7 Things Your Cockroach Exterminator Wants You To Know

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What you need to know about cockroaches so you can get them out of your house for good.

Intrepid, prolific and seemingly indestructible, cockroaches are tough to control. “Their hardiness is legendary,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a truly grotesque image, roaches can even survive without a head for a week. That means your resolve has to be legendary, too. Here’s what the pros want you to know about preventing and getting rid of cockroaches.

Cockroaches Spread a LOT of Disease

“Cockroaches are definitely one of the most common and dangerous pests on our list,” said Scot Hodges, a certified entomologist and vice president of professional development and technical services at Arrow Exterminators. “They have the potential to spread 33 different kinds of bacteria, six parasitic worms and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens.”

Those pathogens include e. coli, salmonella and more. And their saliva, droppings and decomposing bodies contain allergen proteins known to trigger allergies and increase the severity of asthma symptoms, especially in children.

Cockroaches Multiply Quickly and Are Active Year-Round

Nancy DeWitt, owner of Patriot Pest & Termite Control, says the most common types of cockroaches in the U.S. — American and German cockroaches — are nocturnal pests active all year long. “A female American cockroach can lay up to 150 offspring in a year, so imagine how fast they can multiply if you have many roaches in your home,” she says.

Roaches Can Live in Clean Spaces, Too

It’s common to assume roaches thrive in dirty environments. But even if you keep a clean house, roaches can find a way inside. “The German cockroach is a notorious hitchhiker and can be introduced into a structure in many ways,” Hodges says.

Kids can bring them home from school, daycare and dorms. They can be brought in from work, or in food (specifically produce) from the grocery store. Some can enter a structure from outdoors, or through cracks, wall spaces and plumbing openings.

Still, DeWitt says, the best defense is a super-clean house, denying them a place to eat or drink. Clean your home. Dispose of waste properly. Make sure the lids of your trash cans fit tightly. Avoid leaving out dirty dishes. And always keep kitchen counters clean, removing all drippings and crumbs.

Roaches Love Moisture

Roaches love damp environments, so take all necessary steps to remove dampness or moisture from your home. DeWitt says to check plumbing to ensure nothing is leaking, including under sinks and around drains and toilets. Take extra care to keep bathrooms clean and dry.

Roaches Love Landscaping

Overgrown and unkempt yards and well-maintained plush landscaping are attractive environments for roaches, says Hodges. Ivy, juniper and other ground cover is a preferred habitat. Keeping vegetation away from the structure and avoiding excessive mulch can help.

And be careful around porches or front doors. “Keeping a lot of plants and flowers on the porch can create a sustainable ecosystem for insects and pests, especially if overwatering occurs,” Hodges says. “Pots and planters can become a harbor for roaches and other pests.”

Boric Acid Is a Home Remedy

Boric acid can be a first-stop home remedy for pest control, says DeWitt. “Mix equal parts of boric acid with flour and sugar, then add enough water to make a dough,” she says. “Place some of the dough near the favorite areas of your cockroaches. They will die once they feed on the dough.”

Aside from water, sugar and flour, you can also combine the boric acid powder with peanut butter, maple syrup or condensed milk to attract roaches. But don’t use this method if you have pets, DeWitt says — the acid is dangerous for them.

Extermination Processes May Vary

There are 55 species of roaches in the U.S., but five main types appear in homes. Hodges says extermination and treatment of roach infestations depend on the species, so get a thorough inspection and proper identification before moving forward. Pros may use trapping and chemicals to control or eliminate roach populations.

“Roaches are difficult to eliminate, since they love to stay in places where they are not seen,” DeWitt says. “It makes it difficult to cover all the areas they have infested or places they are hidden. There are chances of missing a spot or putting baits in the wrong location.

“To help completely get rid of roaches and other pests, a pest control specialist is a way to go. They can do a thorough inspection, provide a safe and effective plan and solution and teach you the right ways to keep them away.”

Katie Dohman
Katie Dohman is an award-winning freelance writer who has written about home, design, and lifestyle topics for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured in Artful Living, Midwest Home, Star Tribune, and Teen Vogue, among many others. She is currently living her own how-to story as she and her husband work through a complete gut remodel on their 1921 home—while parenting three tiny tots and dodging their dog and cat, who always seem to be underfoot.