Homeowner's Guide to Cockroaches

Friday, November 7th, 2014 by Bill Cowley


 american cockroach

Cockroaches are carriers of filth and disease, and recent research has shown that they may be even more detrimental to a person’s health than we ever knew. Cockroaches can spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, 6 kinds of parasitic worms, and 7 other kinds of human pathogens. The germs are carried on the spines of their legs and on their bodies. They can then deposit these maladies on places like your kitchen counter or on the plates in your cabinet. Studies have also shown that cockroach allergens exacerbate asthma attacks, especially in children. This makes the elimination of cockroaches a necessity for the health and wellbeing of anyone inside of the structure. What are the Four Cockroach Varieties found in New Jersey?

There are four major varieties of cockroaches that may be found in a New Jersey home or business with the German cockroach being the most common species. 

German cockroach: Measuring approximately a 1/2 inch long, this cockroach is light brown to tan in color. The German cockroach has two dark parallel stripes on its back that start just behind the head. They are most often found in kitchens and bathrooms since they prefer a warm, humid environment near their food source.

Brown-banded cockroach: Brown in color, this cockroach gets its name from the pronounced banding across its wings. It measures approximately 1/2 inch long. The brown-banded cockroach prefers drier environments and will often be found infesting upper cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms.

American cockroach: The largest of the cockroaches commonly found in New Jersey, measuring approximately two inches long, the American cockroach is reddish-brown, with a light yellow figure-eight pattern on the back of the head. More active in the summer months, this cockroach is most commonly found in commercial buildings.  If found in homes, they are most typically found in basements and backyards. 

We recently serviced a commercial account in Saddlebrook, NJ. that had a sewage tank in the basement boiler room with an infestation of American roaches inside the tank.

Oriental Cockroach: Also known as “waterbugs” since they are known to crawl out of drains and plumbing, the Oriental cockroach is about an inch long. It is all one color and darker than other cockroaches. These roaches are known for their unpleasant stench. Oriental cockroaches can survive for long periods of time outdoors, even in freezing temperatures. When inside of a home, they are commonly found in basements or crawlspaces.

What Are the Signs of a Cockroach Infestation?

Seeing a cockroach is the most common way to know they have invaded a home. Sightings often occur in kitchens, bathrooms, or other rooms that have plumbing. These insects are attracted to moisture and food sources in the home. Cockroaches are nocturnal insects, therefore seeing one during the day could indicate a serious infestation. Cockroach feces will also be visible during an infestation. Depending on the variety of cockroaches, the feces will either look like ground pepper or if there are larger cockroaches in the structure, the feces will be larger and cylindrical. The number of visible feces can be a good indicator of the level of an infestation.

How Do Cockroaches Enter a Home or Building?

Cockroaches are excellent hitchhikers: easily transported into structures through boxes, book bags, grocery bags, purses, and second-hand appliances. Some varieties can enter into a structure from the outdoors coming in under door thresholds or other cracks and crevices.

Why Do Cockroaches Enter Structures?

Cockroaches enter homes and buildings to find food, water, and shelter. They prefer starchy foods and meats, but they are truly scavenging omnivores, devouring any scraps of food or crumbs that are left out. German cockroaches, in particular, will feed on almost anything including soap, glue, and toothpaste. 

How to Prevent a Cockroach Infestation

Since some female cockroaches and her offspring can produce over 30,000 offspring in a year, the best thing to do is prevent an infestation before it happens. Cockroaches can find shelter in many areas of a structure but prefer dark, moist places to hide and breed. Cockroaches can flatten their bodies so they are able to fit into narrow areas, like wall cracks.

Clean regularly: The most important action to stop an invasion of cockroaches is to keep surfaces clean. Vacuum frequently to remove any successful “hitchhikers” who were able to enter the structure in a book bag, purse, etc. Sweeping or vacuuming floors, especially in areas where people eat, is extremely important because it helps to remove a large portion of the cockroach’s food source. Daily cleaning of countertops and food preparation areas is necessary to control cockroach infestations. When they cross a kitchen counter or food prep area cockroaches have the opportunity to distribute some of the more than 33 diseases associated with them. Cockroaches can easily get into garbage bags therefore garbage should be disposed of outdoors frequently. Lastly, make sure that any food, including pet food, is covered and in an airtight container.

Make plumbing repairs: It is important to make any necessary plumbing repairs or modifications needed to eliminate leaks and standing water from the home or structure because cockroaches gravitate toward these water sources. If cockroaches are coming into the structure either from outside or from an adjoining home, install weather stripping and caulking where plumbing passes from that area into the building.

Eliminate Hiding Spaces: Cockroaches are often found behind refrigerators and stoves, as well as under sinks, and inside of major appliances. Cleaning out behind and under appliances and cabinets is critical to controlling cockroaches. Any dark, moist hiding area should be cleaned and cracks and crevices should be caulked.

How to Control a Cockroach Infestation

Act quickly. Cockroaches can multiply fast which means the longer it takes to control the infestation the more time the cockroaches will have to spread disease in the environment. Once a cockroach infestation is uncovered, steps should be taken to address sanitation in the area and remove their harborage sites.

Cockroaches can be a difficult pest to control with do-it-yourself measures. Working along with a pest professional is highly recommended. 

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