COCKROACHES BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR Cockroaches are oval, flattened, fast moving insects. They have long, hairlike antennae and a broad, saddle like plate called a pronotum that covers the head. Adult stages of most species have wings, with the front pair of wings being thick and leathery. Cockroaches go through gradual metamorphosis in the three stages consisting of egg, nymph, and adult. The eggs are laid in bean-like egg capsules called ootheca, which may contain several dozen eggs. These egg capsules are often dropped around food sources or secured to surfaces. Some cockroaches carry the ootheca during its development.
The immature stages are called nymphs. Several nymphal stages occur, each separated by a molt. The nymphs generally appear similar to the adult stage, but they lack wings and are smaller. Typically it requires two to three months to complete a life cycle.
Cockroaches are among the oldest insects known, with fossils dating back 200 million years. As a group, the cockroaches have shown exceptional ability to adapt to and survive in a wide range of environments. Most cockroaches can develop on a wide range of food and their flattened body form allows them to move into most areas. Cockroaches have also developed a resistance to many commonly used insecticides.
Cockroaches can enter buildings and containers of all kinds. They also may enter around loose fitting doors, windows, and through utility lines, and they may travel through sewers. Once within a home, cockroaches tend to prefer warm, dark, moist shelters and are often found near kitchens and food handling areas. Since cockroaches are nocturnal, they are rarely seen during the day.
Aside from their importance as a household nuisance, they may soil areas with their salivary secretions and excrement, leaving an unpleasant odor. Cockroaches and cockroach parts also produce allergic reactions in some humans. Cockroaches have not been found to be direct carriers of human disease. However, their feeding on filth or disease organisms is why they often contaminate food and utensils. They are suspected of helping to spread diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, and food poisoning.
Most cockroaches are tropical or subtropical in origin and possess generally harmless habits. A few have developed into serious pests, including several species of cockroaches that have been introduced into Utah.
COCKROACH CONTROL METHODS The control of cockroaches requires care and planning on the part of the pest manager. Cockroach control also requires that a business or homeowner change the environmental conditions that contribute to infestations.
An infested site should be thoroughly surveyed to determine the extent of infestation and to identify the type of treatments that will be required. Fundamental to this is determining the cockroach species present. Since different cockroach species have differing habits, this will allow treatments to be better targeted. A search should be made of all suspected hiding places. Since cockroaches are rarely active during the day this can be difficult. Flushing infected sites with pyrethrin sprays can irritate the cockroaches and cause them to move.
Sticky traps can be used to detect cockroach hot spots. Several different types of traps exist and some also contain the sex attractant chemicals used by certain cockroach species. These traps should be placed in areas where cockroach activity is suspected and they should be checked frequently. Traps can also be used to help control cockroaches, but they are not a substitute for other control practices.
Sanitation is fundamental to cockroach control. Any methods that can be used to deny cockroaches food, water, and shelter will greatly aid in control. Cleanliness is essential. Food should be kept in tightly closed containers and should not be left exposed. This includes garbage, food scraps, and pet foods.
Cockroaches need water. Dripping faucets, leaking pipes, and other sources of moisture should be eliminated. Bottles and cans collected for recycling should be stored outdoors. Sewer openings should be screened.
It is also important to bar the potential paths of reinfestation. Cracks, crevices, and other openings should be sealed. Openings should be caulked, blocked, or screened. Items moved into building should be checked for evidence of cockroach infestation.
Several approaches to chemical control are possible. Regardless of the chemical or formulation chosen, applications made near regular hiding places are most effective. Chemical controls usually provide only temporary suppression, especially when they are not combined with a vigorous sanitation effort.
Another serious limitation of insecticides is that cockroaches have developed a resistance. Many populations of German cockroaches are no longer susceptible to the insecticides formerly used. Furthermore, cockroaches are repelled by some insecticides and will avoid treated surfaces.
Initial treatments should include a thorough cleanup combined with insecticide spray or dust treatments. Follow up treatments are often required because some cockroaches and cockroach eggs may not be eliminated by a single treatment.
Control chemicals can be oil based sprays, water emulsion sprays, dusts, tracking powders, or baits. The type of treatment should be matched to the conditions of the infestation site. Most treatments involve sprays in order to provide a residual effect. These applications leave a toxic residue on the treated surface that cockroaches pick up when moving across it. The length of time that treatments remain effective varies, depending on such factors as the concentration of chemical applied, choice of insecticide, and application surface. Two to four weeks of residual activity is fairly typical.
Sprays should be applied to cockroach harborages with emphasis on cracks and crevices. If exposed surfaces are treated, a low pressure spray should be used. Oil based sprays should not be applied near open flames, to tile floors, or onto plants. Water based sprays should not be used near electrical outlets.
Several precautions should be taken when making insecticide applications for cockroach control. Pets should be removed from the treatment areas and aquariums covered. If sprays must be applied to areas where food, cooking utensils, or dishes are stored, these items should be covered or removed prior to spraying. Furthermore, applications around these sites must be limited to cracks and crevices, avoiding exposed surfaces. Also, treatments made near air ducts and ventilation systems should be done with extreme care to avoid air contamination. Dusts and tracking powders can penetrate hiding areas that sprays may not reach. They are also useful on very rough surfaces or on surfaces that would absorb liquid sprays.
Dusts and powders kill by penetrating the insect body or when ingested as the cockroach cleans its antennae and legs. Dusts should be applied as thin films since concentrations may repel cockroaches. Some dusts, such as boric acid, may be applied in water, which quickly dries. To be effective, dusts must remain dry. Dusts are not appropriate for use in areas where they would be unsightly or cause contamination problems.
Baits are generally long lasting and can be applied to areas that cannot be treated with sprays or dusts. Baits may include an attractant such as peanut butter or syrup in combination with a non-repellent type of insecticide, such as boric acid. Often, baits may be placed inside small containers to help keep them away from pets and humans. To be effective, baits should be used in small amounts placed in many locations. The effectiveness of baits is dependent on the amount of competing food sources available. If sanitation efforts have not been thorough baits perform poorly.