Cockroach Control

Cockroaches have been keeping pest control professionals busy for many, many years. Their public health significance, rapid reproduction, and ability to adapt make them both very important pests and very difficult to control.

The three species of cockroaches that are most commonly encountered as pests in and around our Brentwood-based service area are the Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis), the German cockroach (Blatella germanica), and the American cockroach (Periplaneta americanus).* There are other species of cockroaches found throughout California, but they're rarely encountered as pests.

Oriental Cockroaches

Close-up of a female Oriental cockroach

Oriental cockroaches are medium-sized, dark-colored cockroaches that can thrive both indoors and outdoors. In fact, in nature they're usually soil-dwellers. Recently, though, they've become major pests in homes and businesses, as well as public works facilities like sewers, steam lines, and utility tunnels in Brentwood and throughout the Bay Area. They're often (and incorrectly) called "water bugs" because they require a lot of moisture and are found in damp areas.

In and around homes and other buildings, Oriental cockroaches can often be found in basements and crawl spaces (especially on and by the sill plates or in rubble foundations), in garages, in and under sheds and storage buildings, in firewood, and in mulch, leaf litter, or other organic matter. Very often they're only an occasional problem inside the building, coming inside only when the weather outside is extremely hot, cold, or wet. Other times, however, they decide that they like it inside and move in permanently.

Sometimes Oriental cockroaches can be found in the living areas of a home, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. They usually live in void areas with high humidity levels such as in wall voids where water pipes are present, or in the void area between a bathtub and its enclosure. They even get into attics once in a while, especially if there are moisture problems caused by roof leaks or air conditioning equipment that is improperly vented or plumbed, allowing water vapor or condensate to discharge directly into the attic.

Because they are primarily nocturnal, many homeowners don't even realize they have Oriental roaches until they happen to go into the infested area at night and turn on the lights. The roaches will scurry away from the light into their daytime hiding spaces.

Identification of Oriental Cockroaches

CDC photo showing the differences between male and female Oriental cockroaches

Adult Oriental cockroaches range from about 5/8 of an inch to just over an inch in length. They are glossy and dark brown to jet black in color, sometimes with a slight bluish cast. They're relatively slow-moving as roaches go, but they can move in a hurry when they need to. They are primarily nocturnal and shy away from light. In severe infestations, there may also be a distinct, musky odor.

Many people who have Oriental cockroach problems believe that they have two different kinds of roaches. This is because adult males and females have very different appearances. Female Oriental cockroaches are slightly longer and more plump than males and have only tiny, vestigial wing pads extending partially over their thorax. Males have longer wings that extend over about 3/4 of the lengths of their abdomens. Neither males nor females can fly.

Nymphal (juvenile) Oriental roaches are smaller and slightly rounder in shape and, like all juvenile insects, have no wings at all. Otherwise, they are found in the same places and have the same habits as adults. To the untrained eye they may look like adults of other cockroach species, such as German cockroaches. Like cockroaches in general, adult Oriental cockroaches do not provide any care to their young. They're on their own from day one.

Oriental Cockroach Control

There is no single "right" way to control Oriental cockroaches. Treatment depends mainly on the area in which they're found and usually involves a combination of methods to address both the insect infestation itself and the conditions conducive to the infestation.

In practical terms, Oriental cockroach control usually consists of some combination of both non-chemical and chemical control measures including:

Addressing harborage issues, such as removing leaf litter or debris or moving firewood.
Correcting moisture problems.
Exclusion, or "sealing roaches out" of a building using caulking or other methods.
Trapping to rapidly reduce cockroach populations.
Use of some combination of liquid, bait, or dust insecticides, depending on the specific situation.

Consistent with our Earth-friendly approach to pest control, we always strive to minimize pesticide use; so don't expect an "exterminator" to arrive and start spraying everything in sight when you call us. We take the time to look at the entire situation so we can provide you with maximum effectiveness while using a minimum of pesticides. It's just the right thing to do.

 

German Cockroaches

Close-up of a German cockroach

Another problematic cockroach in our Brentwood, California-based service area (and throughout most of the world, for that matter) is the notorious German cockroach, Blatella germanica.* German cockroaches are the most common "inside" cockroaches, meaning that they're almost always found inside buildings.

