I have a precept tracker app that is used daily to see how well I am measuring up to keeping the precepts. One question that sometimes appears has to do with insecticide and essentially asks if it was used today.

Problem is, live in an apartment in the city and despite how clean it is in here, there are occasionally roaches. Quite honestly, I can't catch them to take them outside - it's impossible, especially if there is more than one. They are small too. Can't be overrun by them by not attending to the issue as would be evicted.

So, I use roach traps, thus having to mark "yes" each day.

Are there any solutions to this? Have others come up with creative ways not to kill them or is this just something that I will have to live with thru fall and winter? Seems like such a petty issue to some, but am trying to become more sensitive to life in all forms.

  • Why would you be evicted? Is this required by law?
    – ruben2020
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 0:47
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    May my person ask of what is a "precept tracker app" (certainly a little amused/confused), Mr. C Smith?
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 10:33
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    edited the latest title: "How to manage insects in the house?" to reflect it's a Buddhist question, not plain technical one. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 15:53
  • @Samana Johann the app can be found in the Play Store for Anroid phones when you search under "precepts". Entitled "5 Precepts - buddhist life"
    – C Smith
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 0:30
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    Oh that would be easy not conform with the precepts to take there or what is not given, C Smith. Anyway, maybe a nice and helpful tool, better for sure are admirable friends.
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 0:48

8 Answers 8


Becoming sensitive/ kind to all forms of life is the sign you are walking the path :). Deeds speak louder than rhetoric, those clever minds learnt the letters only; true Dharma followers learnt the teachings of Buddha, including the teachings of Karma and Rebirth in Buddha's original meaning.

When you treat them with kindness, they return you with kindness. My place was savoured by ants when I just moved in, I didn't kill them but drove them away or let them be if not too troublesome, they started to decrease. Once I was peeling a pear near the sink the peels and some juices fell onto the worktop, immediately ants coming like people going for party and feast. Suddenly I realized our small castaway could be a treasure vault for another lifeforms... So I started to bestow my presents to ants - literally :]. I'll leave the used sugar bag on the worktop the ants will clean the leftover spotlessly, it's a great amusement and feels some accomplishment for having treating the ants. Since all these measures they seem just appearing occasionally in untroublesome way. I learnt that ants are very tidy and sanitary conscious little creatures, so I'm not disliking them.

For roaches I learnt from Chinese Buddhist sites that you can use empty mineral water bottle for example. Roll newspaper in cone shape, insert the smaller end into the bottle, inside the bottle put bit of bacon or smelly food, lay the bottle flat on floor or where they like to cross, tip the newspaper touching ground so they can crawl in. The roaches will be drawn by the smell they will enter the bottle via the wider end of newspaper; since roaches are blind they can only detect light they won't be able to find the exit, which is high in the mid-air inside the bottle. Once you collect enough of them, take them to release in appropriate environment, such as rubbish collecting point away from neighborhood. I tried once or twice it works, I caught one or two, maybe I didn't put in smelly enough food since I was trying to go against meat 1st by not buying raw meat, I didn't use bacon but certain Thai style fish favoured chips instead; also there was one or two of them only that I saw.

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Other passive method is to scent your home, sandalwood or cedar etc., those fragrant smells are toxic and repellent to most insects. Still less known way is to use Mantra, this required certain merit and ability that the practitioner accomplished, Puan Mantra is very well known for Chinese Buddhists.

  • These suggestions are non-violent and will try but need clarification on the bottle with food inside please. The roaches can't just climb out of the bottle since it is laying flat on the floor? Could also use some vegetarian ideas for putting in the bottle. Can't think of anything that really stinks.
    – C Smith
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 1:04
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    roaches can't climb out because they are blind, can't see the exit. they navigate by light, so the transparent bottle will confuse them the light source. laying flat is to allow the roaches entering from the wider end, where paper tipped to floor to give them passage. you may use anything as long as they are attractive food for roaches and gives out smell to allure them. bacon is smelly and can last few days before rotten... it's not too bad smell for human. roaches are carnivore preferred i think... maybe they like cheese?! Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 4:25

Some killing is unavoidable. To exist is to kill. Gardening involves killing, walking often involves crushing little creatures underfoot. Eating involves much killing (all diets, though some more than others). That does not mean, though, that one has to just throw up one's hands and not bother. One can still minimize impact, certainly avoiding any wanton killing and trying one's best to avoid killing from heedlessness.

Every life form is precious and we can try to be as gentle and loving to creatures as possible. Sometimes the issue is just in our mind - we are unwilling to share space with another creature or bug - it's useful to reflect on what hidden view it is that motivates us to refuse to share "my" space with another creature that doesn't understand anything about property rights. I've chased hundreds of lizards out of my dwellings until the act of chasing an adolescent out of the room (the only home he'd ever known since he was born) into the cold dark night made me realize he was not doing anything at all to me and now is suffering due to my basis-less intolerance. I tried to invite him back in and have stopped chasing them out. Other examples of things arising purely from our mind are some hard-to-explain aversions of some bugs etc. Being willing to look at our minds shows us much.

In other instances, co-existence is simply not possible. Examples include mosquitoes that don't just share space with you, bugs leaving droppings that can lead to disease etc or some other infestation that is unaffordable. In those cases, prevention (like Sankha's suggestion) by maintaining cleanliness, not letting them get in the first place, catching them with nets and releasing them outside are solutions.

