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Find out how to get rid of roaches either DIY or by hiring a professional. We included the cost for professional services and free quotes.
Of all the pests present in the home, none produce the feeling of revulsion quite like cockroaches. However of the 4,500 species around the world, only about 69 species of cockroach are found in the USA, while 450 species are found in Australia. Today we will concentrate on the species found in North America; of those only four are the troublesome pest that we all associate with the insect. Most of them prefer to stay outside and take part in their natural role of ridding the environment of dead and decaying animal and plant life.
The handful that encroaches on our habitat will become, if not stopped, a troublesome pest which spreads disease into our homes.
This article will concentrate on educating you into knowing:
Before we start to panic and think we have a cockroach infestation, we must actually check to see whether it might be some other type of insect, such as a cricket, a beetle or a grasshopper. All these can be mistaken for cockroaches.
Cockroaches have flat, broad bodies with long antennae and long back legs. They have wings, normally folded flat against their back but not all species can fly. They are mostly black or brownish in colour and can range in length from 0.07 inches up to 3 inches, depending on the species.
Cockroaches (or roaches) are insects of the order Blattodea. They have been on earth for at least 320 million years. They have no specialised mouthparts such as sucking insects like aphids, instead they have chewing mouthparts. They are very hardy insects, able to withstand extremes of temperature and environment such as arctic cold to tropical heat. Usually the tropical species are physically larger than those that live in cooler climates. Some species can even survive temperatures of about -188°F (-122°C). They do this by manufacturing glycerol, a substance similar to antifreeze.
Like all insects, the body is divided into three segments; head, thorax and abdomen, with one pair of legs on each segment. They have two pairs of wings, one pair is used for flying and the other pair is used as a protective cover for the flying wings, having said that not all species can fly. They have hairy spines on the legs which assist with walking on difficult terrains such as sand.
Cockroaches are social insects, preferring to live in colonies. Some species show the ability to care for their young. At one time it was thought that cockroaches swarmed together because of environmental factors, now however we know that they group together because of pheromone cues. Some species secrete the pheromones via their faeces from gut microbes, while others use glands on their mandibles.
Species that we regard as pests can adapt easily to a variety of environments, preferring warm conditions found in buildings. They are usually nocturnal and run away when exposed to light. The only known exception to this rule is the Asian cockroach which flies at night but is attracted to brightly lit surfaces.
Yes. Some species of cockroaches make a chirping noise while others make a hissing noise. Some species of Australian roaches make a rhythmic tapping noise on the ground.
As stated earlier, there are 4,500 species of cockroach around the world, with about 69 species found in the USA. The discussion today will concentrate mainly on the four species which are considered pests, but we will mention the others in passing.
German cockroach. This is about 0.6 inches long. Its colour is a light-brown. There are two dark stripes on its back stretching from the head to the wings. This species is the most prevalent in the USA and can be found across the entire continent. They are commonly found near water and food, such as kitchens, bathrooms and damp storage areas. They breed rapidly and so become a direct threat to you and your family. If you have one single female enter your home, within a year there can be more than 30,000 individuals. Of these a lot will die but there will still be enough to spread disease. Each egg can hatch between 20 and 40 babies. They can carry salmonella and other disease causing bacteria and deposit them on foods. House dust which will include cockroach faeces and dead body parts can trigger asthma and other allergic reactions. German cockroaches are mainly nocturnal but if you see some during the day then you have a major infestation on your hands. The best way to kill the German roach is to use a bait to kill them and a growth regulator to inhibit reproduction.
American cockroach. This is also known as the ‘water bug’ (it is not however aquatic). This is the largest species of common roach. Despite its name this insect is not native to the Americas. It was introduced to North America from Africa around 1625. They are about 1.5 inches long and about 0.25 inches high. Their colouring is reddish brown and they have a yellow margin on the region behind the head. It can run very fast and can dart under furniture or into tiny holes when disturbed. This roach produces secretions which changes the flavour of food. If the infestation is extremely large then the odour is noticeable in the air.
