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Do-It-Yourself Cockroach Control

Old-Fashioned Cockroach Extermination Methods


Once upon a time, cockroach control was a brute force attack. For many years, the standard treatment for cockroaches was to spray powerful residual insecticides on baseboards, in cabinets and closets, and on other surfaces that cockroaches might be expected to contact.

Some of the cockroach extermination chemicals used back then had label instructions that required that the insecticides be "applied to runoff," which basically meant that the chemicals were to be sprayed until they were dripping off the treated surfaces. We used to call this the "surround and drown" method of cockroach control.


Fogging for Cockroaches

Sometimes the "surround and drown" treatments were reinforced by aerial assaults. Insecticides like pyrethrum, resmethrin, or dichlorvos were dispensed into the air (a practice commonly known as "fogging" or "bombing") in the hope that the chemicals would kill the roaches that took a direct and lethal hit, and provoke the rest to run across the freshly-applied insecticide -- something they normally wouldn't do, since most of the insecticides were repellent to roaches.

Fogging had many disadvantages. It was inconvenient, it required extensive preparations (emptying kitchen cabinets and so forth), and it used large amounts of pesticides -- some of most effective of which, like dichlorvos, were also toxic to humans. Depending on the chemicals used, it could also stink up the place for several days.

Depending on the chemicals used, fogging could also be toxic to house plants, aquarium fish, and sometimes other pets. And regardless of the chemical used, any food preparation surfaces or utensils in the treated areas had to be cleaned before they could be used. The fact that some exterminators (and almost all do-it-yourselfers) over-applied the fogs made this even more difficult because over-application left an oily film on exposed surfaces.

Finally, to add insult to injury, fogging for roaches really didn't work all that well. The fogs didn't penetrate well enough into the places where the cockroaches actually lived to be of much effect.


Modern Cockroach Extermination

As time went on, cockroach treatment became more precise and scientific. Newer insecticides were developed that were less repellent to roaches, and application methods evolved from the old "surround and drown" method to precise application of insecticides directly into cracks and crevices where the roaches actually hid.

But the basic idea was still the same: Contact as many roaches as you could during the infestation, and leave enough residual insecticide around that the ones you missed will eventually contact it and die.


Cockroach Gel Baits

Nowadays, most cockroach infestations are treated using gel baits, which are applied in tiny dabs as close as possible to where roaches live and travel. Rather than being repellent, baits are formulated to be and palatable to roaches, who eat the baits and die within a few days. If done properly, the success rate is very high, there is little or no odor, and only tiny amounts of pesticides are used.

There are many baits available for cockroach control, but Dupont Advion Cockroach Bait Is probably the best of them. Many professionals use it in the exact same form and concentration as is sold over-the counter.

There are other methods you can use to control cockroaches, such as liquid sprays, aerosols, and dusts. But for most people, we think using baits is the easiest and least-hazardous way to go about do-it-yourself roach extermination. So the rest of this page concentrates on the use of baits.


Step-By-Step Cockroach Control Instructions

Actually, before we talk about do-it-yourself cockroach control, let's mention a few cases in which you should not attempt to do your own cockroach control:

  1. If the roaches are at your workplace. In most states, any pesticide applications made in the course of a person's employment or business are considered commercial applications, and require applicator licensing, insurance, and so forth. This applies even if you use over-the-counter chemicals.

  2. If the infestation is severe. For every roach you see, there can be hundreds that you don't. Do you know how to find them?

  3. If you (or someone else living in the home) have asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions. Cockroaches and their by-products are powerful allergens and can trigger asthma attacks.

  4. If you live in a multi-unit dwelling. Apartment houses, co-ops, and condos should be treated together for the most effective cockroach elimination.

  5. If you just can't be bothered doing it yourself, or if roaches just gross you out. These, too, are legitimate reasons to call a professional exterminator.

Assuming that none of the above apply, let's look at the three steps to effective cockroach treatment. (This page deals with treatment for German or Brown-Banded cockroaches.)

Step 1: Sanitation

The first step in addressing any cockroach problem is sanitation. This means doing a thorough clean up to remove sources of food, water, and harborage. Be especially careful about things like paper bags, cardboard boxes, and other refuse that can provide roaches with a protected place to live.

Step 2: Rapid Population Reduction

The next step is to use non-chemical methods to quickly reduce the population. One of the easiest and best ways to do this is with sticky traps (commonly called glue boards by those in the know).

Use a little tape or a thumbtack to attach the glue boards to surfaces in cabinets, under the sink, or in other infested areas. Use rubber gloves when handling glue boards that have roaches on them. Roaches carry germs that can cause all sorts of diseases.

You don't have to use any particular type of glue board. Use the cheapest ones you can find. There's very little difference between different brands of glue boards

Another way to quickly reduce cockroach populations is with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filter. But do NOT use an ordinary household or shop vacuum cleaner for cockroach removal. Cockroaches and their by-products contain allergens and pathogens (disease-causing organisms) that can be spread through the air by non-HEPA vacuum cleaners.

Step 3: Chemical Treatment

Precision is the key to applying cockroach baits effectively.After sanitation and population reduction, chemical treatment should be used to kill off the remaining roaches.

The two easiest cockroach control products available to do-it-yourself cockroach killers are injectable gels or bait stations, either containing Dupont Advion Cockroach Bait. In addition, for severe infestations, you should use a cockroach growth regulator like Gentrol, which is available in liquid, bait station, and aerosol formulations. (The bait stations are the easiest to use and work just as well as the other formulations if they're placed properly.)

When using any pesticide, always read and follow the label instructions and observe all safety precautions relating to use, storage, and disposal.

Bait gels generally come in tubes with a built-in plunger, and one tube contains enough bait to treat an average apartment several times.

Precision, not quantity, is the key to applying cockroach gel baits effectively. Use tiny dabs placed in cracks and crevices where you have seen roaches, shed skins, droppings, or oothecae. Make sure to get hard-to-reach places such as the underside of the kitchen sink where it is attached to the counter.

Use only tiny dabs of bait as specified by the label. Using more bait than needed is sloppy, illegal, and will very likely reduce its effectiveness.

Special care must be used when applying bait gels in places where food is stored, prepared, or served; in dresser drawers, night-tables, or other places where clothing is stored; or in desk drawers where the user's hand may come in contact with sloppily applied bait. In these situations, consider using bait stations instead. Speaking of which...

Cockroach bait stations are an even simpler method of obtaining cockroach control in mild to moderate infestations. These stations should be fastened as close as possible to the where the roaches are hiding or traveling (for example, right next to a crack inside a cabinet or a pipe chase where roaches, oothecae, or droppings have been sighted).

When a bait station needs replacement, the new one should be placed exactly where the old one was. Cockroaches leave pheromone trails to existing sources of food, so placing the new bait station where the old one was will help roaches find it more quickly.

There are many variables affecting the effectiveness of cockroach treatment. After all, these critters have been defying our efforts to eradicate them for a long time. So if after following the steps above, you don't see a reduction in roach activity within two or three weeks, then your infestation may require the services of a professional exterminator.