As the weather cools down and the holidays approach, family members may not be the only guests that show up looking for a piece of pumpkin pie. Just like your aunt Marge, cockroaches will come inside looking for warmth and food. There are basically two types of cockroaches that commonly invade homes: little ones and big ones.
The most common little ones are German cockroaches. Some people will refer to them as “water bugs”, and these are usually brought into the home on packages and other items. They do not fly but they will hitch a ride on items transported from infested areas. They like to hang out near water sources so you will mostly see them in the kitchen and bathrooms.
The big ones are usually either smokybrown cockroaches or American cockroaches, and are commonly referred to as “Palmetto bugs”. These large, shriek-inducing roaches live and breed outdoors but will occasionally wander inside and make their presence known during the most inopportune time. I remember one occasion when we all just sat down for dinner when a large smokybrown cockroach scurried onto the dinner table and ran amuck. My mother-in-law screamed, the kids scattered, and chaos ensued. My wife was embarrassed and shot me the I-can’t-believe-I’m-married-to-a-bugman-and-we-have-a-giant-cockroach-in-our-house look. On another occasion, a rouge cockroach decided to attack my wife’s sister in the shower and I was given the ultimatum: “Either you make sure no more roaches get in or I’m going to my mother’s!” Personally I could have used the quiet time to sit and let my dinner digest but, I knew this would lead to many sleepless nights on the couch if I didn’t fulfill my civic duties as a husband and an urban entomologist. So, I put my hat and coat on and started on the outside.
I cannot offer much help on getting rid of the family members that seem to stick around a little too long, but I can offer some tips on keeping out the big cockroaches.
- Trim tree limbs that are touching the house or hanging over the roof. The large cockroaches will fly for short distances and can access the house from nearby trees.
- Trim bushes back from touching the sides of the house.
- Rake leaves and do not use excessive amounts of pine straw or mulch around the house.
- Do not store wood piles next to the house.
- Correct all moisture problems. This includes standing water next to the foundation, poor drainage areas, wet crawlspaces, damp basements, leaky pipes, and especially clogged gutters.
- Fix or replace damaged or improperly fitted foundation vents, eave vents, and gable vents.
- Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition and fit properly.
- Caulk and seal all cracks, holes, gaps, and openings that can be used by cockroaches to gain entry.
- This may be more difficult at this time of year, but try not to leave food or drinks out. Clean up crumbs and other spilled foods sooner than later and keep cookies and cakes that are not stored in the fridge in air tight containers. Vacuum thoroughly and often, and be sure to get underneath the couch and under the cushions where crumbs may have fallen. Make sure the countertops, stove, microwave, and other appliances are wiped clean after use.
- Do not leave inside lights on at night if they are not necessary.
And finally, call your local friendly Terminix professional for a visit. A thorough treatment of the outside perimeter and potential entry points will help discourage cockroaches from coming inside, and targeted treatments with baits and insecticidal dusts in key areas on the inside will help eliminate the ones that do manage to get through.
Here’s to hoping you have a roach-free holiday season!