On Gardening: Rid home of cockroaches, nuclear explosion not required
by Shane Harris
Special to The Star
Aug 18, 2013 | 6218 views |  0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most folks can handle the occasional bug in the house — a fly buzzing by, a scorpion scurrying across the floor, maybe a spider web stuck in the corner. All are common pests and relatively easy to handle. Just swat or kill them and the problem is solved.

But a cockroach racing across a floor or wall is quite different. It’s a disgusting cockroach and, yes, you need to kill it quickly. However, its presence should also get your attention — keep in mind, there usually isn’t just one.

Eliminating cockroaches requires a whole different type of strategy. For one thing, these nasty bugs are survivors. Despite mans’ attempt to get rid of them, they live on. Cockroaches seen indoors either came from outside or were brought in hiding in things such as trash bags or storage boxes. Once inside they may take up residence if the conditions are right — if they have access to food, water, and shelter.

A cockroach problem can quickly go from bad to worse if their numbers drastically increase. Once cockroaches become established they are prolific breeders capable of producing several thousand offspring in a year, so act fast.

Before deciding on a course of action, start by identifying what type of cockroach was seen. The large ones, 1 to 2 inches long, are usually either American or smoky-brown cockroaches. These are outdoor insects that have accidentally found their way indoors. The smaller German and brownbanded cockroaches, usually less than 3⁄4 inch, are indoor or domestic species. The most common indoor cockroach, the German cockroach, is bad news — it’s the hardest to control and eliminate.

Successful cockroach control begins with prevention and sanitation. Your house does not have to be dirty or unkempt for a cockroach problem to develop.

• Discard unnecessary boxes immediately. Cockroaches breed prolifically in corrugated cardboard boxes.

• Caulk cracks and gaps around doors and windows to help prevent cockroaches from entering your home.

• Eliminate all sources of water. Cockroaches cannot survive long without water. Make sure there are no leaking pipes or standing water in the kitchen and bathrooms, including in sinks and catch basins under refrigerators.

• Eliminate all food sources. Garbage cans, dirty dishes, sink strainers, crumbs on the floor and between appliances and cabinets, unsealed pet food and unwashed kitchen appliances and countertops are all cockroach feeding areas.

• Cockroaches live in dark places that are warm and moist. Places that provide tight spaces such as stacks of newspaper or cardboard, piles of clothing, or cracks and crevices in structures are ideal. Such harborages also provide “pesticide free” zones.

Baits containing an insecticide are highly recommended for cockroach control and can be administered 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 provide 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. If you’re still seeing live cockroaches after multiple sprays, you’ll know it’s not working.

If homeowners don’t wish to tackle the problem themselves, 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 for a pest-free environment and say bye, bye to cockroaches.

For help on other home and garden questions, contact your local county Extension office or visit us online at www.aces.edu.

Shane Harris is an Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
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