Most folks can handle the occasional bug seen in the house - a house fly buzzing by, a scorpion scurrying across the floor, or maybe a spider web stuck up in the corner. All are common pests and relatedly easy to handle. Just swat or kill them and the pest problem is immediately solved. But a cockroach racing across the floor or wall is quite different. It's a disgusting cockroach and yes you need to quickly kill it. However, its presence should also get your attention; keep in mind there usually isn't just one. Life is well until the cockroaches invade.
Eliminating cockroaches require a whole different type thinking and strategy. These nasty bugs for one are survivors; despite man's attempt to get rid of them, they live on. Cockroaches often seen in buildings either came from outside or were brought in hiding in such things as bags or boxes. Once inside they may take up residence if the conditions are right – if they have access to food, water, and shelter.
A one cockroach problem can quickly go from bad to worse if their numbers drastically increase. According to the University of Kentucky, once cockroaches become established they are prolific breeders capable of producing several thousand offspring in a year. Time to act.
Before deciding what to do about a cockroach problem, let's start first with identifying what type of cockroach was found. The large ones, one to two inches long, are usually either the American or smoky-brown cockroaches. These are outdoor cockroaches and can become an indoor problem when they accidentally come in through an open door or are carried in. The German and brownbanded cockroaches are smaller, usually less than ¾ inch and are "indoor" or domestic species. The German cockroach is bad news - the most common indoor cockroach and hardest to control and eliminate.
As stated in publication ANR-1016, successful cockroach control begins with prevention and sanitation. Your house does not have to be dirty or unkempt for a cockroach problem to develop. Here are few tactics mentioned in ANR-1016:
Baits containing an insecticide are highly recommended for cockroach control and can be done by homeowners. They usually come in granular formulations, plastic stations, or large syringes for gel applications. Bait stations are most effective when placed in corners where you suspect cockroaches are hiding or traveling. Place the gel in syringes in cracks and crevices around windows, doors, and any other suspected cockroach harborage, except in food handling areas. Cockroaches will die from feeding on the baits directly or from being exposed to it when brought back to the nest.
Dusts are slow-acting but can give long lasting control. Boric acid is probably the most commonly used dust labeled for cockroach control. It is most effective indoors in clean, dry areas. Apply in hidden areas such as under refrigerators, stoves, sinks, wall voids, and other cracks and crevices.
The least effective control method is the use of chemicals alone. Using chemicals alone results in insecticide resistance and, ultimately, very poor control. Many contact spray programs just push the cockroaches back into their hiding areas or cause them to scatter. You've got to hit them to kill them. Rarely is a cockroach problem resolved through this manner. A symptom of this method not working is still seeing live cockroaches after multiple scheduled sprays.
Homeowners may wish to tackle the problem themselves with good success, or they may elect to contract the services of a professional pest control operator. In most cases, professionals have the equipment and training to do a thorough job and have access to products not available to homeowners. Regardless of your situation, the use of multiple tactics will be necessary to provide positive results and pest free environment. Bye bye cockroaches.
Contact your local county Extension office for more assistance.
Shane Harris is the County Extension Coordinator for Tallapoosa County.
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