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Robotics Science

Robots to Rid Us of Cockroaches? 383

unassimilatible writes "It behaves like a cockroach. It smells like a cockroach. It is accepted by other cockroaches. But it is not a cockroach. It is a robot and scientists say its invention is a breakthrough in mankind's struggle to control the animal kingdom. The Sunday Times is reporting on a cool form of robotics, impersonating (inanimalnating?) animals. Leurre is a project on building and controlling mixed societies composed of animals and artificial agents. Within a decade, its inventors believe, it will be leading the unwanted pests out of dark kitchen corners, to where they can be eliminated. Additionally, they say they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs and to encourage chickens to take exercise. Schematics, tools, and pictures here. Apparently, cockroaches do not wear tinfoil hats, as they are not smart enough to be suspicious of box-shaped circuit boards with an antennae sticking out."
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Robots to Rid Us of Cockroaches?

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  • by mfh ( 56 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:53PM (#10832338) Homepage Journal
    FTA: It is a robot and scientists say its invention is a breakthrough in mankind's struggle to control the animal kingdom.

    I would like to see a little drosophila robot lead all of the confounded fruit flies out of my kitchen and into the wild! (although I'm not sure where they'll put the batteries for that one)

    If I could control the little robot, I might be tempted to send them right down the drain into my neighbour's place!

    I see this as an excellent way to control animals, keep them off of roads and away from harm, but if I have to buy a robot dog to control my real dog, I might just buy a robot dog and leave it at that!
    • by WoBIX ( 819410 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:57PM (#10832428)
      Put a piece of banana in the bottom of a mason jar, and poke small holes in the lid. They'll find their way in there. Or do a search for fruit fly cultures on Google. Owners of Poison Dart Frogs usually breed their own cultures of wingless fruit flies as food. If you make the cultures, it produces CO2 that you would normally get rid of, but in this case leave it in and when the flies go to eat or lay eggs they'll asphyxiate.
      • by mfh ( 56 )
        Put a piece of banana in the bottom of a mason jar, and poke small holes in the lid. They'll find their way in there.

        I'm going to get that jar going right now! :-)

        Never thought of that... and yet CHEAPER than a robot!
        • Re:Thanks! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by lazypenguingirl ( 743158 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:25PM (#10832910) Journal
          Another variation is just a glass with a piece of printer paper in it rolled into a cone/funnel. Apple works too.

          I was called out of town to a funeral unexpectedly last summer and left a whole bunch of fruit out (it was the last thing that crossed my mind). When I returned home, I literally had CLOUDS of fruit flies in my apartment. I put a few of those scattered around, and within a few days they were all gone. I had to take the glass outside to release them, but at least they weren't in my house anymore.
        • Re:Thanks! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Dr. GeneMachine ( 720233 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:34PM (#10833048)
          Better method: Open bottle with some red wine in it. The flies get in but never get out. This was the standard trick to catch escapees in our fly genetics lab... Of course we had to prepare fresh, nearly empty red wine bottles every now and then...
      • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:12PM (#10832693)
        > Put a piece of banana in the bottom of a mason jar, and poke small holes in the lid. They'll find their way in there.

        ...or at least, one of them will. After a few days, you'll think you've caught hundreds of 'em, so you'll feel better :)

      • by Ced_Ex ( 789138 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:13PM (#10832717)
        That's a great idea, but might I suggest a slight modification.

        Instead of poking holes into a perfectly good lid, why don't you lay thin wires across the opening of the jar and run a small current across it. That way, once they try to enter the jar, they get zapped!

        It works! I have a fly swatter that has metal wires in place of the swatter which works the same way.

        Same principle, but on a jar. The bonus is that every time a fly lands, you are treated to a sound and light show!

      • Actually don't bother poking holes in the lid, seal it up. You'll still be able to "catch" plenty of fruit flies. The fruit flies eggs or larvae are in the banana's skin. Thats where they come from in the first place.
    • easier solution to your fruitfly predicament: leave plastic bag on counter with yummy fruit inside. Wait a day or two, you will find all your little fly friends are now happily perched in the bag. Tie up bag and throw away.
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:05PM (#10832560)
      Time flys like an arrow. Fruit flies like a bananna.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      For ideas on how to get rid of un-wanted fruit flies see what people who grow them for a living do here []
    • Nah let them use them to get rid of the lawyers first, then move onto higher life forms.

    • by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @03:46PM (#10834064) Homepage
      My son and I were thinking along the lines of a robot to fight fire ants. We thought something like a micro-terminator would be cool.

