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Everything You Need to Know About Cockroaches and How to Get Rid of Them

Unlike some of the country’s smaller pests such as ants, fleas, and bed bugs, it’s impossible to miss the rise of a cockroach infestation in your home. These nocturnal creatures are common in houses and apartments across the US, even if you keep your space immaculately clean throughout the year. Cockroaches, unfortunately, are incredibly resilient pests, surviving in spaces without food for up to a month.

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Whether you’ve spotted one cockroach running across the floor or you detect a full infestation, it’s important to tackle the problem from many directions to keep them from coming back. In this guide, we’ll explain how to prevent cockroach infestations, how to identify and understand cockroach behaviors, and when it’s time to call in a professional for immediate assistance.

What You Need to Know About Cockroaches

Cockroaches move quickly across the ground. While the most common species are not highly adept at flying, they can also typically use their small wings to take off and hide before you manage to catch them. 

Identifying if you have a cockroach issue is the first step to getting a potential issue under control. At quick glance, it can be difficult to tell if you saw a cockroach or a large beetle. Here are some quick ways to identify whether you have a cockroach in your home.

  • Cockroaches are nocturnal. If you do spot one during the day or in the light of your home, they are more likely to hide quickly from sight, typically in cracks, closets, or behind furniture.
  • Cockroaches vary in size and appearance. As we’ll outline more below, there are many different species of cockroaches in the US. The majority of species, however, are flat with long antennae and six spiny legs. They typically range from reddish-brown to black in color.
  • Many cockroaches are poor flyers. If the insect you spotted does take off to hide, they most likely won’t be able to fly very far. Many of the cockroach species in the US do have wings, but they can usually only fly for a few moments. There are exceptions to the rule, however, such as the Asian cockroach and Smoky Brown cockroach.
  • Cockroaches can spread disease. It’s important to handle a cockroach infestation for several reasons. First of all, they can reproduce quickly and without warning. Most importantly, cockroaches are known to spread disease-causing bacteria.
  • Cockroaches do not have picky diets. One of the reasons it is so difficult to ward off cockroaches is their wide variety of food sources. Depending on their species, cockroaches will eat everything from human food, to garbage, organic matter, and even glue and fibers in books and insulation.

The Most Common Species of Cockroaches in the US

Start your cockroach extermination process by identifying which type of cockroach you’re dealing with. Depending on where you live in the US and some easy identifiers, you can determine if they are likely to nest inside your home and what type of food may have attracted them indoors.

American Cockroach

Where they hide: When American cockroaches do come inside, you’re likely to find them in areas of great moistures and humidity such as your basement, bathroom, or even around kitchen plumbing. They also prefer warmer spaces of more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

What they look like: As one of the most common cockroaches in the country, this is typically what you think of when you picture the pest. American cockroaches range from red to brown, but nymphs—young cockroaches—can also appear gray at first. Males and females both have wings and they tend to have yellowish heads.

What they eat: This species will eat everything from the glue in wallpaper and book bindings to garbage and feces.

Brown-Banded Cockroach

Where they hide: These common cockroaches can be found throughout the majority of the country outside of the western states. They prefer dry, hot locations in particular. Since they are not social creatures, they will often hide indoors in furniture and storage.

What they look like: As their name suggests, Brown-Banded cockroaches run tan to brown with darker bands around their abdomens.

What they eat: Like other species, Brown-Banded cockroaches are not picky about their food, eating everything from starchy foods to decaying garbage.

German Cockroach

Where they hide: German cockroaches, much like American cockroaches, are common indoor pests that lead to infestations. Since they prefer warm, humid areas, they can be found both outside in warmer climates or indoors in kitchens and bathrooms.

What they look like: This species tends to have either dark brown or black bodies with wings. They are not, however, very good fliers and can only hover small distances.

What they eat: German cockroaches can live off of a wide variety and small amount of food. Even sticky surfaces like counters can attract them.

Oriental Cockroach

Where they hide: This predominantly outdoor species will gather in leaf piles, compost, and overgrown brush. They typically only come inside if they can find additional food sources and have an easy entryway.

What they look like: These cockroaches range from black to red depending on their gender. They can grow up to an inch long, though the females are typically larger than the males.

What they eat: Oriental cockroaches depend on moisture to survive, and only come inside if they can find additional decaying material to feast on. This may include compost, garbage, or decaying food.

Smoky Brown Cockroach

Where they hide: These humidity-loving cockroaches are mostly found in the Gulf states, throughout the Eastern seaboard, and in East Texas. They may come indoors if they are low on water and food when temperatures cool down.

What they look like: Smoky brown cockroaches are often mistaken for American cockroaches due to their similar coloring. They differ in the detail that their dark reddish-brown coloring is often consistent throughout their bodies. They are better at flying than the American and German varieties.

What they eat: Though they will go for nearly any type of decaying material, these cockroaches particularly enjoy decaying plants around the outside of your home. For this reason, they tend to congregate in greenhouses.

