How do you handle bugs?

My Airbnbs are located downtown in the high desert and cockroaches and spiders are just a part of the reality of life here. I do have my places sprayed, but guests will see bugs, living or dead, from time to time and often dock me stars on cleanliness as a result. Especially when the weather changes and there are more bugs about. I have tried to manage expectations by including a paragraph in my house manual on how bugs are a part of life and how we spray, etc, and trying to warn guests when the house has just been sprayed that they may see lots of dead bugs. Some people are obviously more squeamish about this than others. Any other tips on how to manage guest’s expectations concerning pests and avoid a low cleanliness score as much as possible?

I am not that squeamish about bugs in general, though the Palmettos in Texas that fell from the trees were a bit off putting. Spiders, mice really don’t bother me. Live cockroaches are a different story. They can travel on luggage or leave their eggs in the seams. The chances of taking home a cockroach infestation is not great, but it isn’t nothing. From my perspective, being able to have my luggage off the floor and bed, perhaps on luggage racks, would “feel” cleaner. I don’t really have any idea if it would be.

Spiders, mice and other little critters are less likely to travel home with me so though I don’t love them, they wouldn’t skeeve me out. We stayed in a place in Langudoc that suggested that we turn over our shoes and shake out the scorpions before we put on our shoes. We took that advice seriously!

Yikes! Luckily there are no scorpions here! I didn’t realize that about cockroaches; I have always lived in places where they were basically a fact of life you had to live with, so I didn’t realize you could take them home with you. Investing in some luggage racks is a good idea, although I recently found a cockroach in my kitchen cupboard so they definitely don’t stay confined to the ground! I totally understand guests being creeped and grossed out by finding several cockroaches in their supposedly clean apartment, but I’m not sure what else I can do to make it any better other than spray for pests, which I have a professional company come and do regularly.

They do get into kitchen cabinets. That is where they find water and food, plus they can use the wood in the back of the cabinets for their own mobility needs. Cockroaches don’t really want to hang out in luggage, unless there is moisture in there, and don’t love to climb metal. On the floor, it is just really, really easy and they may end up there on their way to something else. We used to put some white powder in the back of the cabinets. Of course, whatever that crap was is now banned. We probably poisoned ourselves! [was it boric acid?]

All you can do is reduce the possibility of transport. To be honest, this is also the problem with bed bugs. They dump the bag onto the bed if there is no rack, and if they have brought bugs with them, they are transferred to your bed. I am a great believer in luggage racks.

I believe boric acid is both safe and legal still.

I’d add some roach traps around in hidden places like the back of the cabinet under the sink. I’ve never had a guest complaint about bugs. I was cleaning the guest room recently and found a small spider in the bathroom cabinet. Luckily I saw it before a guest. I’ve also see a few little bugs that I couldn’t id after I smashed them. I did have problems with mice last summer but I’m going to try to be more proactive this year. I also occasionally have geckos in the front (where guests might see them) which I love but realize not everyone does.

What drives me nuts is that there is an extensive explanation in our house manual (okay, which few guests read) that there are always going to be some sort of critters around in South Florida and especially if guests leave the door open, which they often do when they are out on the patio.

Roaches, geckos, mosquitoes and various other creatures are going to find their way in.

We also have iguanas sunbathing on the dock. I think they are incredibly cool (apart from their inability to go into the water when they want to ‘use the bathroom’) but some guests are freaked by them.

We just can’t win…




I did this last year but my pest control people told me to take them out because apparently after awhile they just draw more roaches. So I removed them and I have pest control come spray every 3 months minimum, more often if I see any bugs around.


I think you already have the right idea to just mention it in the guidebook. My downtown rental has no bug problem, but if I was listing my Indian home (where lizards abound) or my rustic desert vacation home (which has bobcats, coyotes and javelinas… but also scorpions and potato bugs) it’d be a different story. I’d probably note something like,

“Note for managing your expectations: as you can see, our home sits in the beautiful desert/tropics. Our rustic setting results in some critters wanting to enjoy the house as much as you. This would be the case whether you’d book with us or stay at the Taj down the road (fanciest hotel)/at any house in the 15-mile radius. Rest assured, we do our absolute best to take care of unwanted guests: we are on regularly scheduled pest control maintenance, and our house is professionally cleaned after every guest to ensure top sanitary conditions. In spite of this, we have the occasional bug break-in. We give you full permission to evict any rogue intruders.”


Please don’t hate me for posting this, but we are in the middle of a bedbug epidemic here! Even the courthouse had to be done.

The protocols for managing the possibility of bedbugs is a whole chapter of “must do’s” that culminates with a super-heating of the entire place at very high temperatures.

If you ask, I will tell you!