      Then we realized that if it was remotely controllable via wireless connection from your computer, with a camera built in, you could virtually fight the fire ants yourself. Instant coolest video game around.

      BUT! What if you had a LAN party, and you and friends (or competitors, whatever) had a whole squad or platoon of these guys in the fire ant mound?

      If someone does this, they will get filthy rich. (If you do it, I'd like a little credit for the idea, and maybe a tiny %, or maybe a job there. 8^)

      The robots can look and work any way you want, so long as on the screen they look and respond like the character you choose (Terminator, Werewolf, Atom Ant, whatever), and they actually kill the ants.

      And, of course, if you just wanted the robot to do the work, the computer could run the program for you.

      You could use this for any sort of pest - ants, roaches, termites, mice, spiders, snakes, rats, weiner dogs, smug cats, drug dealers, you name it.

      I haven't found a new video game I really, really like in well over 10 years, but I would buy Fire Ant Terminator in a heartbeat! And I'd think really hard about springing for the "Vicious Stray Animal Bot", too.
  • But then... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Noksagt ( 69097 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:53PM (#10832351) Homepage
    ...who will rid us of the robots?
  • by Cade144 ( 553696 ) * on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:53PM (#10832352) Homepage

    New market opportunity:

    1. Develop cockroach-fooling robots;
    2. Lure foolish insects to their doom;
    3. Develop cockroach-tinfoil-hats;
    4. Sell tinfoil hats to remaining cockroaches;
    5. Profit!
    6. Go bankrupt when cockroaches develop their own tinfoil-hat industry.
    • by Schwartzboy ( 653985 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:03PM (#10832535)
      3.5. Develop advanced tinfoil-production methods that reduce costs to 1% of the former foil-making budget, mark up the price of hats 137%

      and then

      8. Lobby Congress to pass legislation granting a legal tinfoil-hat monopoly to prevent piracy of copyrighted hat design

      9. Sue cockroaches who buy their tinfoil from "bootleg" foil distributors in Hong Kong or over the internet

      10. ???
  • Yeah....... (Score:5, Funny)

    by teiresias ( 101481 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:54PM (#10832357)
    But can it survive a nuclear attack?


    score one for mother nature.
    • Then we can eliminated the cockroaches along with ourselves.
    • And sometimes, not to evolve is the best form of evolution, especially if it has kept your species alive for countless eons.
    • But that's the perfect solution! We fix the problem by eliminating humanity. Therefore, the roaches left won't be bothering anyone.

      That's how government would probably fix a problem like this. Don't eliminate the problem, eliminate the ones complaining about the problem.
  • by SallyMac ( 815623 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:54PM (#10832362) Homepage
    What happens when the robot that vaccums your floor sucks up your cockroach robot? Do they fight to the death?
  • by Tibor the Hun ( 143056 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:54PM (#10832371)
    But then I saw the boxy green things, and it occured to me, if the roaches are fscking stupid enough to accept it as one of their own, they deserve to be exterminated by it.

  • by JPelorat ( 5320 ) * on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:54PM (#10832377)
    they say they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs

    Or a... fence.
    • Actually, my thought is the sheep were just practicing base jumping but since none ever came back the other sheep had to go and see what was what.
    • "If you think this post is Offtopic, you can suck my nuts."
      • Why would you need that? You've already got sheep.
    • This is (as modded) funny, but not (also as modded) "insightful:" fences can be costly (in at least time and effort, if not sheer quantity of materials) and impractical. That's one reason people use herding dogs. These little robots can become commodities--cheaper than raising and training a pup to herd. They might also be programmed or deployed to be better herders and/or may have a longer active lifetime.
  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:57PM (#10832419) Homepage
    This roach bot should be called the CyberDyne Systems T-1. The First Terminator, a robot designed to infiltrate a population and eliminate it.

    Human models should be available in a few decades.
  • by xThinkx ( 680615 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:57PM (#10832425) Homepage
    "and to encourage chickens to take exercise"
    ...Please leave the chickens alone, they have enough of a problem running from the farmer when his wife is out of town.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:57PM (#10832426)
    ...when these robots are so effective, the male roaches will mount them, and get their little roach members snipped off.
  • by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:58PM (#10832430) Journal
    While I hate the little buggers as much as anyone else - shouldn't we be careful of technology designed to eliminate a creature...cockroaches do eat things and they are eaten by other things. If they die, it will have harmful effects like hurting the food chain. Then again, they are insects and it is really really hard to make an insect species go extinct...
    I do like the fact this can be used to do things like teach chickens to exercise (I hate my KFC being fatty), and sheep to jump off cliffs (do they do this? Shouldn't we get them like psycho-therapy?)
    • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:02PM (#10832518)
      Who really wants a food chain in their house? The goal here isn't to make cockroaches extinct (not going to happen), but to make homes roach-free.
      • Actually, most houses in the United States now are cockroach-free. The emergence of transported-bait poisons has essentially wiped out that particular pest in indoor spaces throughout the nation in the past decade.
        • You clearly don't live in an urban environment.

