One insect that is universally loathed is the cockroach. I have learned to appreciate most insects, but cockroaches still give me the creeps. In nature, they are important decomposers. They are attracted to our homes in search of food, moisture and shelter.
Large populations of cockroaches can be dangerous to your health and should not be tolerated. They can spread bacteria over food-preparation and eating surfaces during their daily foraging.
Cockroaches may also cause allergic reactions, such as hay fever or skin rashes. Heavy infestations can also trigger severe asthma attacks in certain individuals.
Identification of the specific cockroach species can be important in determining the need for serious control. There are thousands of species of cockroaches, but only a handful are major pests in the United States. Many species, like the smoky-brown and American cockroach, prefer to live outdoors. Others, mainly the German cockroach, are known to form colonies inside the home.
The first step in treating for cockroaches is to establish where they live. This can be done by setting out several sticky traps in the rooms where you have observed roach activity. It is important to place the sticky traps in areas where cockroaches normally live, mainly along walls in dark spaces. Traps should be placed in the corners of kitchen and bathroom cabinets and along the walls behind appliances.
Leave the traps out for two to three days to see where the highest cockroach concentrations are. Roaches rarely leave areas where they have food and water. The traps will show where you should concentrate your control efforts.
Roaches can only survive when they have adequate food and water. Cleaning up these sources in your home can help control cockroaches. Make sure trash is kept in tight containers and is emptied frequently. Avoid leaving any open food or water out for long periods. Thoroughly clean all kitchen cabinets.
Once the area is clean, it is time to use chemical control methods. Luckily, modern cockroach control methods are safe for humans and pets. The most effective long-term roach control comes from using bait. These include gel and paste baits, as well as self-contained bait stations. The bait consists of a toxicant chemical mixed with a food source that roaches like.
Several bait stations, 12-15 per area in severe infestations, should be placed in infested rooms. Gel/paste baits are used by placing small dabs (the size of a pencil eraser) in cracks and corners where roaches live and move. Several dozen dabs of bait gel/paste should be placed in each treatment area.
Liquid sprays and fogger aerosols are also labeled for cockroach control. These can be effective on heavy infestations, as they offer quick knockdown of the roach population. There are also several brands of dust insecticides for roach control which can work when applied correctly. Always apply dusts in fine layers away from surfaces which humans regularly contact.
If several weeks of good sanitation and intense baiting and trapping are not successful, contact a professional pest control company.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.