The bugs are coming for me.
As temperatures cool, cockroaches seek shelter inside the house. An adult cockroach needs only 1/16 of an inch to squeeze through. And if your house is not treated, itís party time.
Iím the official roach grabber in the family. Itís a lot easier to just snatch the bugger up and throw it out the front door. Why not kill it? Cockroaches have been around 300 million years, so theyíre resilient. One less cockroach is not going to make a difference. This past year has been relatively quiet regarding cockroach invasions in our house, but we leave the windows open as autumn approaches. One of those windows happens to be on my side of the bed.
That was my first mistake.
If you just moved to the Lowcountry, you will forever remember the first time you see an American cockroach, otherwise known as the palmetto bug. As shocking as it is seeing a giant bug camping out on your kitchen counter, cockroaches are harmless. Hawaii has stinging centipedes, and Arizona residents are watching out for scorpions. In comparison, weíve got it easy.
Palmetto bugs are peridomestic, meaning it generally lives outdoors. They come inside the house in search of food and moisture. Adults have wings and can live a year and a half. Theyíre not accomplished fliers, but they can flutter across the room. If youíre sleeping at the time, you will never forget that sound the rest of your life. German cockroaches are not fliers, but they will move into your house, lay eggs and raise a large family in your kitchen and bathrooms. Itís critical to get them under control quickly.
Infestations seem to get worse during cold winters or after heavy rain. Cockroaches thrive in warm, moist environments. Just look under rotting wood. They are primarily a nuisance, but they do pose a health risk by transferring infectious bacteria to food. They have been linked to food poisoning, diarrhea and allergens. In other words, theyíre more than just creepy. Theyíre dirty, filthy and germ-ridden. If you bare-hand one out the front door, its wise to wash up.
Cockroaches will eat just about anything: soap, postage stamps, cardboard, trash, etc. Inspect that box from the garage before dropping it inside.
Weatherproofing cracks around doors and windows helps, but itís not foolproof. Roaches love the recycling bin. Sour beer and peanut butter jars are delicacies. Store these things outside as soon as possible. Avoid leaving dirty dishes out for extended periods of time. Donít leave the dog food out; keep it in a sealed container.
Roach motels will not control a cockroach infestation. These types of traps contain a lure of some sort and are meant to monitor the presence of cockroaches. This is ideally used in sensitive places, such as restaurants, in order to treat them at first sight before there is a considerable problem.
Insecticidal baits contain a food source and toxin. The most convenient formulation is the gel baits that come in a large syringe. Common products are Combat, Maxforce and InVict. Gel baits are effective when used indoors where roaches are likely to be: kitchens and bathrooms. Place dollops under sinks, behind toilets or under appliances. Be aware, as some products will stain. However, gel baits are very effective on German cockroaches.
Very safe inorganic insecticides include boric acid, a stomach poison that cockroaches pick up when walking across it and ingesting when grooming, and silica aerogel, a finely ground silica that cuts the exoskeleton. Synthetic insecticides can be periodically sprayed along baseboards and entry points along the house. However, be aware, these are poisons. Use common sense. Do not spray food, toiletries or anything that likely would be touched, like Barbieís Summer Funhouse.
Cockroaches donít ordinarily cause me to panic unless they crawl over my head at night. Letís just say the window next to my bed has been nailed shut forever.
Tony Bertauski is a horticulture instructor at Trident Technical College. To give feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.