They can carry salmonella and other bacterial diseases and deposit them on foodstuff. House dust which will include cockroach faeces and dead body parts can trigger asthma and other allergic reactions. American cockroaches live in moist places or in dry areas if they have access to water. They prefer high temperatures up to about 84°F (29°C) and do not tolerate lower temperatures well. They are common in basements, crawl spaces, cracks and crevices, drains and sewers, foundations and places adjacent to buildings. The females produce many egg capsules, each containing on average 15 eggs. The eggs hatch into nymphs which are coloured a greyish brown. Nymphs will moult up to 13 times before they reach maturity.
Brown Banded cockroach. This insect is sometimes confused with the German cockroach, but their habits are entirely different. They are often brought indoors in furniture. They are most common in the southern states although if the house is very warm they might be found in the north as well. They are only found indoors and especially like high areas such as picture frames and ceilings. The Brown Banded cockroach is about 0.5 inch long with a light brown colouration. They have two light bands along their wings whereas the German roach has two dark bands behind their heads. They prefer starchy materials but will eat almost anything if it is available. The female carries its egg capsule for about 2 days before attaching it in a protected place. Each capsule contains about 15 to 20 eggs which when hatched into nymphs take about 160 days to grow to maturity. These roaches don’t need as much moisture as German roaches so they are often found on furniture and in closets, on walls and ceilings. They are not usually found in kitchens or bathrooms but often live near refrigerator motors, cookers and larger appliances, probably for the warmth. They are nocturnal and prefer dry and warm areas.
Oriental cockroach. This roach is shiny and black with a length of about 1.25 inches. They possess wings but neither male nor female can fly. The Oriental roach prefers to eat decaying organic matter such as in mulch and rubbish. It prefers starchy food and tends to congregate around garbage cans. They do not need as much water as other species and get most of their moisture from their food. After hatching, the nymphs are active from March and through most of the summer. Indoors they are found in basements, crawl spaces and kitchens while outdoors they are found beneath leaves, in compost piles and mulch, in flower beds and in highly damp areas such as sewers, drains and damp basements. They tolerate lower temperatures than other species and often spend the winter in walls and other sheltered spots. Generally this species prefers to stay outside during the warm months but will come indoors in times of drought and if the winter is unusually cold.
The other species which are not so troublesome include:
The Australian cockroach. These look similar to the American cockroach but are smaller, being rarely longer than 1.25 inches. They have a yellow area on their back and are reddish brown. The Australian roach feeds on plants and decaying organic material. If they come indoors they like starchy material like book bindings, wallpaper and glue. They usually are found in tropical areas like the southern states and Hawaii. They prefer temperatures above 80°F but have been found in the north after having been transported in packing cases. They fly well and will enter houses for food, water and warmth. They prefer to live in wall cavities, tree cavities, mulch and leaf piles, tree bark and firewood stores, in and around greenhouses. If found indoors it will be in attics, kitchens, garages and garbage cans. To keep this species at bay, follow all the exclusion and cleaning procedures mentioned later in this article.
Woods cockroach. These appear similar to the American roach but are slightly smaller, about 0.75 to 1.25 inches long. The Woods roach eats decaying organic material. These roaches do not survive indoors and only enter by accident. They normally live in wooded areas and are often found in firewood stacks. They need permanent moist conditions to reproduce and so do not breed indoors.
Smokey Brown cockroach. These usually feed exclusively on plant material but can feed on most organic debris within the home. They require constant moisture in order to survive and are usually found in mulch, firewood piles, leaf litter and tree bark and are commonly found within greenhouses. These are a tropical roach and not found nationwide. They are common in Texas, Gulf coast, Florida, eastern seaboard and in some areas of California. They enter houses either by flying or on firewood.
Most cockroach species prefer to live outdoors so are not really a problem. The species that we mentioned earlier are the ones that will cause an infestation in your home. Cockroaches come inside to live and breed for the following reasons:
They don’t always infest a home because it is excessively dirty either. Cockroaches can be brought in on clothes, packages, shoes, vegetables and all manner of grocery items. In fact, all it needs is one egg capsule to be brought in and very soon, if the conditions are right, you have an infestation.
It may be that one of the apartments in your block has had a roach infestation and insecticide has been used to clear the problem. If this is the case then the roaches may have just scattered to different parts of the buildings where conditions are more favourable.
