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How To Kill And Get Rid Of Cockroaches

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Cockroach History and Facts

Cockroaches are among the most common insects. Based on fossil evidence, roaches are known to have been present on Earth for over 300 million years. Their sizes vary considerably; some species are up to several inches long. Some biologists consider insects to be one of the most successful groups of animals to ever inhabit this planet, and cockroaches are one of the most adaptable and successful insect groups. They have been able to survive many changing environments over millions of years. There are approximately 3500 species of cockroaches worldwide-about 60 species are found in the United States. Their presence in nearly every part of the world and wide range of habitats demonstrate that cockroaches are truly an outstanding success story in Nature. Unfortunately, many of the same outstanding biological characteristics which make them so successful, also make them one of the most difficult pests to manage. Cockroaches, especially the German cockroach, are the most commonly encountered and important household insect pests in much of the U.S.

Only a few of the cockroach species found in the United States routinely enter and infest our dwellings. The most common of these are the German cockroach, American cockroach, Oriental cockroach, Brown-banded cockroach, Smoky brown cockroach, Australian cockroach, Brown cockroach, Woods cockroach, Field cockroach and the Asian cockroach. Of these eight species, the first five represent 95% of all cockroach management in and around buildings. In some parts of the U.S., one species may be more important than another. Certain other species may infest homes or other buildings, but will generally be found in very localized situations or under other unusual circumstances.

General Biology and Behavior of Cockroaches

Most cockroaches are tropical and sub-tropical in origin, generally live outdoors. They are mostly active at night, during which time they forage for food, water and mates. They may be seen in the daytime, particularly when a heavy population is present or when some other form of stress is placed on the population (such as lack of food or water). Cockroaches ordinarily prefer a moist environment, and many species also prefer a relatively high degree of warmth. Some tropical roaches feed only on vegetation. However, cockroaches which live in buildings are mostly scavengers and feed on a wide variety of food. They are especially fond of starches, sweets, grease, and meat products; but will also eat a great variety of materials such as cheese, beer, leather, bakery products, starch in book bindings, glue, hair, flakes of dried skin, dead animals and plant materials.

Cockroaches usually choose to live in protected cracks and crevices which provide a warm and humid environment. Some species, such as the American and oriental cockroaches, gather in large groups on open walls in protected places or in open areas outside. While they are often found in groups in their daytime hiding or resting areas (called "harborage"), and can be found feeding in groups at night, cockroaches are not social insects as are the ants and wasps. Cockroaches generally forage individually for food and otherwise behave in a largely individualistic or non-social manner. Even though cockroaches are not social insects, they do often form aggregates.

The general shape of a cockroach is familiar to everyone. They are oval and flat-bodied, which enables them to squeeze into all types of cracks and crevices. A pronotum (a shield-like covering) projects forward over the head; their mouthparts are of the chewing type and are oriented downward slightly toward the rear of their body. With their long spiny legs, they can run rapidly over most surfaces. Specialized pads in their tarsi allow them to easily scale glass windows or walk on a ceiling.

Besides their ability to move around inside and outside, and the fact that some species are good fliers, cockroaches are well known for moving to new areas via "hitchhiking." Because they prefer to hide in cracks and crevices in the daytime, they are frequently moved about by individual people or in products shipped around cities or the country. Careful inspection of furniture, clothing, or other goods coming into a home or other facility may reveal cockroaches hiding in these items. Careful observations by pest management professionals and researchers have shown surprising numbers of German cockroaches entering such facilities as hospitals, restaurants, zoos and supermarkets by these routes (every day in some cases).

cockroach molting picture

Molting cockroach. Some people mistakenly think these molting individuals are "albino cockroaches."

Cockroaches develop by a gradual metamorphosis that consists of three stages: egg, nymph and adult. The female produces a purse shaped egg capsule, called an ootheca, which has two rows of eggs in it. Nymphs hatch out of the egg capsule by working together to break a seam along the top of the egg case. When the seam splits open, the tiny nymphs emerge to begin their life. The nymphs generally resemble the adult in appearance and behavior, but, are smaller, do not have wings or wing pads, and frequently have a somewhat different color. Newly molted nymphs are white, but will darken to the normal color within a few hours. Some people mistakenly think these molting individuals are "albino cockroaches."

