Part 5 : Spanish holiday home? it’s not all roses!

Things people don’t tell you in advance : my experience

Typical Spanish villa

Owning a holiday home in Spain is absolutely fantastic, the people are lovely, the weather is 100 times better than the cold lands in the north (especially in winter), and the outdoor social life is wonderful.

I’m glad we did it …but there are things that nobody mentions before you buy. So read on and if you’re buying a Spanish home take precautions in advance and maybe you’ll prevent the problems I had.

THE BUGBEARS

My unexpected shock was the bugs that invaded my property when we were absent. Believe me they are nothing like the ones we encounter in the UK if that is where you hail from, and neither do they arrive in the quantities you might expect.

Now of course I may have been very unlucky (but talking to others has confirmed that I’m not the only one) and I sincerely hope that you’ll not have a single problem and you probably won’t if you …

a) pay a cleaner to look after the property when you aren’t there, or

b) rent it out when you’re not using it (because then you will pay for it to be regularly serviced and cleaned)

or

c) decide to move to Spain permanently.

THE UNKNOWNS WITH SHARP JAWS

Let’s start with these little critters, I call them ‘the unknowns’. I once returned and found a plastic container had in my absence become the perfect breeding place for something that I’ve never yet been able to identify. The container had contained a bag of new, unopened flour, it was now thriving and the squirming masses made it look alive.

This was a solid plastic container bottom 12 weeks earlier

Inside the container was hundreds of cream coloured maggots and little winged insects. Outside the container the maggots crawled around and the insects with wings had taken flight around the food cupboard but there was a mystery … how the hell did they get outside of the container.

The lid was still very firmly in place and there was no sign of them sneaking in or out this way.

I wish I’d taken photos of them so I could show you but I was in a bit of a panic to get rid of them pronto at the time. I did find out how they got in or out of the container though and I can show you the evidence — it’s amazing. The container had tiny perfectly formed round holes in the bottom and as I picked it up several maggots fell through the holes. The little jaws of these tiny maggots must have been razor sharp to gnaw through thick plastic. I thought better of putting any in my hand to find out!

Now I wouldn’t dream of leaving a bag of flour opened or unopened anywhere in the kitchen even if it was sealed in concrete!

COCKROACHES

The next bugbear was cockroaches who visited whether we were ‘home’ or ‘away’, but preferred us ‘away’. I had never been up close and personal with a cockroach until we had our Spanish home.

These were the ones swept up in the bedroom last time I returned (I’m glad to say they were dead — all but one)

We soon learned that there was no point in keeping a pedal bin in the kitchen for food scraps, etc — it was like pollen to a bee, even though we emptied it every morning.

For us it is essential to use the outdoor street bins daily for all household rubbish

Now when we’re in Spain all food scraps are kept in a plastic bag on the work surface which is then immediately taken to the outside street bins after the last meal of the day. Another lesson quickly learned was that dirty washing up crockery cannot be left by the sink for long and definitely not overnight.

The day I bought my first cockroach traps I will never forget. Oh dear, I’d opened the packaging of one to inspect it and then left it on the kitchen work surface planning to blitz the house with these contraptions in the light of morning. You can probably guess what happened.

Next morning I innocently picked up the opened trap and tilted it unthinkingly and thereby landed up with a handful of live active cockroaches who no doubt had been enjoying the edible poison within! It’s one of those nightmare moments you never forget. (Can I feel you shiver at this point? the memory certainly makes me do so!)

Despite traps everywhere the last time I returned to Spain there was about 12 mostly dead cockroaches around the house. Dead somehow doesn’t seem so bad though.

MOTHS

A few years back I returned to my Spanish holiday home after a gap of about 12 weeks and my house had been taken over by moths, and these ones preferred food and strange things to eat rather than clothing. I had never seen anything quite like it. There wasn’t a single room in the house that they hadn’t made home and even though they were quite tiny, boy were they invasive.

The millions of little eggs that were everywhere were either in a state of hatching or had already become little white maggots that I could clearly see inching their way up (or down) the walls. The maggots were eating almost anything they could get their little mouths around, and apart from any food in the kitchen they seemed especially to love picture frames.

When I had left Spain every packet of anything edible was sealed in a plastic bag and that plastic bag was placed inside a plastic tupperware type container. How they’d got inside so successfully I’ve never found out. On return both inside and outside of these containers were tiny moths of the flying variety — I’ve no idea whether they were coming or going to the containers …I just wanted them gone but they were having a ball!

It took two years to rid the house of this nuisance and we tried everything we could think of.

We sealed any vent to the outside, we sprayed insecticide and we put down dozens and dozens of moth traps. Even now I still get the odd few when I return (but they’re well under 20 or so nowadays and usually found caught in a trap on our return).

ANTS

We’ve had trouble with those weeny varieties and I swear they get in under the terrace door because we find them mainly in the lounge or in the nearby kitchen. They’re so tiny though I imagine they could get in through a tiny pin hole. We replaced all the doors and windows in our property soon after we bought it so it’s not that we’ve ill-fitting old windows that allows them in. Once more powder and traps seem to keep them under control.

WASP? (possibly)

The photo alongside is the only one of these insects that I have found dead in the house. Please please please let it not have laid eggs anywhere - crikey! I don’t fancy dealing with a dozen of these huge things buzzing around the lounge.

I’ve drawn a blank as to its species, so if anyone knows please tell me, and I’ve no idea what traps to leave down for something this size. There doesn't seem to be anything remotely suitable in my local shops.

SHOULD YOU BUY A HOME IN THE SUN?

So, what to do if you’re thinking about buying a holiday home somewhere warm, especially if you’re slightly squeamish about our insect friends. I’d say yes, yes, yes, go ahead and do it. The pluses well outweigh the minuses of owning a home in the sun (and I’ll write about these in a different article).

Please don’t let this article put you off but being forewarned might help you get prepared to stop any invasion in the first place. I believe that had I known that I might possibly have encountered all these little critters I might have stopped them even getting a ‘toe in the door’ in the first place had I put down traps regularly as a matter of course.

Now I’m aware of the problem I take many precautions. Anything edible, even it’s an indate box of cereal or the like, is given away before we leave the house. Every room has traps set for moths, cockroaches, ants and anything else that thinks it would like to live in our holiday home when we’re absent.

I’m aware that some people never get a single problem, it’s just that I’m not lucky enough to be one of them. If you buy a home then I sincerely hope that you are one of the lucky ones.

Typical insect traps that I buy on a regualar basis
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