Every home has dark corners where roaches can hide, congregate, breed and feed. Is it any wonder that we don’t have more infestations? What parts of the country suffer from cockroaches the most?
Generally the southern states have more problems with roaches. The most recent Annual Housing Survey gave the following percentages regarding reported cockroach problems:
|City||Reported roach problems||City||Reported roach problems|
|Houston||37.90%||Los Angeles – Long Beach||17.20%|
|Atlanta||24.90%||New York City||15.60%|
Let’s have a look at the most common hiding places used by cockroaches.
Kitchen appliances. What appliances do you have? Microwave, fridge, oven, toaster, coffee maker? All of these are popular with the cockroach. They are in a warm room, have moisture nearby and have scraps of food debris lying around. Always wipe down kitchen worktops and tables after meals. Clean under and behind the appliances and carry out the trash regularly.
Cupboards. Cockroaches love creeping into your cupboards, especially if you keep food in there. Cupboards are dark and welcoming. Clean your cupboards and cabinets regularly and store food in sealed air-tight containers.
Keyboards. Have you ever eaten a snack while seated at your computer? I bet there are crumbs and food particles wedged down under the keys. Some species of cockroaches are small enough to crawl between the keys and set up home in there. Don’t eat while typing and clean the keyboard using a vacuum nozzle or canned air.
Game consoles. Believe it or not, cockroaches are becoming the latest trend in causes of faulty games consoles. Many computer repair shops are finding video game systems clogged with dead cockroaches. If you think about it you will understand why. Game systems, when switched on, can become very warm. They have ventilation grilles through which the roaches can easily crawl. When they are walking around inside the console, the internal power supply can electrocute them and weld the corpses to the electronics. This can cause the console to malfunction and stop it from working properly. Often gaming consoles are attached to the television and never moved after that. When you vacuum the house, don’t forget to run the nozzle over the ventilation grilles to remove any roaches, dead or alive.
Water pipes. The water or central heating pipes that run through your house tend to be in dark and enclosed spaces. There may be drips, water leaks or condensation around the pipes too. This is just the environment that cockroaches love to frequent. Regularly inspect drains, pipes and water tanks to ensure there are no leaks. Seal any cracks around plumbing that leads to the outdoors.
Furniture. Upholstered chairs and couches are sought after by roaches as warm cosy places to lay their eggs, especially as you probably often spill drinks or snacks while watching television. Prevent this by vacuuming upholstered furniture to remove food as well as eggs. Inspect wooden furniture for egg casings that need to be removed too.
Any nook and cranny. All homes have out-of-sight corners where cockroaches love to hide. These can include skirting boards along walls and architraves around doors. Behind picture frames and in corners where the newspapers are stacked. Inspect these areas and remove all clutter behind which roaches might hide. Check that skirtings and architraves fit flush and that all cracks have been sealed.
Cockroaches in general are omnivorous and in the wild, generally live on decaying animal and plant residue. The American cockroach feeds on a great variety of substances, such as:
Many species have symbiotic bacteria which allow them to feed on cellulose in wood.
If you don’t see the cockroaches, how do you know if you have an infestation? It is true, cockroaches very rarely show themselves when people are about. They don’t like bright light and prefer to hide in tiny holes and cracks as well as behind and under kitchen appliances. If you do see one or two in the daytime then you probably have a really serious infestation and those are the victims of severe overcrowding. How can you spot the signs before it is too late?
Feeding. One of the easiest to see, tell-tale signs of cockroaches, and often one of the easiest to disregard is the damage they cause as a result of their feeding habits. Cockroaches like to eat things such as paper, glue, starch as well as human food, furthermore they like to live in places that are damp and dark. So look in and under places like cupboards, bookcases and anywhere you have been storing general bits and pieces like basements. If you have ‘roaches’ then you will probably see signs of them feeding. The signs may not be that large at first but keep an eye on them and watch over a few days. If the damage becomes more widespread then it’s time to call in a professional.
Excrement. As previously mentioned there are certain areas that cockroaches love to congregate and to eat. Keep an eye on these and if you see signs of cockroach faeces (it will look like small brown or black spots, depending on species, near the edge of the places they have been feeding on), call in a professional.
