Out of all the critters that can invade your home, perhaps the most dreaded is the cockroach. These beetles are fast, hard to kill, and get into everything. So what can you do to get rid of them?
Identifying a Roach Infestation
While most people first become aware of a cockroach problem when one runs in front of them or they find a carcass in the cupboard, there are other ways to keep an eye out for these pests. Some of the signs of an infestation are:
- feces resembling coffee grounds, black pepper, or (for larger species) tiny cylinders
- an oily or musty odor
- oval-shaped egg cases behind books, furniture, or other barriers
Getting Rid of Roaches
Cockroaches are highly adaptable and have developed a resistance to many pesticides. This makes them increasingly difficult to exterminate. Even worse, it may take several weeks to eliminate an infestation, if eggs are present. Thankfully, there are many ways to get rid of roaches.
Roaches in the Walls
One of the most common places for a roach infestation is in the walls of your home or apartment. In a case like this, the easiest method is to check for any water sources, such as leaky pipes, and seal them. Next, use a child-proof bait trap such as Raid or spread a gel poison in the corners of infested rooms.
Another method is the use of roach bombs. Open all windows and make sure there is no food exposed to the poisonous vapors. Take all pets and children from the home before setting off the bombs. Allow a few hours for the building to air out before returning. Repeat this process one to two weeks later, according to the instructions on the bombs.
Always be careful when using poisons around pets or children, and place the traps behind appliances or in other dark, warm, and damp areas. Bait poisons are typically slow acting, and it may be several weeks before the infestation is completely eliminated.
Roaches in the Car
It is uncommon to find roaches in your car, but when it happens, the result is a far more persistent infestation. This is partly because the car is often a place to eat on the go. As the roach nest could be hidden anywhere, it can be very difficult to eliminate them.
The simplest solution is to completely vacuum your car’s interior. Be sure to get between the cushions and underneath. Likewise, vacuum the trunk, glove compartment, and any other spot where food particles might accrue. Next, place some bait traps in strategic locations such as the trunk, glove box, and under the seats. The poison will take a few weeks to completely eradicate the pests, so be sure to avoid eating or drinking while in the car.
Getting Rid of Cockroaches Naturally
Over the past few decades, extermination services have discovered that pesticides and poisons have become increasingly ineffective against the cockroach. Their highly adaptable nature and ability to develop resistance or immunity over several generations has become a major issue. Thankfully, there are a multitude of organic-based methods out there which still have some effect.
Does Boric Acid Work?
One of the most popular weapons against cockroaches and other insect infestations is boric acid. Highly effective when used right, this chemical is relatively safe but should still be kept away from children and pets. There has been no evidence of resistance to this substance in any roach species.
To use, mix some boric acid with flour and something sweet, such as cocoa powder or sugar. Be sure to place some where there is water, such as the kitchen and bathroom. The more spots you place it, the better.
When the roach comes into contact with the mixture, it absorbs into the legs or is ingested and will even be spread to others by the infected roach. The acid then works its way into the nervous system where it eats away at the nerves. Paralyzed, the roach starves to death.
A much less refined relative to boric acid, borax is commonly used in green households for laundry and hand soaps. The powder may be used in the same manner as boric acid or simply dusted along places a roach is likely to tread. The roach will ingest the borax while grooming.
This method takes some time, but it is perhaps the most cost-effective method of eliminating roach infestations. Because of the risk of eggs, it is best to leave the borax for at least one month. Also, while technically safe, it is best to keep borax out of the reach of children and pets.
Many companies sell borax as a pesticide. However, 20 Mule Team Borax is cheap and easy to find. It is also stronger than other brands and any left over from the dusting process may be mixed into homemade laundry detergent, thus saving even more money.
Catnip and Bay Leaves
Catnip may be used as a repellent in homes that do not have cats. The nepetalactone found in catnip is a natural repellent. Make some tea and spray it in areas you can’t easily see, such as behind appliances.
Bay leaves may be used in the same manner as catnip, and chances are, you already have some in your spice rack. The downside to these two herbal solutions is that they repel, but do not kill. Thus it is best to use them to help protect counter tops and other areas where food is prepared.
This non-toxic substance is comprised of the finely milled fossilized shells of diatoms. It has two effects on cockroaches. First, it absorbs the waxy outer layer of a roach’s exoskeleton. Second, the sharp debris lacerates the roach, causing it to dehydrate and die. One peculiar advantage is that the other roaches will devour the dead roach, causing them to ingest any particles of diatomaceous soil sticking to the corpse and lacerating them from the inside.
Another kitchen remedy is equal parts of sugar and baking soda. Roaches find the sugar to be irresistible, and they will readily consume any dustings of the mixture. The baking soda will ruin their digestive systems, causing them to eventually die.
Hiring an Exterminator
While home remedies are useful, they’re not very quick. Most home remedies will take a month or more due to the presence of eggs. For this reason, professional extermination remains an important option.
What Should I Expect?
A professional exterminator is trained to seek out nests and use a variety of extermination methods. These may include growth regulators, insecticidal sprays, or bait.