          Here in New York, despite regular visits by the exterminator, I still have cockroaches now and then. Sure, most of them are tiny and probably never grow to adulthood. I only see a few adult ones a year, but they are there.

    • Well, theoretically, being able to control them more precisely would be preferable to outright killing them... If we're able to control them better over time (eg. to the extent of moving populations to some other geographical area), but can at least reverse our invasiveness to some extent if we later change our minds. If we simply kill them, that's much harder to reverse, especially if we don't know how to control them.
  • Guess the roaches will have to get them some dogs to spot those robotic infiltrators...
  • by HaloZero ( 610207 ) <> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:58PM (#10832447) Homepage

    Bottom of the main page: "Last Update 20/10/03 14:37"

    My big point, though; the site provides specs, images, everything one might need to actually build one; I wonder how complicated it would be..
  • But soon... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ExileOnHoth ( 53325 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:59PM (#10832454)
    And then, soon, the only cockroaches who survive will be those who can tell the difference between a robot and a real roach.

    In other words, the smart ones.

    Great idea, guys.
    • No, there will be no smart roaches any time soon. But it is possible to change the pattern of behaviour of groups of roaches, that's not inconcievable. But I think that a robot like this can be used more productively if it actually had some form of a weapon on it (chemical I guess) that it would spread to the insects.

    • InsBot, which is green, the size of a matchbox and equipped with lasers and a light sensor, was developed by Switzerland's Federal Polytechnic School in Lausanne. When it bumps into a cockroach, it does what they do: it stops moving. The more cockroaches that approach it, the longer it remains stationary.

      They almost got it right, but instead of remaining "stationary", the robot should wait until alot of cockroaches are around it, then use its "FRICKEN LASERS" at a reasonable level, in relation to roaches
    • Re:But soon... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @03:22PM (#10833685)
      This will happen sometime after the automobile selects all the smart squirrels, i.e. not in your or my nano-augmented lifetime, by six orders of magnetude.
    • Re:But soon... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )
      Is that why fishing lures don't work anymore? Oh wait, they do...

      For that matter, some Caterpillars have fake eyes [] to make them look bigger and scare off predators. Some frogs self-inflate for (presumably) the same reason. Surely it should be easier for the predator to evolve the ability to recognize an inflated frog than for the frog to evolve to inflate itself? But apparently not.

    • the super-intelligent roaches will "scorch the sky" in an attempt to keep the robotic cockroaches from using solar energy. The robotic cockroaches will then have to turn the real roaches into "batteries," and create a virtual reality world for them to live in. The roaches will have to await "the One," that roach who is so hyper-intelligent that he can bend the rules of the virtual world with his mind.

      While all of this is playing out, I'll just be searching for a very large shoe.
  • by stripmarkup ( 629598 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @01:59PM (#10832459) Homepage
    How long until cockroaches adapt and stop following the robot? I bet it won't take very long. A cockroach can yield thousands of offspring every year.
  • If there is one that will lead the box elder bugs from my house and yard and take them somewhere else then please, please tell me about it!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:03PM (#10832528)
    Raid®: EMP. Robot Ant and Roach killer.
  • much for the cockroach overlords.
  • Sheep (Score:5, Funny)

    by graphicartist82 ( 462767 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:06PM (#10832583)
    Additionally, they say they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs [...] I thought sheep were supposed to push back when they are near the edge of a cliff.... oh wait... nevermind
    • Additionally, they say they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs [...]I thought sheep were supposed to push back when they are near the edge of a cliff.... oh wait... nevermind

      Yeah, I was wondering if I was the only one thinking that might have been a veiled insult to us USians.

  • ..and if we don't pay off the robot designers they'll lure our kids off, never to be seen again. YAWWWWWWN. Haven't we heard this plot before? No, seriously, the interesting part of this will be to see how quickly cockroaches evolve to counter the robots. And the ensuing arms race twixt nature & engineers will be endlessly amusing.
  • Oh No!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:07PM (#10832599)
    "It behaves like a cockroach. It smells like a cockroach. It is accepted by other cockroaches. But it is not a cockroach."