Illness. Cockroaches do not produce disease and illness but they are responsible for spreading disease. Because of the places they like to frequent and the things they like to eat, cockroaches spread bacterial infections such as salmonella and E.coli. Don’t panic if you have isolated cases of sickness or diarrhoea; everyone gets sick now and again, but if the episodes start becoming regular and more widespread then it definitely is time to get your house checked out (after a visit to the doctor first).
Allergies. Not all allergies are caused by cockroaches, but if you have people in your home who are susceptible to allergies and their reactions are more serious or more prolonged than usual, then it might be that they are reacting to the presence of cockroach faeces and decomposing body parts. Look for the other signs mentioned here and if you have them then it is time to get the house inspected.
There are many DIY methods of getting rid of cockroaches to be found online. Be careful which of these are suitable for the species of roach you have in your home. Some of the DIY methods are temporary or are only appropriate when dealing with small numbers. Some advise you to use substances that are harmful to humans and other mammals and have never been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you choose one of the DIY methods then always ensure that the active ingredient is harmless to humans and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying. If you cannot do that or if you have more than just a few roaches then the only way to get rid of them is to call in a professional.
The list of DIY methods suitable for trying against your cockroaches can be listed as follows:
A boot. Although this might seem like a barbaric and primitive method of getting rid of the insects, the application of a heavy boot can successfully squash even the most stubborn of roaches.
Boric acid. You can make poison bait from boric acid and sugar. Mix three parts boric acid to one part sugar. Boric acid is not toxic to humans or other mammals but it can cause irritation so keep away from children and pets. You can sprinkle the powdered mixture under and behind the fridge, cooker and dishwasher. Sprinkle under the sink and around cracks in the pantry and cupboards.
Catnip. Otherwise known as cat mint. This plant is native to southern and eastern Europe, The Middle East, central Asia and China although it can now be found, and has been naturalised in northern Europe, New Zealand and North America. This herb can be used as a repellent.
Mint. There are about 18 different species of mint and can be found across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. The leaves are very aromatic. This herb can be used as a repellent.
Garlic. This plant is a close relative of the onion, shallot, leek and chive. This plant is known and used as a food and medicine worldwide. It is good as a repellent.
Cucumber. The cucumber plant is a creeping vine whose fruit is a widely used salad crop. The plant is useful as a repellent.
Temperature. Although cockroaches can survive the cold, they love warmth. When the weather becomes warm the insects spread their wings and take to the air. Try to keep your home as cool as possible so even if you have them on the ground, they won’t be flying around and spreading to other homes.
Geckos. If you have always wanted a pet gecko, set one loose in the home and watch the roach population disappear. Geckos find cockroaches extremely tasty but don’t use poison if relying on geckos.
Diatomaceous earth. This is a naturally occurring, harmless powdered silicon dioxide. It kills all insects. You can purchase food grade for use with grain or when dealing with humans or pets. Do not inhale as, like all fine dusts, it can cause respiratory problems. This substance must be dry to kill insects.
Drowning. You can attract cockroaches and drown them by placing about an inch of stale beer mixed with sugar and some stale food inside a vertical smooth walled jar. The insects are attracted to the food and drown in the liquid. Allow them a ramp on the outside such as a piece of cardboard or a twig so they can reach the jar rim easily.
Detergent spray. Cockroaches, like all insects breathe through their skin. If you see any then spray them with a solution of household dishwashing detergent and water. The detergent will suffocate them.
It is all well and good talking about natural and non-toxic methods of getting rid of cockroaches, but when you have an infestation, all you want to know is that the things are dead. There are many brand named cockroach poisons on the market. The most notable is one called ‘Raid’ whose active ingredient is Permethrin. The chemical has been linked to Parkinson’s disease and causes headaches, nausea and seizures if excessively exposed. It is also extremely toxic to aquatic life and cats.
Having listed all these poisons and repellents, it should be said that the best way to stop cockroaches is to change your environment so it is less welcoming to them. There are three main categories of preventative methods; Cleanliness, home repairs and exclusion.
