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Garden Insects: Cockroaches


Adult cockroaches are medium-sized insects, with a broad, flat shape and long antennae. Often confused with beetles, the cockroach's wings are membranous and they lack the thick, hard forewing of beetles. Nymphs (immature cockroaches) look similar to adult cockroaches but lack wings. All cockroaches are nocturnal and prefer warm, damp and dark environments. They will usually quickly run for cover when disturbed. Indoor cockroaches will infest any environment that has food preparation and storage areas or warm, damp areas like drains, basements or garages. Outdoor cockroaches tend to be found in sewers, or areas where livestock is produced, but have been known to move inside when the opportunity presents itself. Cockroaches reproduce very rapidly. One female and her offspring can produce over 800 cockroaches a year. Signs you have roaches include shed skin casts, accumulations of droppings (dark spots or greasy smears), egg cases and dead cockroaches.


Favorite Foods

Cockroaches will eat anything humans and animals eat, in addition to many things we don't eat (finger nail clippings, soiled clothes, paper, pet fur, dead insects, etc.).


The main danger cockroaches present are the transmission of disease. They may transmit bacteria that cause food poisoning (salmonella) and are capable of transmitting other disease-causing organisms like streptococcus, hepatitis virus, coliform bacteria as well as spreading typhoid and dysentery.


The key to preventing a cockroach infestation is good sanitation and making your household an unsuitable environment.

  • Clean up food dishes at night (including pet food), keep surfaces dry, floors swept and rugs vacuumed.

  • Make sure garbage cans have tight-fitting lids and food is kept in airtight containers.

  • Use tight-fitting screens on doors and windows and use caulking to seal around pipes leading to the outdoors.

  • Trim shrubs away from outdoor vents to increase light and air circulation.

  • Remove trash and debris from yard (like lumber and firewood) where roaches may hide.

Methods of Control:

  • Use open-ended traps that contain bait along with a sticky substance to prevent roaches from escaping. You can buy these commercially or make your own with a quart-sized can, petroleum jelly and a piece of white bread. Place traps on the floor along walls behind appliances and near doors where roaches are likely to find them. Roaches may become wary of traps after a few days. It's best to check traps daily and move them every few days.

  • Dust surfaces near cracks and crevices with a fine dusting of boric acid powder. Commercial products are also available to add boric acid to mop water. Warning: Boric acid is poisonous. Keep it stored away from children and pets and do not use it on surfaces where pets walk or in areas where pets may get it on them.

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