- There are thousands of cockroach species, but only a few are common in the United States.
- Insect experts say they dwell in sewers, kitchen trash cans and rotting areas.
- They can contaminate food preparation areas due to the bacteria they carry, potentially causing allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
They are fast. Some can fly. And if you see one, you’ll likely find others lurking in the nooks and crannies of your home.
They are cockroaches, and experts say they can cause significant health problems if not treated properly, including allergies and contamination of common areas and the kitchen.
Nationally, the cockroach species that pose the greatest threat are German cockroaches, said Benjamin Hottel, board-certified entomologist and technical services manager at Orkin.
German cockroaches are smaller and are mainly problems in restaurants and multi-unit buildings.
“(People) might bring them groceries from a grocery store that had some, maybe from their work,” Hottel told USA TODAY. “They could come in their backpack or purse from work if they work in a restaurant that has them. These roaches can spread quite easily.”
He and other experts, however, say there are ways to protect your home. Here’s what you need to know.
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When are cockroaches most active?
Cockroach activity depends on temperature, said Changlu Wang, a professor in the department of entomology at Rutgers University.
Take oriental cockroaches, for example. They are more likely to be active during the summer, while German cockroaches – most common in the United States – are active year-round.
“And here in the United States, we have a very good heating system,” Wang said. “Room temperature is kept around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is actually optimal for cockroaches to thrive.”
Another common species that is much larger is the American cockroach, Hottel, of Orkin, said. They are mainly found in sewer systems and tunnels.
“When it’s warmer, you tend to have more cockroach activity outside,” Hottel said. “But for those that are already indoors like German cockroaches or American cockroaches in sewers, they may still be active in the winter.”
And in the south, like Georgia, the smoky brown cockroach hides outdoors, usually in mulch, but it can also find its way into crawl spaces and attics. Smokybrown cockroach activity tends to decrease as the weather gets colder, he said. They are more common during warmer seasons.
How do cockroaches get into your home?
Cockroaches usually show up when there are sanitation issues in restaurants or apartments, Hottel said.
There may be food or water readily available for them.
“In older installations this can be even more common because they tend to have more structural issues…and older plumbing,” he said.
They can even enter your home through pipes in your bathroom sink, he said.
If you take a look under your sink, there’s a looped pipe called a p-trap, he said. It retains water to prevent sewer gases from entering the bathroom or shower.
If this pipe runs dry, sewer gas and cockroaches can get through.
“Sometimes you’ll get cockroaches climbing through rusty pipes or pipes,” he said. “Once they get out and into a bathroom or an office, because there’s no humid environment, there’s not a lot of food for them there, they end up run and die.”
But many cockroach species have no interest in entering the home, Hottel said. Often they enter because they are attracted to light or have been introduced by potted plants that have been brought into homes.
Peridomestic cockroaches, like the brown smoky cockroach, live outdoors or under houses and sometimes get indoors “into areas where they shouldn’t be,” Hottel said.
“They don’t really feed on anything in kitchens or anything. They feed on decaying things under bridges and maybe under people’s houses or maybe even in attics,” did he declare.
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Some cockroaches can even fly, while others can squirt liquid as a defense mechanism.
Asian cockroaches can fly and sometimes enter people’s homes.
“Usually Asian cockroaches are attracted to a house when an unscreened door or window is left open and there is a light on in the house,” Hottel said.
However, Hottel said, “They would not infest a person’s home like German cockroaches and are mostly found outdoors under leaf litter in the southeastern United States.”
Florida wood cockroaches, Hottel said, can shoot a “defensive secretion” fluid from their rear ends.
“Secretions can potentially irritate your skin and have been shown to attack plastic,” he said.
Can cockroaches make you sick?
Hottel, from Orkin, said cockroaches dwell in sewers, kitchen trash cans and rotting areas, so they carry bacteria on their bodies and can contaminate food preparation areas or food on them. themselves.
“If a food inspector or health inspector walked into a restaurant and saw German cockroaches, that would be considered a safety issue,” he said. “They could fall into the food. It’s pretty disgusting, isn’t it? »
They can also produce allergens that can lead to allergic reactions and asthma attacks, said Wang of Rutgers.
“There are different proteins that come from cockroach feces (or) corpses,” he said. “Proteins can circulate in house dust…You may be more likely to have sensitivity or if you have asthma you will be more likely to have asthma attacks.”
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What can you do to get rid of it?
When it comes to controlling these pests, Wang said cockroach bait is an option.
And don’t bother with foggers, liquid sprays and aerosols, he said.
“Nebulizers aren’t very effective,” Wang said. “Sprays are also not effective because most cockroach populations have developed resistance to these chemicals.”
He also warns against the use of electronic repellents because no scientific studies have shown that they actually work.
And according to Hottel, of Orkin, cleaning can help, as well as sealing areas where power lines enter the walls of your home.
Also make sure the leaves are raked away from the house and also check your gutters.
“If you get a lot of leaf debris inside a gutter, the leaves will start to break down,” Hottel said. “Cockroaches can live in there.”
And if you don’t know what to do or it’s too much to handle on your own, don’t be afraid to involve your landlord or a pest control company.
“Especially if you’re in a multi-unit housing situation because your neighbor might have one,” Hottel said. “Even if you’re really good at controlling (the situation) or controlling the cockroaches in your apartment, get the landlords involved to have the pest control companies check surrounding units.”
Water Bugs, Saw Palmetto Bugs: Other Names for Cockroaches
Cockroaches’ names largely depend on the area you live in, Hottel said.
In Maryland, people call them water bugs because they are primarily associated with sewers.
And in Florida, cockroaches are sometimes called saw palmetto bugs because of the palm trees they live in.
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She’s from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email him at email@example.com.