Cockroaches are more than just gross – they are also harmful to our health. These pests are capable of carrying 33 different kinds of bacteria from common dwellings like sewers to the inside of our homes. Moreover, they are one of the leading indoor triggers of asthma and allergies, especially in children. In fact, 63 percent of American homes contain allergens from cockroaches, which are most commonly introduced through cockroach saliva, droppings, and decomposing bodies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
- know your cockroach species
- keep a spotless kitchen
- clean floors regularly
- seal cracks and gaps
- leave the pet food out
- let water or moisture build up
- forget the nooks and crannies
- dismiss the sight of just one cockroach — one means more
People in the United States typically encounter four different types of cockroaches – American, Brownbanded, Oriental and German. It’s beneficial to know which species are most common in certain settings to help identify a possible infestation. The American cockroach prefers damp areas, such as the basement and bathroom, while Brownbanded cockroaches stick to dry areas like kitchen cupboards. Oriental cockroaches are known to come out of drains and tend to hide in crawlspaces and around utility pipes. The German cockroach is the most common species of cockroach found all over the world. This type of cockroach prefers to live near food sources, hence its affinity for residential and commercial kitchen environments. However, because food preferences and living habits vary greatly by species, it is best to call in a pest professional to help properly identify and resolve cockroach infestations in the home.
Maintaining a clean home is key to preventing cockroaches and most other pest infestations, with the exception of a few, such as bed bugs, termites, carpenter ants, stinging insects, etc. Homeowners should ensure the kitchen is free of crumbs and other clutter. Use disinfectant to wipe down all food surfaces and avoid letting dirty dishes pile up in the sink. In addition, store trash in a sealed receptacle and empty it frequently. It’s also beneficial to store food in airtight containers, as cockroaches and other common household pests are often attracted to food.
The German cockroach is also easily introduced into homes via paper products or packaging such as grocery bags, cardboard boxes and drink cartons, and via second hand appliances like refrigerators and microwaves. Carefully unloading groceries and transferring items from cardboard packaging into sealed containers and doing a deep clean on “new” appliances can help catch any infiltrators.
Vacuum carpets and mop floors regularly to remove any food particles that could attract cockroaches, as well as any allergens they have left behind. A vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter is preferable.
German cockroaches can fit through an opening as small as 3/16 of an inch in width and spend about 75 percent of their time in cracks and crevices near food and water sources, so it’s important to thoroughly check the interior and exterior of your home for any gaps through which cockroaches may enter or hang out. Seal all openings in walls and floors using a silicone-based caulk, paying special attention to where utility pipes enter.
Pet food is easy to overlook since we don’t think of it as typical “food,” but cockroaches don’t know the difference. Make sure extra pet food is stored in a plastic container with a tight sealing lid instead of keeping it in the bag it comes in. Also, don’t leave food in pet bowls on the floor for extended periods of time.
Cockroaches need water to survive, so reducing moisture in the home will deter them from entering. Maintain the humidity level in the house at about 50 percent by properly ventilating moisture-susceptible areas like basements and crawlspaces, and consider running a dehumidifier to prevent moisture build up. Homeowners should also make sure to fix any leaks and drips underneath the kitchen sink or other appliances.
When cleaning, don’t forget to get under appliances and into any small crevices that tend to go unnoticed but could be hiding crumbs (or cockroaches). Pay extra attention to ceilings, wall moldings and high-hanging picture frames, as these areas are particularly vulnerable to brownbanded cockroach infestations.
Unless you find a cockroach in an item just brought into the home, if you see one cockroach, it’s almost a sure thing there are more lurking about. In fact, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that when one cockroach is seen in the home, it is safe to assume at least 800 roaches are present. To safely and permanently rid the home of cockroaches, contact a licensed pest professional.
Follow these tips to prevent roaches from endangering your family’s health and home. Stay on the lookout for any signs of a cockroach infestation or any factors in your home that could draw them in. If prevention fails and you do find cockroaches in your home, be sure to call a pest professional before the problem gets out of hand.