RoachesCockroaches are survivors. They have been active on the planet more than 350 million years, making them one of the oldest living species. They’re the No. 1 pest of homes and other structures and are often the first occupant of any new dwelling.

Roaches are well-adapted to living with humans and thrive in the average home. Prepare yourself to fight this unwelcome insect by learning the basics.

Where do roaches come from?
In all regions, roaches can shift from outdoor locations to indoor ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to block home-invading insects by plugging insect-sized cracks and crevices and tackle other simple steps to keep insects from entering your home. In multi-unit dwellings, roaches can move from one living space to another by running along utility lines.

What do they need to live?
Most roaches are tropical and crave warm hiding places, along with access to food and water. Open food containers, dirty dishes, crumbs, grease on the stovetop, water droplets in the sink, leaky pipes and areas with condensation provide adequate food and water supplies for roaches.

German cockroaches, the most common indoor roach, can survive 42 days on water alone. They only survive 12 days without water, even if there’s available food.

Are they more active during certain times of the year?
Central heating allows roaches to remain active year-round in all climates. During drought episodes, more roaches may invade your home in search of water. During flooding, displaced roaches actively seek out new quarters.

Do roaches reproduce quickly?
One female German cockroach and her offspring can produce more than 300,000 roaches in one year. Not every offspring survives; some are even eaten by other roaches (these are cannibalistic insects). Females lay eggs more frequently during warm weather.

Where do roaches hang out?
Roaches like to hang out in warm, dark, crowded spaces – locations where surfaces touch their bodies, like tiny crevices. Adult German cockroaches can squeeze into cracks 1/16 inch wide; immature roaches hide in even smaller spaces. These insects like corners and tend to travel along edges of surfaces.

In a home, they’ll hide in the space behind kitchen drawers, under sinks, behind and in cupboards, and behind and beneath appliances. Outdoors, roaches may live in meter boxes, sewers and areas with garbage.

Do roaches cause disease?
Roaches carry bacteria on their bodies, including salmonella, streptococcus, and staphylococcus. They’ve also been implicated in spreading hepatitis virus, typhoid and dysentery. Because roaches eat anything – including garbage and pet feces – they pick up disease bacteria, which survive in their gut for four weeks or longer. They pass the bacteria in their feces, which other roaches then walk through and transmit to surfaces in your home.

Roach bodies and excrement are an allergen for some individuals, many of whom develop asthma. Many urban dwellers (23 to 60 percent) acquire cockroach-induced asthma where infestations are severe.

What’s the first step in controlling roaches?
The first step in successful control is correctly identifying the type of cockroach you’re fighting. Research online or contact your local Cooperative Extension Service Office for help in proper identification. Eliminate food and water sources by following these simple steps. Make the exterior of your home unappealing to roaches with a pesticide perimeter treatment.

Can I control roaches myself?
Yes, you can, and certainly many aspects of control – trapping, monitoring, eliminating food and water sources – are things you can successfully accomplish. You can also treat your home with an insecticide.

If you have a severe infestation or don’t know where to start, contact a professional pest control company. Many times, having a pest professional assess the problem and initiate treatments can help jump-start control that you continue yourself.