What are they?
Cockroaches have been an insect pest for about four million years. There are more than 3,500 species around the world.
The German cockroach is one of the most common household cockroaches in the world. They are particularly fond of living in restaurants, food processing facilities, hotel rooms, and nursing homes. Although not very tolerant of the cold, this cockroach has been found in buildings as far north as Nunavut. Measuring about 1.3 cm to 1.6 cm (.51 to .63 inches) long, it is tan to light brown, with two dark parallel streaks running from the head to the base of the wings. Roaches have wings, but are unable to fly.
Should I be concerned?
Cockroaches rarely cause structural damage. They can, however, contaminate food and spread disease by walking over, and excreting on, food or food preparation areas after having travelled through garbage and/or sewers. People with asthma may have a negative reaction to their droppings (feces) and body parts.
Cockroaches will live in any area where food, water, and shelter are available. They are attracted to buildings because of the warm, damp conditions offered by kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and plumbing areas. Their presence does not necessarily mean unclean conditions exist.
Roaches and their egg cases can hitch a ride into your home on various objects (including used furniture, food items, empty beer and soft drink bottles, and shipping cartons). Once inside a building, they travel quite easily. Because cockroaches are most active at night, they may go unnoticed for some time. Cockroaches are attracted to food sources that contain starches, sugars, and protein, but will eat almost anything when hungry.
How can I get rid of cockroaches?
Intensive cleaning measures and pesticides should be used jointly to control cockroaches. Pesticides alone will not be successful, since the living environment must be physically changed first.
Preventing access to food, water, and shelter, and keeping a clean home are important steps in preventing any pest infestation.
- Clean up spills immediately. Do not leave pet water and food out 24 hours a day.
- Keep food in tightly sealed plastic or glass containers, rather than in paper or cardboard that roaches can chew through and lay eggs in.
- Regularly clean dark and/or damp areas close to a food source (for example beneath and behind appliances).
- Store garbage in sealed plastic containers and dispose of it daily.
- Do not allow dirty dishes to pile up, especially overnight. If you cannot wash them immediately, leave them to soak in detergent and water.
- Vacuum often to help remove food particles and insect egg masses.
- Wrap or insulate pipes that have excess condensation. Repair leaky faucets and pipes. Ventilate bathrooms and dehumidify moist areas to reduce sources of water.
Steam cleaning, vacuuming, and freezing
If you think furniture, toys, or crafts have roaches, steam clean them if the material will not be damaged by moisture or heat. Regular vacuuming will remove food sources, cockroaches, and egg cases. Make sure they are all destroyed by placing the vacuum bag in soapy water. You can also freeze the infested items for at least 24 hours (but preferably up to a week) at -8°C (17.6°F).
Traps, including sticky traps, let you monitor the population and location of roaches so that you know where to concentrate your efforts. Cockroach traps can be bought or easily built.
- Build a trap by spreading petroleum jelly on the inside of a small darkened jar.
- Stick masking tape on the outside for grip purposes.
- Place a small piece of food (like bread) inside the jar.
- Once a cockroach crawls in, it will not be able to crawl out.
- Cockroaches that have been caught can be killed in a bucket of soapy water, or by placing a lid on the jar and putting it in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
Sealing hiding spots and entry points
Seal and caulk all cracks, crevices, and pipe openings to reduce cockroach hiding places. Put a fine mesh screen over cracks and crevices, vents, open pipes, and drains to reduce access to your home.
If you use a pesticide to control your pest problem, read the label to make sure you are choosing the right product for the right pest. Follow all label directions and warnings carefully. Always look for a Pest Control Products (PCP) number on the label so you know the product has been approved by Health Canada. See Use pesticides safely for more information on using pesticides safely
A number of products are available to consumers to control cockroaches:
- Residual crack and crevice products are the most commonly used products registered for the control of cockroaches.
- If insect populations are high, aerosols or space sprays can increase the effectiveness of the treatment by knocking the insects down and flushing them onto treated surfaces.
- Bait stations (available in tamper-proof containers) trap the insects and kill them about 48 to 96 hours after the active ingredient is ingested.
- Diatomaceous earth, a fine powder also known as silicon dioxide, is made up of crushed microscopic marine fossils. As insects crawl over the powder, their outer "skin" is scratched, causing them to dehydrate and die. Diatomaceous earth will remain active as long as it is kept dry. It is non-toxic to humans and pets, but be careful not to breathe the dust when applying this product.
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