You flip on the kitchen light for a late-night snack, and the flood of light reveals large insects scurrying for cover. Cockroaches! Let's explore some cockroach facts and learn how to get rid of these unwanted roommates.
Meet the Cockroach
Cockroaches are fairly large but simple insects with long antennae. You'll find a few common varieties in North America, including:
- The German cockroach, about a half-inch long
- The American cockroach, quite a bit larger at one-and-a-half inches long
- The Brown-banded cockroach, about five-eighths of an inch long
While the three types enjoy different environments—the German and American cockroaches prefer damp locations while the brown-banded cockroach likes things a little drier—all three are adept at co-existing with humans.
Why Cockroaches Are a Problem
Where do cockroaches live? Unfortunately, with you! While some species, like the Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach,1 prefer life out in nature, most common cockroaches in the U.S. prefer accommodations that are a little less rustic—like your home! This can lead to a few issues.
How Cockroaches Affect Your Pet
Cockroaches aren't parasites. Thankfully, they don't live on your pet the way fleas or ticks do. Still, some dogs or cats may try to eat cockroaches, leading to undesirable health issues. On the other hand, some reptile pet lizards like to munch on certain insect snacks, including cockroaches.2 Dog and cat food appeal to cockroaches, and they just might snag a sample when your pet is absent.
How Cockroaches Affect Your Home
- Cockroaches spread bacteria. They crawl into unsanitary locations, then travel throughout the house, moving bacteria around as they go.
- Cockroaches are small. They are tiny enough to get into all kinds of annoying places: in kitchen and bathroom cabinets, behind furniture, and inside small appliances. Plus, they leave unsightly and unsanitary fecal stains wherever they travel.
- Cockroaches aren't dangerous. Cockroaches aren't really dangerous. While they are a nuisance and may present hygienic concerns, they aren't poisonous and don't sting.
- Cockroaches may bite. It's not common, but cockroaches have been known to bite people on occasion.
How Cockroaches Affect Your Yard
- It's an entry way to your home. Cockroaches may live outdoors too, so you want to keep them away from your home's exterior to prevent easy entry.
- It provides places to live. Rake fallen leaves and other debris away from the house, so the foundation is clean and empty of living areas for cockroaches.
How to Get Rid of Cockroaches
Putting a stop to the cockroach "party" isn't complicated, but it does involve careful work and attention to detail.
- Cleanliness is key! The most important step to solving your cockroach problem is a clean house.3
- Sweep the crumbs. Avoid loose bits of food on the kitchen or dining room floors—this is an open invitation for roaches.
- Keep counters wiped. Keep the kitchen countertops free of food crumbs and spills. In particular, cockroaches seem to enjoy munching on dried grease (nobody said they had high culinary standards).
- Put away the dishes. Otherwise, the cockroaches might eat up the leftovers for you.
- Stop leaks. As noted, some cockroaches love moisture and are attracted to water in, under, or around your house.
- Block entry. Keep physical openings to a minimum to help prevent cockroaches from getting inside your house. Caulk and seal crevices to help keep roaches out.4
- Hide pet food. Avoid free-feeding your pet if possible, as the uneaten food will attract cockroaches. Keep pet food sealed and out of reach.
- Use traps. Easy-to-use roach traps can be effective in capturing at least some of your home's pest population. Some non-toxic traps work by simply catching cockroaches in glue.
- Try a fogger. Use an indoor fogger like Adams Flea & Tick Indoor Fogger or Adams Plus Flea & Tick Indoor Fogger. Both kill cockroaches in an area up to 375 square feet, although foggers may have difficulty reaching some cockroaches that are hiding in cracks.
- Use a cockroach spray. You can target specific areas of your home with a quick-drying home spray like Adams Flea & Tick Home Spray, which kills cockroaches.
- Use a carpet spray. If you have carpeting in your home, you can use a product like Adams Plus Flea & Tick Carpet Spray or Adams Flea and Tick Carpet & Home Spray; both products are designed to kill cockroaches.
The cockroaches might have invited themselves for a visit, but with a little effort, you can encourage them to say goodbye.
1. Malinoski, Mary Kay. University of Maryland Extension. "Cockroaches," 2020. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/cockroaches
2. Mills, Edmund. Sciencing. "What Eats Cockroaches?" 21 July 2017. https://sciencing.com/what-eats-cockroaches-12542563.html
3. Hahn, Jeffery, and Ascerno, Mark. University of Minnesota Extension. "Cockroaches," 2018. https://extension.umn.edu/insects-infest-homes/cockroaches
4. Peairs, F.B. Colorado State University Extension. "Cockroaches," June 2012. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/cockroaches-5-553/