German cockroaches range from 1/2 to 5/8 inches in length and are usually predominantly tan or brown in color, with two nearly-black bands running longitudinally and roughly parallel down the upper side of their pronotum (the area right behind their head). Females may look about 1/8 inch to 3/16 inch longer when they're carrying their oothecae, or egg sacks. Both males and females are fully-winged as adults.

In both homes and businesses, German cockroaches are most often found in warm, dark, secluded areas that are close to sources of food and water. This usually means wall voids, cabinets, and trim in kitchens and bathrooms; but German cockroaches can also be found in places like the gaps between flooring and sub-flooring, or in the void areas under seats or inside table legs in restaurant booths. Any place that's warm, cozy, and close to food and water is a possible home for German roaches.

Behaviorally, German cockroaches strongly avoid both light and air currents. They exhibit a behavioral trait known as thigmotaxis, which basically means that they like to have something touching both their feet and their sides or backs at the same time. They don't like being exposed, which is why they usually live in cracks and crevices, emerging only at night for food and water. It's also why the roaches that you actually see are usually only a tiny fraction of the total population. For every one you see, there may be hundreds more in hiding.

One peculiar factoid about German cockroaches is that adults are fully winged and have the muscles and nerves needed for flight, but they almost never fly -- not even to save their lives. They may spread their wings and clumsily glide to soften their falls from high areas to lower one, but that's about it. And yet once in a great while, someone will observe a German cockroach taking off and flying, so the species does possess the ability. They just don't use it. Many entomologists believe that the species is in a transitional phase between being a flying insect and a flightless one, but it's up for grabs which way the transition is happening.

German Cockroach Control

German cockroach control usually begins with sanitation. This doesn't mean that you're a slob, though. It just means that cockroaches require very little to survive and thrive, so you have to think in terms of sanitation that approaches the obsessive-compulsive. In particular, any sources of food, moisture, and harborage must be removed. Even something seemingly innocuous like a cardboard box under the sink can be a virtual condominium complex for German roaches.

Once sanitation and moisture problems are addressed, German cockroach control usually includes a combination of exclusion or sealing, trapping to rapidly reduce populations, judicious use of insecticides (especially in cracks, crevices, and voids), and ongoing monitoring.

Believe it or not, German cockroach problems can be successfully eliminated without resorting to old-fashioned methods such as "fogging" or "bombing" that fill a home with pesticides. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of cooperation between the pest management professional and the customer.

 

American Cockroaches

A dead American cockroach, Periplaneta americanus, lying on its back

Averaging a whopping inch and a half to nearly two inches in length, the American Cockroach,* Periplaneta americanus, is the biggest cockroach found in homes and other buildings in California. They are tan to brown in color. Adults have fully-developed wings and can fly for short distances. They're also among the fastest runners in the insect world.

American cockroaches can live inside or outside. When outside, they favor warm, damp places like flower beds, leaf litter, or organic mulches. They also infest sewers, utility pipelines, and other dark, warm places. Inside buildings, they're usually found in basements (especially in boiler rooms, around sumps, in garages, and in other warm, dark places), as well as in wall voids and in the void areas around bathtubs.

Like many other roaches, American cockroaches are very light-averse and will rapidly scatter when the lights are suddenly turned on in a darkened room. As is the case with Oriental and German roaches, many people don't even know they have American cockroaches until they happen to go into their basements and turn the lights on.

American Cockroach Control

Control of American cockroaches inside homes usually involves determining how they're getting into a building so they can be sealed out, correcting any moisture or sanitation problems that may exist (which may actually be outside, such as rotting leaf litter around the house), using traps to rapidly reduce the population, and using traps or insecticide baits to monitor and maintain control. In some cases, sprays or dusts may also be used.

 

No matter what kind of cockroaches you may have, Bust-A-Bug can help you solve your problem with state-of the-art pest management solutions that achieve a maximum of control with a minimum amount of pesticide. Please contact us for more information about how we can help you eliminate your cockroach problem.

 

* Like many taxonomic names, the official names of these roach species reflect the areas from which they were once (and usually incorrectly) believed to have originated. We apologize for any perceived insensitivity.