Because cockroaches, like most indoor invasive insects, feed on food debris left lying around by humans, the way to stop them coming into your home is to keep the place clean. Roaches are particularly fond of food grease so make sure you wipe down counters and worktops after every use. Wash the dirty dishes after every meal, clean your cooker, including inside the oven, regularly and sweep or vacuum the floors every day.
Keep food in airtight plastic or metal containers to prevent roaches from eating paper packaging.
Seal cracks. Cockroaches love to creep inside cracks and holes so make sure you attend to all those places inside your pantry, in your kitchen along the worktop against the wall and along skirting boards. Seal any cracks and gaps around pipes going through walls and seal any cracks allowing them access into the house from outside.
Water. Cockroaches love damp conditions, so are attracted to places where moisture accumulates from leaky pipes and condensation. Some cockroaches can survive for months without food but only a few days without water. Repair all those leaks around the house, don’t forget to get rid of water standing in your sink and don’t overwater house plants.
Don’t allow drains to overflow outside and divert overflow water away from the house.
Store firewood away from the house and if possible raise it onto pallets to help prevent rot and the formation of cockroach homes.
Although there are many natural outdoor habitats in which the cockroaches will be perfectly happy, if there are easy entrances then most of them will take every opportunity to come indoors.
While DIY control measures are fine for small numbers of cockroaches, for large numbers, infestations and cases involving illness, it is best to use regulated insecticides specifically designed for exterminating cockroaches. You can also buy growth regulators that prevent the cockroaches from reproducing. It is always best to call in a professional as they have the training and knowledge to be able to treat your specific infestation with regards to building layout, type of roach, and level of infestation.
They will also design a treatment plan specifically for you and implement it over the appropriate time scale. Although there are many roach poisons available to buy on line and in home and garden stores, it is always best to leave this to a professional.
The pesticides available can be generally categorised into ‘outdoor’ and ‘indoor’ applications. Often the same poison is used for outside as well as inside, but as a rule the outside treatments tend to be in a more robust and less weather sensitive form. The indoor types are:
You can buy aerosol sprays from retail outlets varying in price from $20 for a 21oz can of general insecticide up to a 16oz concentrated controlled release insecticide to mix with water for $70.
These should be applied around the skirting boards near entry points such as doors, windows and plumbing. Concentrate on skirting board corners in the house and all boards in basements, garages or cellars.
Apply the spray around sink and bathroom plumbing as well as around washing machine and dryer connections.
If you have trees that overhang the roof or gutters that are not kept clean, you may have cockroaches enter the house from the attic and roof space as well as crawl spaces. Insect baits are good for this type of infestation. Baits are available from $14 for a 35g syringe and $42 for a 300g syringe.
Dusts applied by hand dusters are often a good treatment. Dust around and behind skirting boards, electrical outlets and light switches, wall cavities and underneath kitchen appliances. Dusts are available from $10 for a 1lb squeezy bottle.
The ‘outdoor’ types are as follows:
Usually, the outside sprays are used on the outside of the building and at various points of entry. The best types are concentrated residual sprays. These are applied wet and allowed to dry to form a perimeter barrier around the house. Spray a 3ft to 6ft band around the whole house perimeter, paying particular attention to outside doors, windows, dryer vents, air-conditioning vents and plumbing openings. These would usually be applied using a pump sprayer.
Granular pesticides can be sprinkled around the house base and foundations. Pay particular attention to mulched areas.
These are used around the perimeter of the house and can be used outdoors as well as indoors and in mulched and turfed areas. Most of the baits will attract and kill other insect pest such as ants, crickets, silverfish and earwigs as well as cockroaches.
Outside treatments of residual insecticides and granules should be repeated every three months during the active season. Some granular bait, if sheltered from rain, can last from six months to a year.
The cost of hiring a professional will vary depending on:
Luckily a pest control contractor will not just specialise in the extermination of cockroaches, he or she will be trained in the recognition and extermination of all types of pests. All you need to do is contact the nearest reputable pest control company and ask them to come to inspect your property.
