Cockroaches are notoriously bad roommates. They leave behind an unsightly mess and can carry diseases and allergens into your home. These critters are happy in the outdoors, but they won't hesitate to come inside if given the opportunity. Once they get comfortable, it's tough to evict them for good. Make sure your home isn't a target for a cockroach infestation with some preventative measures. If you already have a roach problem, you may be able to purge the pests with a few tricks and plenty of determination.
How to spot an infestation
A telltale sign that roaches are haunting your kitchen at night is the presence of feces. These specks sometimes look like coffee grinds or black pepper in a corner or on a ledge. The waste of other species might resemble mice droppings, or show up as smears on the wall. Egg sacs are another clue that roaches are lurking nearby. About the size of a Tic-Tac, these brown casings can be found in dark spots near a food and water source.
Prevent a roach infestation by sealing off entryways
While most roaches enjoy the great outdoors, they will enter your house to escape the elements if they find an opening. Their durable bodies are flat and flexible, making it easy for them to squeeze into tight spaces and invade your home. Seal up any openings around pipes and vents, and caulk gaps around windows and doors. Roaches can travel through vents in multiunit buildings, so immediately report infestations to landlords or building owners. Don't forget to inspect firewood or packages left outside for stowaways.
Take away their food sources
The first action you should take to get rid of roaches is to stop feeding them. Cockroaches enjoy feasting on scraps in the sink and crumbs on the floor. Clean all food debris and wash dishes after each meal. Transfer open food packaging into airtight containers, and make sure your trash can has a secure lid on top. Roaches and their droppings can transmit serious diseases, as well as allergens that can trigger asthma attacks. Sanitize all surfaces that come into contact with food, and don't neglect to organize your pantry and cabinets. The fewer spaces roaches can find to hide, the better.
Don't forget about the plumbing
While you're in the process of sealing up cracks and crevices, be sure to check on your plumbing. A leaky faucet or pipe is practically a signal welcoming these pests into your cabinets and darkened corners. Check the traps in sink drains to make sure water isn't collecting in the tubes, and seal any cracks in the pipes that roaches may use as an entry point. Periodically check on repaired leaks to make sure they haven't reopened.
Safe solutions for your space
Boric acid is a very effective insecticide against cockroaches. Available online, and at home improvement and grocery stores, sprinkle a fine layer of the powder into corners or where roaches congregate. You can also mix boric acid with equal parts of sugar and water, leaving the mixture in an open container. Sticky traps stop roaches in their tracks with very tacky glue. While they aren't effective in controlling the roach population, they are a foolproof way to find out if you have roaches in your home. Simply hide one of these traps in a dark place near a food and water source. Make sure traps and insecticides are inaccessible to pets and children.
Store-bought baits are effective
Baiting is the safest and most effective method of roach control if done properly. Place several baits near points of entry, and in areas where cockroaches forage. The pests will consume the poison, then return to the nest and die. Since they are carnivorous creatures, the other roaches will eat its body and also consume the pesticide. Some species, like the Oriental cockroach, are omnivorous and may not take the bait as easily. Replace baits constantly, keeping them out of hot or moist areas.
When and how to use liquid concentrates
Insecticide spray comes in handy when cockroaches surprise you — or when you don't want to get too close. Sprays like Raid kill roaches and other pests on contact, but they can leave a poisonous residue behind. Try spraying outdoor concentrates around your home's exterior to control current infestations, and to repel newcomers. Be careful with fogs or pesticide bombs. They aren't as effective, and roaches can develop immunities to poisons or behave unpredictably as a side effect.
When to call the professionals
Sprays, traps, and baits work well as temporary fixes, but severe cockroach infestations may require an exterminator. This is especially true for species like the German cockroach, which reproduces more quickly than any other kind. With one egg sac producing up to 40 nymphs, finding one means there could be hundreds or even thousands more within your walls. Surprisingly, cockroach eggs are protected from pesticides by their egg casings. Hiring a professional service with recurring treatments helps prevent reinfestation, protecting your home and family from allergens and disease.
What roaches are looking for
Like all forms of life, cockroaches need food and water to survive. Don't be surprised if you notice a wave of roaches during extreme temperatures. You'll find them congregating in dark spots with easy access to food and water, such as kitchen cabinets and pantries. Warmth and humidity are other big draws, so keep an eye out for these crawlers in the bathroom, laundry room, and basement. Some species, like wood cockroaches, prefer woodpiles, garages, and trash cans. Inspect packages and large items before moving them inside.
Get to know your cockroaches
There are thousands of species of cockroaches in the world, but you will most likely deal with only a handful of them. The German cockroach is the most prevalent species in North America. Dark brown with thin antennae, adults measure about 5/8" long. American cockroaches are reddish-brown and can grow up to 1 1/2" long. Your home could also play host to the Oriental cockroach, a dark brown or black species that prefers a wet habitat. The brown-banded roach prefers drier conditions and will feast on bookbinding glues, soaps, or wallpaper paste.