Threats of Cockroach Infestations

As we touched on earlier, cockroaches are far more than just a small nuisance. They are also known to carry a wide range of diseases and bacteria. Many of the diseases are now highly unlikely and treatable, but the threat still remains. Their droppings can also set off your allergies or lead to an asthma attack.

Diseases and bacteria carried by cockroaches include:

  • Salmonella
  • E. Coli
  • Listeria
  • Typhoid
  • Dysentery
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Cholera
  • Polio

Cockroaches, when left unchecked, can also transform into larger infestations quickly. Females can lay between 200 and 300 eggs in her lifetime. Young cockroaches take three to four months to fully grow into adults and typically live up to one year. It’s important to stop cockroaches in your home before they begin the breed.

Signs of a Cockroach Infestation

Cockroaches leave traces wherever they go if you know what to look for. As we mentioned above, females can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime, and often hide their egg sacks in the areas where they are likely to hide. When clearing your home and protecting against cockroaches, you are likely to find this collection of eggs if cockroaches have been indoors for some time.

Small piles of feces that look like pepper or coffee grounds are another unfortunate sign of cockroaches. They will often leave these droppings as they run, so this can be a sign of more than one cockroach if you are having trouble spotting them indoors.

How to Find Cockroaches Your Home

If you’re unsure if there are more cockroaches nesting in your space, seek out dark, warm areas where they typically hide. This may include:

  • Basements
  • Bathrooms
  • Under sinks and around plumbing
  • Closets
  • Inside or behind garbage areas
  • In the backs of cupboards
  • In cracks and crevices in your home’s architecture

You’re likely to find signs of a cockroach nest if you find egg sacks, leftover skins, or feces.

Best Ways to Prevent Cockroaches

Whether you’ve just made it through an infestation or you’re hoping to keep your space clear of the persistent pests, here are a few important things to keep in mind.

Environment is Key

You may be able to keep your own home clean, but it will make little difference if your neighbors are not doing the same, especially if you live in an apartment building. When cockroaches congregate in nearby spaces or just outside your home, they are more likely to try and enter your space for the same food or shelter.

Control Humidity

Many of the common US cockroaches listed above thrive in dark, warm, and humid areas. Though this is not always the case, the majority of cockroaches will thrive in these spaces, especially inside the home without predators.

Use a dehumidifier to keep moisture levels in your home to a minimum, especially if you live in a warm or tropical area of the country. Pay extra attention to your basement and attic, where cockroaches can nest and make their way into the rest of your home.

Clear Away Clutter

Cockroaches need places to hide during the day, and it’s easier for them to pull this off in areas not hidden away behind cabinets and closet doors. Piles of clutter out in the open in your home as well as overgrown plants and compost in your yard are prime places for cockroaches to take up residences.

Overclean and Sanitize

Even the cleanest and tidy homes can end up with a cockroach infestation if there is one nearby or one existed in the past. When you detect that your home is at risk of an infestation, take extra care to close up any containers that could attract pests. Wipe down counters after preparing food and be sure to clean in hard-to-reach spaces where food often can fall.

Additionally, be sure to put away your pet’s food after they’re done eating, as cockroaches will feast on this as well.

Seal Your Perimeter

Cockroaches are excellent at creeping through small spaces, including under doorways, through openings in your window screen, and in HVAC vents. They often make their way indoors through boxes and bags from the mail. Check all common entryways in your home for potential travelers.

DIY Cockroach Treatments

Like most home pests, there are three common types of store-bought or homemade cockroach treatments. These include:

  • Baits
  • Traps
  • Poisons
  • Repellents

Baits and Traps

Baits are the most common cockroach treatments available on the market, leading cockroaches to poisoned food that they will take back to their offspring and nest. Traps bait cockroaches in as well, but the design of the trap keeps them from exiting, leading them to congregate and die in one spot.

Natural homemade traps are also popular for homeowners, typically by either mixing sugar and baking soda or boric acid and flour. The bait will both attract and kill cockroaches while protecting pets from dangerous chemicals.

Poisons

Poisons and repellents often come in the form of sprays or dusts, allowing you to treat hard to reach places, such as cracks and crawl spaces. All store-bought cockroach poisons should be handled and distributed with care, especially around animals and small children.

Repellents

Many stores now offer high-frequency repellents that emit a sound to ward off certain insects, including cockroaches.

Cockroaches also dislike a wide variety of natural scents such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, and cypress oils. It is also important to handle these oils with care. Some are considered toxic to cats and dogs, and when applied to the skin, can cause irritation.

How Aptive Can Help You Handle Cockroaches

The highly trained and dedicated Aptive team believes that a home should be safe during and after our pest treatments. By using sustainable products to get rid of cockroaches, you can rest assured that your family and pests will remain safe and comfortable during the treatment process.

We begin by offering a thorough consultation and inspection to map out all the places where cockroaches hide and commonly nest for the long-term. With time-tested applications, we promise that you will be free of cockroaches both now and long into the future.

Cockroaches are famously resilient, but hiring a trusted local professional can keep you safe from a larger infestation that is far more costly and time-consuming to control.

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