In addition, a professional exterminator will provide you with tips for preventing future infestations and often leave monitor cards to help them determine how successful the chemical sweep was.
How Much Does it Cost?
According to How Much is It, cockroach extermination fees can vary depending upon the size of the infestation, your home, and whether or not you have a basement. The average cost ranges between $75 and $450 per visit, with additional visits ranging from $45 to $100 each.
Perhaps the cheapest means to deal with cockroaches is to avoid attracting them in the first place. There are key things which cockroaches are attracted to, and removing them greatly reduces the risk of an infestation. Even if you are currently suffering a roach problem, these methods may help with home remedy and poison effectiveness.
Tiny crumbs on the floor, in furniture, or scattered throughout your car are all attractive food sources. To avoid roaches treating your home like an all-you-can-eat restaurant, be sure to vacuum regularly and clean up all food spills. This includes regularly cleaning behind appliances such as stoves where food debris might fall or be kicked under.
Do not leave any food sitting out. What isn’t kept in the refrigerator should be kept in airtight plastic or metal containers. Baking ingredients such as flour or sugar can be kept in canisters to reduce the risk of attracting bugs. Finally, try to avoid eating in the car.
One of the things that attracts a roach most is a source of water. Check all of the pipes in your home to ensure they are not leaking and make sure not to leave any dirty dishes overnight, even if soaking. Also, examine the kitchen and bathroom for places where water might pool. By cutting off their water supply, roaches are more likely to feed on bait or migrate towards a new water source outside of the home. Cockroaches will die from dehydration after approximately one week without water.
Other Prevention Methods
Cockroaches can feed off of all sorts of waste found around the house, including hair. Be sure to vacuum regularly and clean out brushes and other sources of human or pet dander. Remove garbage from the house to avoid attracting roaches.
Using repellent herbs such as bay leaves in your cabinets may reduce the risk of cockroaches, although it will not cause them any harm once they are there.
Potential Health Risks
While cockroaches are feared mostly for their looks, the list of potential health risks they create is cause for alarm. They can carry 33 different kinds of bacteria, pose an allergy problem, are host to six different kinds of parasitic worm, and may also transmit seven other human pathogens. On top of that, their legs and bodies can pick up additional bacteria and spread it wherever they go. Here are just a few of the threats they pose:
Cockroaches can pose a serious problem for people with allergies. Their saliva, feces, and corpses all contain allergenic proteins. This means that they can trigger an allergic reaction whether or not you are allergic to cockroaches specifically. On top of that, they can make allergy symptoms worse, especially in children.
The number of bacterial issues transmitted by cockroaches is extensive. This is partly because they feed off of bacteria-infested waste, corpses, and other debris. When dealing with roaches, you may be infected with a number of problems, including:
- urinary tract infections
- food poisoning
- wound infections
- diarrhea or dysentery
- septic arthritis
In many cases, the roach may be host to more than one species of bacteria responsible for a particular illness. You do not have to come into direct contact with the roach in order to be at risk. In addition, if you have a cat in the house, roaches may become infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan responsible for toxoplasmosis, after eating infected cat feces.
Cockroaches not only carry bacteria, they are hosts for several parasites which can pose health risks in humans. Many of these parasites are transmitted through feces and can survive outside of a host. A few of the parasites your roaches might transmit include:
- Tapeworms: These parasitic worms can live in a host for up to 30 years. They latch onto the intestine, but certain types can migrate outside of the intestinal wall and form larval cysts which have often serious complications.
- Pinworm: Female pinworms lay their eggs in the folds of skin surrounding the anus while the host sleeps. This can lead to symptoms such as itching, loss of sleep, and irritability.
- Hookworm: Taking up residence in the small intestine, these parasites rarely cause symptoms, although in some cases they can cause blood loss, resulting in anemia.
- Whipworm: Another intestinal parasite, whipworm can cause growth retardation and even cognitive development issues in children.
- Cockroach mite: This parasite has been known to bite humans.
Common Household Cockroaches
While there are over 4,000 known species of cockroach only about 70 are common in the United States. Luckily, even fewer species are likely to invade your home. The following are the four most common home invaders.
This reddish brown species can be identified by a yellowish figure eight on its head. They are common in sewers and basements, preferring to congregate near pipes and drains. They are the largest household roach, and prefer temperatures above 70 degrees.
These oval-shaped roaches are found most often in kitchens and bathrooms. Identified by the two dark stripes on their back, the German roach is the most common invader. They are also notorious for spreading more illnesses and allergic reactions than their kin.
This distinctive species has a black, shiny shell and is often referred to as a water bug. They infest the northern part of the United States, preferring sewers, drains, basements, and wood piles. They are considered the dirtiest species and are larger than many other roaches.
Named for the two light bands on their wings, the brownbanded roach will invade most rooms. They prefer higher elevations, such as cabinets. Ironically, they lay their egg cases under furniture, so if you have them, be sure to clean floor to ceiling to get both eggs and adults.
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