How to Bug Proof Your Home: Cockroaches

Pest Management In and Around Structures May 20, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Introduction

American Cockroach
American Cockroach

Roaches are capable of transmitting a variety of diseases, but are most often implicated in the transmission of Salmonella, the causal agent of some food poisoning. Cockroaches also cause respiratory problems to individuals sensitive to the allergens they produce.

There are many different species of cockroaches in America, probably about half are native and rarely encountered in the urban environment. Those established in urban areas include: American, Brownbanded, Field, German, Oriental, Surinam and Turkestan. Most cockroaches are tropical or sub-tropical in origin and generally live outdoors. However, some species have adapted well to living
indoors with humans.

Turkestan Cockroach
Turkestan Cockroach

Though it is true that they prosper in clutter, filth and grime, cockroaches at times infest even the most sanitary and well-organized homes and buildings. Cockroaches are often carried into homes in infested foodstuff, particularly dried pet foods, cardboard boxes and in seasoned firewood. They also enter around loose-fitting doors and windows, where electrical lines or water and steam pipes pass through walls, and through sewer lines. Cockroaches will feed on any unprotected kitchen goods contaminating food with excrement and salivary secretions.
They also eat materials such as leather, wallpaper
paste and bookbinding.

German Cockroach
German Cockroach

Most cockroaches are nocturnal and appear during daylight only when disturbed or where there is a heavy infestation. They prefer warm, dark, humid shelters, and often move around the kitchen sink or drain board. They prefer to rest in cracks around, under or inside cupboards and cabinets; where pipes or electrical wiring pass along or through a wall; behind window or door frames, loose baseboards or molding strips; under tables and chairs; in upholstered furniture; in bathrooms; in radio and TV cabinets; and in motor compartments of refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances. It is important to know where cockroaches are hiding in your home because these are the locations that must be cleaned.

Prevention

  1. Proper sanitation, both indoors and outdoors, effectively limits cockroach food sources. Do not leave unwashed dishes, kitchen utensils and uncovered food out overnight. Clean up all spilled liquids. Areas beneath and behind cabinets, furniture, sinks, stoves and refrigerators should be cleaned often, as should cupboards, pantry shelves and storage bins where particles of food frequently accumulate. Kitchen waste and excess refuse should be kept in cockroach proof containers and disposed of as frequently as possible. Dry pet food should be stored in tight containers away from the kitchen and other foods. If pets are fed indoors, leftover foods should not be allowed to remain in the feeding dish overnight. Garbage cans should be cleaned regularly.
  2. Eliminate all possible hiding areas such as paper, lumber, firewood and yard trash.
  3. Seal any cracks of 1/8 inch or larger in the foundation and exterior walls. Check the seal or caulking around air conditioning units, windows, doors, pipes or other openings into the home. Repair cracks and holes in floors, walls and ceilings. Seal openings around plumbing fixtures, furnace flues, electrical outlets, windowsills and walls, and along baseboards and ceiling moldings. Thresholds on doors should be as tight as possible and cracks in porches and stoops should be sealed.
  4. Leaky water faucets and pipes should be repaired since most species are attracted to water sources.
  5. Avoid installing lights directly above doorways, or replace light bulbs with yellow colored bulbs that are less attractive to bugs.
  6. Roaches can live in and on cardboard boxes so remove whenever possible.

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.