    Oh God! I just stomped on my $1,200 Robo-Roach!! Arrrgggghhh!
  • Its especially funny that this article is from Australia... the place where they have had more than their share [] of invading species intended to fix an existing problem.

  • "I for one welcome our transistor festoned friends".

    Seriously, another use for Duct tape.
    A/K/A/ household hint #444.
    If you lay duct tape around the perimeter of a room before retiring, any cockroaches who attempt to cross will become attached to the aDuct tape and are easily disposed of in the morning.

  • by El ( 94934 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:09PM (#10832627)
    How do you say "Resistance is futile... You will be assimilated!" in cockroach?
  • dream of electric sheep?
  • But are there any software bugs?
  • Imagine a Beowulf cluster...
  • by EnronHaliburton2004 ( 815366 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:12PM (#10832678) Homepage Journal
    The best way to get rid of roaches is to get rid of their food and water sources.

    This is simply a robotic equivilant of pesticides... you are eliminating a symptom of the problem (Cockroaches) instead of eliminating the actual problem (Food waste, dirty houses).

    If you developed little robots to pick up all all those food crumbs and eliminate any spills and puddles, the Cockroaches won't prosper.

    I guess in older houses they might still eat wall the wallpaper...
  • by ozborn ( 161426 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:13PM (#10832708)
    These types of robots will create selective pressure against roaches unable to distinguish robots as unfriendly, be it through olfactory, visual or behavioural means. There will be massive positive selection pressure for cockroaches who know their own.

    Interestingly while the robots may be scented with roach smell, this puts the manufacturer in the position of a chemical/behavioural arms race with roaches to produce acceptable robots. My money is on the roaches, since they have been around for several hundred million years.
  • Hoihoi-san (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dr_eaerth ( 149359 )
    "It is plausible and realistic to imagine that in five or 10 years time, people with a cockroach infestation will be buying robots to get rid of them," Professor Deneubourg said.

    My first thought ... good idea, but we don't want robots that look like cockroaches to get rid of cockroaches. That's *icky.* It won't sell.

    What we want is bug-killing robots that look like cute little dolls []. Now that's marketable.
  • ... in his 1974 short story That Thou Art Mindful of Him []. At the end of it, rather than being forced to stop making robots altogether, US Robotics moves into making robotic animals designed to support and clean up the ecosystem.

    That's not much of a spoiler, BTW, so you have no excuse not to track the story down and read it.
  • This is a cool site talkng about the OCKROACH and why it would be so hard to kill them

    It also deals with the use of robots

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:16PM (#10832773)
    First they came for the cockroaches
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a cockroach.
    Then they came for the sheep
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a sheep.
    Then they came for the chickens
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a chicken.
    Then they came for the humans
    and there were only robots left
    and none would speak out for me.
  • It behaves like a cockroach. It smells like a cockroach. It is accepted by other cockroaches. But it is not a cockroach.

    Reese Roach: The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy. But these are new. They look roach. Sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait 'til he moved on you before I could zero him.
    Sarah Roach: Hey, I'm not stupid, y'know. They can't build anything like that yet.
    Reese Roach: No. Not yet. Not for about forty years.

  • by CArnesen ( 184747 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:26PM (#10832930)
    Well, you can always count on the minds of the Japanese to already have come up with an anime about bug killing robots....

    Ichigeki Sacchuu!! Hoihoi-san (a.k.a. One-Shot Bug Killer!! Interceptor Doll Hoihoi-san) []

    --Chris ^_^
  • by PsiPsiStar ( 95676 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:28PM (#10832961)
    I used to work for a mosquito control company. While the place was pretty low-tech, we were apparently advanced enough that WHO was looking at us for ideas for THEIR program.


    We keep trying to use chemicals to control animals. The potential for genetic manipulation is much more powerful. Animals rapidly evolve resistance to things that kill them outright. But since male mosquitos don't bite (only females) and breeding and releasing male mosquitos doesn't pose a health risk imagine if we bread mosquitos for the following characteristics and then only released the male varieties (sex could be altered by viruses, as currently happens in nature)

    1. Mosquitos which prefer nectar to animals. Couple this with poorer versions of the genes which sense CO2 and heat.

    2. Breed mosquitos to avoid the human scent. You could do this by exposing mosquitos to a scent with a food source, and killing those which migrated towards it first. Instead of selling mosquito repellants, breed mosquitos which are naturally repeled by people.

