggled themselves into Europe via eggs in imported rubber tyres, and have infested at least 119 Catalan towns; they are now to be found in all 10 districts of Barcelona, although the relatively cool spring this year saw a fall in the number of people bitten. Unlike their nocturnal cousin, the tiger mosquito prefers to feast during the day, but as with all mosquitoes, only the females have a thirst for blood. As they can breed in even small amounts of stagnant water, a three-tiered approach is advised to eradicate them—eliminate small water receptacles, use mosquito repellents and remove rubbish. If bitten, try rubbing lemon juice on the fresh bite as it can reduce swelling.