The average costs associated with calling in a pest control contractor are shown in the table below. Bear in mind that the actual costs will depend on the factors mentioned previously.
|Costs to hire a cockroach control company|
|Low End Prices||$50|
|High End Prices||$500|
|Typical range of prices||$100 to $270|
Other typical costs charged depending on whether you have an on-time visit or a regular maintenance visit. They are based on a typical 1,500 square foot house. A contractor will charge you extra on a pro rata basis for larger homes or will charge you a set fee.
|Type of Visit||Typical average costs|
|One time visit||$300 to $600|
|Initial visit||$200 to $210|
|Monthly visit||$40 to $50|
|Bi-monthly visit||$50 to $60|
|Quarterly visit||$100 to $300|
These figures do not include the cost to repair cracks and holes, unblock drains and clean gutters. These jobs you will have to do yourself or hire the appropriate contractor or handyman to do the job for you.
So far we have talked mainly about the different types of cockroach you will probably meet, their habits, what they feed on and how to discourage the pest from staking a claim to your home. What do you do if you have tried all the DIY remedies and the insecticides available on the market and your home is quickly becoming open house to every roach in the area?
First of all, you shouldn’t have left it this long before doing something about it. Secondly, get in touch with a pest control expert and arrange to have an inspection done.
Luckily your local pest control operative will have the knowledge and training to treat many types of insect or rodent pest. If you have pests such as cockroaches it is always best to invest in a treatment plan. The roach reproduces fast and any eggs that were missed on the first visit will hopefully be caught as nymphs or adults on subsequent visits. That way the exterminator will just be a phone call away and will already have your circumstances on file.
When contacted, the first thing they will do is give you an initial visit. This will probably be longer and more expensive than the other visits in the plan because:
Your house will be mapped out with likely entry points and hiding places noted. This includes, holes and cracks in brickwork and foundations as well as exterior pipes, drains and sewers.
You will have a survey to highlight ways you can change your environment so the pest no longer feels welcomed. This will involve making sure the place is kept clean inside and any water leaks found and repaired. The survey will also note any compost piles, mulched areas, overflowing drains or blocked gutters. All good places for roaches to feed and live.
The exterminator will lay the appropriate bait or poison in the correct places to be most effective. These places will include electric motors, electronic equipment, wall cavities, false ceilings, cracks and holes.
Throughout the year, at appropriate times depending on the extent of the infestation, the operative will visit and treat the home with the appropriate pesticides taking great care to reinforce the exterior barrier set up during the initial visit.
As long as you continue to pay your instalments, you will continue to have effective treatment, all year, every year.
In order to attract customers, most pest control companies offer payment plans and give money back guarantees if you are not happy.
The pest control professionals will use a variety of different tools and methods to achieve their goal, from simple vacuum cleaning, baiting, spraying and many other treatments.
They do not just use chemicals to kill the pest, there are chemicals designed to interfere with the breeding cycle, there are parasites which specifically target cockroaches as well as using pheromones to attract the insects into traps.
All reputable pest control companies will be certified in compliance with EPA regulations, state and local laws. Any person who applies or supervises the application of restricted use pesticides must be certified, licenced and must know how to use the pesticides effectively and safely. In addition to certification, a reputable pest control company must also have a contractor’s licence and have sufficient insurance to cover damage to your property and death or injury to you, your family and any other third party. They will also need insurance to cover injury to their staff while working on your property.
Make sure you see the contractor’s documents and check up on them at your City Hall. Some unscrupulous contractors may produce fake documents so make sure they have been properly issued and are in-date at the time of doing your work.
Today we have learned a bit about cockroaches and how to get rid of them. We have talked about the different species, their habits and different habitats and whether they are regarded as a pest or not. We have found that there are four species in the USA that are regarded as pests and these can invade your home.
We talked about how you can become infested with roaches and why they decide to take up residence. We talked a bit about the various DIY remedies you can use to try to get rid of them, but found that the best way to remove the cockroaches is by keeping your home and garden clean and clear of clutter.
Cockroaches can carry diseases that affect humans so if you find you have an infestation it will probably be wise to call in a professional with their specialised knowledge to get rid of the pest and keep you free from them.
Once you have your licensed and certified contractor, it is wise to invest in a maintenance plan with them to ensure you continue to be cockroach free.