    3. Perfect viruses which alter the mosquito's sex, making all mosquitos male. It could be distributed in the same way that BT toxin is currently used, and could be made not to jump species barriers. ( I know of worries with calissa virus etc. but those were mammals. These are cold blooded insects )

    4. Use devices to interfere with mosquito's mating communication - chemicals, sounds, etc. Like those bug zappers. They can be targeted to mosquitos sufficiently that they wouldn't hurt people.
  • by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:31PM (#10832998) Homepage
    While I can imagine (concievably) this thing going after household pests and ridding a residence of a particular kind of creature, I think roaches are a poor choice when you consider how many eggs they lay. The saying "when you see one, there's a thousand" is pretty damn accurate. Unless you made to robots replicate too (and anyone who has ever seen any late night sci fi movie knows how bad an idea that would be), you couldn't keep up.

    One possibility is to target mice or rats. They're prolific, but being mammals are less so than roaches. Unfortunately, they're pretty damn smart and might be able to foil or avoid these robots (finding particular crannies in the wall it can't reach, for example). Also, from a public relations standpoint, a robot that snuffs fur covered rodents would probably spill enough blood to freak out a homeowner. And if the thing botched the job and only maimed the little guys, you'd be stuck with a thousand grossed out homeowners complaining about mice with partially amputated limbs crawling across their new carpet.

    Ironically, one of the best choices might be the pests that act more like robots than any other: ants. The tough part of taking them out is tracing them all the way back to the nest, which might be inside a wall or foundation crack. A robot that could track them inside walls, etc. and then do a quick one shot of poison spray to get the queen would be perfect. Ants may be as prolific as roaches, but the queen is the only fertile one in the nest. Get her and it's "game over, man!"

  • by rcastro0 ( 241450 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:32PM (#10833018) Homepage
    I have my own observations about roaches: in apartment buildings they usually live/breed in the elevator shaft, or the garbage disposal system. Dark, warm, and generally dirty enough to feed them. In urban houses, they find their way from the sewer system.

    Now, three questions:
    1) How will the "Terminator Roach" deal with the vertical dimension (the shaft) and with water and human dejects (the sewer) ?

    2) How will a little robot, entering into those breeding grounds and coming out with a bunch of his "friends", help me get rid of cockroaches ? It's like, "Hi, I'm back, I look who I brought: This is Joe, this Ramon, this Betsy, this is Dotty and these are their 252 cousins !"

    3) Who did such a bad job with pest control for those guys, that made their research goals what they are ? (don't tell me it's a stepping stone to making robot-chickens)
  • What if they do this to lead geeks out of dark basements and into the light, where they can trap us ?
    They could control the nerd/geek kingdom! Oh, no! where is my tinfoil hat when I need it!
  • it's actually really hard to find a cockroach named sarah connor
  • Way too much Phillip K. Dick stuff has been coming true, lately. The future is creepy.
  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:55PM (#10833356) Homepage Journal
    The English language already has a word like this. It's the transitive verb "mimic" (mimicked, mimicking). Please don't make up any more new words, or we shall be forced to send a large brutish person over to your house to shove a copy of Webster's 2nd down your throat.

    Thank You
    Usage Enforcement Agency,
    Large Brutish Person Division
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @03:18PM (#10833633) Homepage
    Additionally, they say they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs...

    Is this a big problem? I've never heard of it but there could be a lot of reasons for sheep cliff divers. They get drunk with their hoodlum buddies and start showing off, I'm not sure. But when you think about it there aren't a lot of sheep singing It's A Wonderful Life. You stand around eating grass all day, constantly on the alert for predators, then once a year you get man handled by some smelly guy who shaves all your fur off. That's all fine and dandy, then one day you get to go for a ride in the trailer that ends up at the slaughter house and you're nothing but mutton chops after that, baby.

    Yeah, I think I'd opt for the cliff myself. At least you've got a chance that way. You could wash up on the island of lost sheep. But I guess that's another movie.

  • by IceAgeComing ( 636874 ) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @03:37PM (#10833908)

    1. Buy a bottle of boric acid powder from your local pharmacy (costs about $2 USD).
    2. Mix equal parts of the above with sugar, and add a little water to bind them together into a thick paste. Ideally, it should be thick enough to form balls that can be easily cleaned up later if necessary.
    3. Place the paste in dark places where you think roaches congregate. Wait 1-2 weeks for all roaches to disappear.

    The boric acid is poisonous to both ants and roaches. The beauty of this poison is that the roaches succumb in their hiding places, where other roaches will eat the remains and also subsequently die. It spreads like a virus!

    My mom has used this effectively in Western Africa, and it has worked for me in the Deep South.

    Boric acid is, from what I've heard, much less toxic to people and pets than the alternative sprays that must be reapplied every few months.

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