How to get rid of cockroaches

Special to the Sun Herald

Cockroaches are pests all around the world.

As a rule, they’re just annoying. But, in large enough numbers, they can be destructive. Cockroaches, also called palmetto bugs on the Coast, can damage natural fibers, destroy or contaminate food, eat book bindings and other organic material.

When a roach walks over food, it can leave filth or spread disease. Some roaches secrete oily liquids that have an offensive odor that can ruin food. The smell of this oil can even be transferred to dishes and flatware. The excrement of roaches also smell. Then there are allergic reactions to roaches. There have been instances where people become so allergic that they died of anaphylactic shock.

There are around two dozen species of cockroaches in Mississippi. But, only four can be considered serious household pests.

▪ 1. German cockroach. This species will invade your house like the Vermacht over ran Sudetenland looking for Liebensraum. The nymphs and adults have two dark stripes behind the head. Full grown, they measure about 12 to 15 millimeters long and are tan. They are only found inside your house and will congregate in bathrooms and kitchens.

▪ 2. Asian cockroach. It can be confused with the German cockroach and looks very similar, but only lives outdoors. Their behavior is markedly different. The German is photophobic and will run from light. The Asian is attracted to lights. The German seldom flies,while the Asian is most often observed in flight when moving.

Here are a number of steps you can use to reduce the German roach population.

▪ 1. Don’t leave dirty dishes out.

▪ 2. Keep food in tight-fitting containers or in the fridge or freezer.

▪ 3. Keep your pet’s food bowl clean and don’t leave their food out overnight.

▪ 4. Take out the garbage as often as practicable.

▪ 5. Keep your stove, cabinets and counter tops clean.

Baiting is probably one of the most effective ways to keep cockroaches under control. A number of very good baits are on the market . Among the best are those that use either Fipronil or Imidacloprid as the active ingredients. I suggest using both alternately to reduce the possibility of resistance developing among the roach population. Place the bait stations where the roach numbers are highest and change out periodically.

Insecticide applications can be made inside your house. Make the application along your baseboards, under your sinks and behind the oven and refrigerator.

Once you’ve gotten the roaches under control, you have to think about exclusion. Check your house for cracks, holes or other spots where they can get in. Seal around doors, window frames and where pipes and wires enter the house.

After you’ve done all the above and your roach problem remains, you may want to contact a professional. They have access to equipment and chemicals an amateur can’t get. Combined with their expertise, that should get the job done.

Tim Lockley, a specialist in entomology, is retired from a 30-year career as a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For answers to individual questions, please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Tim Lockley, c/o Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535.