The simple sound of the word "cockroach" can make the skin of the strongest man crawl. Actually seeing one can send homeowners and apartment dwellers seeking refuge at the top of the highest piece of furniture or heading out for dinner to get away from the awful pests.
But are cockroaches really as bad as all that? On one hand, they're tough: Cockroaches are said to be the one thing that could survive nuclear war. Although that's not quite the case, an old wives tale, it is true that this nasty insect has been around for about 320 million years -- literally since before dinosaurs walked the earth.
On the other hand, they're ugly, carry disease and like to hide. Cockroaches come out at night, preferring to move around in dark, warm, tight places where their bodies can touch a surface above and below [source: PublicHealthPests]. This kind of place is what cockroaches are seeking when you flip the light on and see a couple of them scurry under a cabinet or the refrigerator.
While there are thousands of types of roaches, you are most likely to find one of these four kinds infesting the nooks and crannies of houses, apartments and businesses:
- Brown banded
- Oriental [source: PublicHealthPests]
You'll almost never see these types during the day. They much prefer moving around in the dark. So, if you see a cockroach in daylight, you should suspect an infestation. Cockroaches don't like traveling alone, and will explore their habitats during the day if it's quiet. The definition of infestation may be fluid, even in your own mind. You may be able to stand one or two roaches around your garbage cans, for example, but not want to see a single one in your kitchen.
Read on for information about how to prevent a cockroach infestation or deal with it if you have one.
How to Rid Yourself of a Cockroach Infestation
If you suspect an infestation, you need to try to get rid of the little buggers. They're every bit as nasty as their reputation says they are. After all, they can carry disease and germs. They may walk through feces and garbage before showing up in your kitchen and can actually lead to asthma and certain allergies [source: PublicHealthPests].
So, how do you get rid of them?
The answer is, it's not easy. It requires an integrated pest management (IPM) program, which means a combination of several approaches [source: Cockroaches].
Keeping roaches from infesting your home in the first place is much easier than getting rid of them once they have moved in. The first steps of an IPM are to deprive roaches of access to food, water and shelter and to keep your home clean and dry [source: HealthNote].
To close off access, you need to know how they get in. They can crawl inside your house through the tiniest holes and cracks. To seal your home, be sure you have tight-fitting windows and doors, caulk all cracks or holes in foundations and walls and repair any plumbing leaks [source: Cockroaches].
Once you've tackled the outside, work on the inside of your home. They gravitate to kitchens in search of even the smallest bits of food and water. Follow these steps to cut down on the things in your kitchen that entice them:
- Don't leave food out. Store it in tight containers or in the refrigerator.
- Wash dishes, wipe down tables and countertops and sweep floors after every meal.
- Fix any leaky faucets. Small drips of water are enough to keep roaches around
If cleaning and sealing don't solve your problem, use sticky traps to catch roaches and to help you figure out where they're holed up [source: Cockroaches]. You can also try some roach spray, but make sure you leave your windows open after you spray.
If you live in an apartment, these steps may not be enough. You may have sealed and cleaned everything you can, but if your neighbors have an infestation or if the outside of your building isn't sealed, cockroaches can find a way in. This is why apartment dwellers often suffer from cockroaches more than people living in single-family homes.
If you've tried cleaning and sealing, but still have roaches, call an exterminator. They have the know-how to identify your roach species and the chemicals and poisons to help you get rid of them.
Explore the links on the next page for more information about cockroaches.
- Health Canada. “Cockroaches Health Note.” (Aug. 13, 2012)http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_pnotes/cockro-blattes/index-eng.php
- Rust, M.K. et al. "Cockroaches." University of California. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
- U. S. Department of the Interior. “Public Health Pests, Cockroaches.” (Aug. 13, 2012) http://nps.gov/nero/science/final/fiis_ipm/3%20-%20fiis%20ipm%20plan%20appendixred.pdf