Meet the Toughest Insect on the Planet: The Cockroach
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
If you’re old enough you might remember a sci-fi movie from 1997 called Damnation Alley, a somewhat ham-handed adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s otherwise readable novel of the same name. In the film version, a small group of people who have survived a nuclear holocaust drive across the resultant desolate wasteland, looking for other survivors.
In the end they do find other humans, but not before running into hordes of flesh-eating cockroaches that have not only survived World War III, but achieved enormous size thanks to the radioactive fallout.
Some believe that these insects are the ultimate survivors and, according to one reliable source, “Do indeed have a much higher radiation resistance than vertebrates, with the lethal dose perhaps six to 15 times that for humans.” In truth, they are probably no more radiation-resistant than any other insects, but they do have a knack for tolerating conditions that might spell the end for other creatures.
An Evolutionary Aversion
Which is, I suppose, why we dislike them so much. According to Jeff Lockwood, a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming, “Cockroaches tap into this sort of evolutionary aversion we have to greasy, smelly, slimy things.” Plus, he goes on, “They’re defiant little bastards.” A characterization I’m sure you’ll agree with if you’ve ever had to deal with these pests in your home (or office, or deli, or retail space, etc).
You’ll be relieved to know that of the 4,000 known cockroach species, only 30 are linked with human habitats; and of those, only four can truly be regarded as pests.
However, that said, you should be aware of the fact that the American cockroach, the species you’re most likely to encounter, is a real health threat. Research indicates that they are responsible for spreading over 30 different kinds of bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli., parasitic worms, and a number of other types of human pathogens. And, like house flies, cockroaches pick up innumerable germs as they make their way through their domicile of choice: sewers. Those germs will invariably end up on cooking surfaces and, in some unfortunate cases, on the food itself.
Signs You Have a Cockroach Problem
So, how can you tell if you have a cockroach infestation? The first, and most obvious sign, is seeing brown, shiny insects skittering away if you turn on a light or open window blinds. City dwellers will know about such phenomena. The second giveaway is a musty smell that may well pervade the entire house or apartment. The odor comes from a pheromone produced by the cockroaches and it’s hard to miss.
But if you did miss it, then cockroach droppings (usually found in the shadowy areas they prefer) are an unmistakable indicator of their presence. Hint: They look a lot like mouse droppings! Last, if you find dark, capsule-like objects, usually about 8 mm long, on surfaces near food sources then you’ve uncovered cockroach eggs! And you can find them virtually anywhere: attics, basements, kitchens, pantries, laundry rooms, etc..
If you’re still not sure you have cockroaches, then look for smear marks, usually brown and irregular in shape, on flat surfaces and areas where walls meet the floor. Or you might have to depend on the presence of what my kids used to call ‘The alien evidence’, i.e. shed skin (looking like ‘shells’), that can
usually be found near their typical hiding spots.
How to Get Rid of Cockroaches
The easiest way to get rid of cockroaches is not to let them into your home in the first place, which is easier said than done. Still, keeping these pests outside is actually easier than eradicating them once they’ve gained access!
Starting with the outside of your house: Check your door jambs, window frames, screens, weather stripping and any siding to make sure there are no gaps or crevices. If there are, seal them right away with high-quality caulk. You also need to remove debris from your yard and move stacks of firewood away from the house. Hint: Do not store it on the porch. That’s an open invitation to cockroaches. This is also true of a variety of shrubs, bushes, plants and trees, so keep them trimmed and tidy. Finally, if you’ve had cockroach problems in the past it would behoove you to call in a PMP (Pest Management Professional). They can spray the outside of your house with a long-lasting insecticide, and treat the wall voids with insecticide dusts to get rid of roaches.
The next step might seem obvious, but many people overlook it: removing any sources of water that might serve a cockroach population. They depend on water to survive, so repair any leaking faucets or pipes, and try to stop up kitchen sinks and bathtubs at night. Oh yes, and put out those pet bowls full of water outside, and refill them in the morning.
Perhaps most important of all: get rid of food sources. You can begin by making sure that no one takes food into other parts of the house. That means no ‘dad snacks’ in the den while watching football, no coffee cake in the living room, and definitely no munchies in the kids’ rooms. Kitchen cabinets and larders should be emptied regularly and kitchen floors vacuumed every night! Hint: You should also consider vacuuming the house once every three days or so. Makes life for cockroaches even harder.
But your cleaning shouldn’t end there. Wipe down your kitchen countertops each night before bed, and clean all your kitchen appliances, especially hard-to-reach spots around the stove, the toaster, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, the microwave, and even beneath the kitchen sink. And don’t forget to keep all your garbage in pest-proof containers.
Killing Cockroaches Where They Live
So, you’ve followed all our advice. You’ve wiped, cleaned, vacuumed, dusted, and (hopefully) removed as much clutter as you possibly can from your house (or office, or store, or deli, etc). Now what? Well, if you’ve been able to locate the favorite hidey-holes of your unwelcome guests, we suggest that you apply a pesticide like Sterifab®. If you’re really serious about eradicating cockroaches (and who wouldn’t be, after all?) then Sterifab is not only very effective as a cockroach killer, but it’s a snap to use!
Plus, Sterifab not only removes pathogenic odors and impedes bacterial encroachments, but also prevents mold and mildew, in addition to functioning as an effective bacteriostatic.
One of the great advantages to Sterifab is that, in addition to being one of the best roach killers on the market, it’s also very effective in eliminating other insects, such as bed bugs, fleas, lice, ticks, and a host of other insects. Another important feature is that it dries in 15-20 minutes, is biodegradable, and leaves no residue or active ingredients; it’s an entirely non-residual product that can be safely used on mattresses and upholstery.