But sometimes we need to get them out first before implementing preventative measures to stop them from coming back. Remember that what is "unavoidable killing" really depends on how much effort we are willing to put in. To illustrate, the roaches can always run and hide among things when we chase them out instead of nuking them with insecticides. However, if we took care to remove all the things from our dwelling first, it would be possible to not kill any. Not suggesting that that's the only way, just illustrating the flexibility of what "unavoidable" can mean.

So, I would try as much as I reasonably can (that goes far) with mettā for the creatures and if there are accidental deaths, forgive yourself for mistakes since you are trying your best. Then, for chemicals, I would use repellents instead of killing chemicals.

Finally, it's useful to consider all the other ways in which we kill (directly and indirectly) through our choices of what's consumed, what's worn and what's eaten. We can try to be kind to beings in all those areas and gain much mileage rather than being too harsh on oneself because of being unable to prevent avoid 100% in any one particular situation. To come back to the beginning - total avoidance is impossible, but we can do our best.


Roaches usually come when you drop food pieces on the floor. Killing will break the first precept. So if you see any cockroaches inside, simply chase them out. Do not eat food everywhere. Do it at one place and clean up after. You can use a repellent like Dettol to clean. Close any holes where they can sneak through to your apartment.


Sadhu for your care and concern, Mr. C Smith.

Sankha Kulathantille tried to give you good help. Its good to associate with people having faith in the fundamental teachings and the basic precepts.

Not providing with a practical answer my person gives here that what is called "Anumodana" generally, a teaching that approves skillful deeds (here by concern) and encourages to follow this track further:

Getting the Message, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2006; 7pp./21KB)

In today's climate of terrorism and war, we hear politicians, pundits, and even a few Buddhist teachers insisting that killing can be morally justified when it prevents others from killing. In this essay the author points out that the Buddha's teachings on the subject are uncompromising and crystal clear: killing is never skillful.

Not only killing by one self, but also encouraging others (by signs what ever) to do, when it comes to death on it, breaks the precept. Even to mentaly approve killing is the kamma of killing. Kamma is done my thought, word and bodily deeds.

May you have good ideas and never fall into lazyness and lack of concern, always searching for alternatives and admirable friends.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purposes or other low wordily gains or trade and exchange for it.]


It's not the action that is important but the intention behind the action. If the intention is pure, the result will be wholesome. If the intention is defiled, the result will be unwholesome. Thus, choose your actions wisely.

Nonetheless, a solution to your problem would be to live in symbiosis with the roaches. Then, just before the owner of the apartment notices the roaches, you evict the roaches by catching them alive and throwing them out.

  • Roaches tend to hide in cracks, inside walls, and so on. Catching is likely impossible, and they breed so fast that the problem will be out of hand very quickly.
    – user2341
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 20:52

My first two suggestions are similar to others.

Firstly, avoid leaving exposed food or food crumbs, that might attract insects or rodents.

Secondly, use agents that repel rather than kill insects or rodents. Please also consider the safety of your pets and children too. For e.g. I have successfully used powdered white pepper to repel ants. Ants lose their scent of the trail when they encounter pepper. Pepper is also safe for your pets and children. Pepper is organic too.

Thirdly, in many countries, if you run a restaurant, you could get shut down if there is an infestation of rats or cockroaches. So, what do you do when all else fails? You can try rat traps. Then release the rats elsewhere. But that might be against the law too, if you release them in populated areas. So, the only remaining way to comply with the law, is to use methods that kill the rats or cockroaches.

Fourthly, what if you really need to kill the pests in order to prevent certain diseases that affect humans? For e.g. in countries where dengue or malaria is endemic, they need to control the breeding of mosquitoes and, repel and kill mosquitoes by fogging. And in some places, the urine of rats can cause leptospirosis. So, in these cases, the only way left is to kill the mosquitoes and rats.

In my opinion, if the intention is to comply with the law and/or prevent human diseases, then it is perfectly alright. Remember the "middle way" in all things. Please also see this answer.


The original scriptures teach kamma is intention. When I first lived in a monastery in Thailand, after around six months, a young visitor wanted to live in the storeroom below my hut (rather than in the visitor's dormitory). There were many stray dogs in the monastery. The young man befriended a dog and suddenly his room became full of fleas. He asked me what to do & I said to buy some insecticide. But he did not listen to me and asked the abbot of the monastery, who replied sternly: "Go to town & buy something to clean your room". He returned to me & asked: "What did the abbot mean?" I replied: "Go to town & buy some insecticide". I went to town with him and bought some insecticide because the intention was "to clean" the house rather than to kill with violence.

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    So like bomber pilots throwing napalm of the forest "we don't like to kill millions, we just burn the forest to see the tracks..." ? Ohh man...
    – user11235
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 4:39
  • no, Johann, no. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 10:59
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    Here a vet will recommend you medicate a pet dog (i.e. put anti-flea poison in the dog).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 11:26
  • Old saying: "if you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas." A flea of prevention is worth a dog of cure. Pretty much everything that can harm people is alive and all food is alive too, so worrying about killing is going to be a full time job.
    – user2341
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 20:50

I try to use a barrier. When ants were getting into my mum's house, for example, I found holes in the mortar of the outside stone wall: refilling those (with mortar) acts as a barrier to keep insects (and mice) out.

And I too used to live in a rented apartment with roaches. I now prefer to live in a high-rise building, where each apartment has its own concrete walls and floor ... a better barrier against insects, more self-contained, sterile.

Some houses are more-or-less open to the outside (in the tropics for example). There I expect a solution is to keep the place clean and swept, and to keep any food in sealed containers.

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