Nymphs undergo a series of molts; with the last molt, the wings are fully formed and the sexes are easily distinguished from each other. Wings of the adults may be long and functional or short to almost nonexistent. In some species males are winged, but females have only small wing pads. Adults may or may not fly depending on the species and upon environmental factors. The length of time required for the eggs to hatch, for nymphs to develop, and the life span of adults will also vary (even within each species) due to temperature, humidity, the quality of their diet, and other environmental conditions.


Cockroach Control By Type Of Cockroach and Species

German Cockroach

german cockroach
(Click For Larger)

German Cockroach
Actual Size 1/2 Inch

Why The German Cockroach Is So Successful

The German cockroach is the most commonly encountered of the house infesting species in the United States. It is also generally the most persistent and difficult to manage. The reasons for this are somewhat complex, but an understanding of some of the factors involved is basic to the practice of pest management. First, the German cockroach has a larger number of eggs per capsule than the other species that infest structures. Second, it also has the shortest period to develop from hatching until sexual maturity; thus, populations of German cockroaches will build up faster than other species. These factors combine to produce what entomologists call a "high reproductive potential."

german cockroach babies nymphs
(Click For Larger)

German Cockroach
Babies and Nymphs
(30-50 per egg capsule)

Third, German cockroach nymphs have a better chance of surviving than do other species because the female carries the egg capsule during the entire time that the embryos are developing within the eggs. This results in the nymphs avoiding many hazards of the environment which may affect eggs that remain detached and isolated. Thus, more nymphs are likely to hatch, and a higher reproductive potential is likely.

Fourth, German cockroach nymphs are smaller than most other cockroaches; thus, they are able to conceal themselves in many places which are inaccessible to individuals of the larger species. In fact, in a commercial kitchen, there may be literally thousands of cracks and crevices young cockroaches can hide in and remain protected. German cockroach nymphs also tend to stay close to each other, often close to the female at the time of hatching, creating a tendency for a high local population density. They also have aggregation pheromones associated with their droppings, which have the effect of increasing the level of aggregation or clumping of individuals in the population.

These biological factors, combined with its very adaptive feeding habits and other behaviors, give the German cockroach advantages toward increased chances for survival and persistently maintaining high populations.

Moreover, there are additional factors which contribute to the success of the German cockroach. The "high reproductive potential" of this species can significantly affect its ability to develop resistance to insecticides. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, insecticides such as DDT and chlordane were widely used to control German cockroaches. In many cases, some individuals of German cockroach populations exposed to these insecticides survived. And because these cockroaches reproduce so quickly, survivors were able to pass the ability to survive exposure to DDT and chlordane to following generations. Over many generations, large portions of populations can then become resistant to insecticides. It is possible within a single town or city to find both populations of cockroaches that are resistant to a particular insecticide and others that are susceptible to the same insecticide. Each population's history of insecticide exposure over many generations will determine the levels of resistance to various insecticides.

German Cockroach Management

American Cockroach

american cockroach

American Cockroach
Actual Size 1.75 inches

American Cockroach Management

Palmetto Bugs

Palmetto Bug
(click for larger image)
Palmetto Bug
Actual Size 1.5 inches

Oriental Cockroach

oriental cockroach picture
(Click For Larger Image)

Oriental Cockroach
Actual Size 1.25 inches

Oriental Cockroach Management

Brown Banded Cockroach

brown banded cockroach picture

Brown Banded Cockroach
Actual Size 1/2 inch

Brown Banded Cockroach Management

Smoky Brown Cockroach

smoky brown cockroach picture

Smoky Brown Cockroach
Actual Size 1.75 inches

Smoky Brown Cockroach Management

Woods Cockroach

woods cockroach

Woods Cockroach

Wood Cockroach Management

Australian Cockroach

australian cockroach

Australian Cockroach
Actual Size 1.25 inches

Brown Cockroach

brown cockroach picture

Brown Cockroach
Actual Size 1.75 inches


Australian Cockroach and Brown Cockroach Management

Field Cockroach

field cockroach

Field Cockroach

Field Cockroach Management

Asian Cockroach

picture of asian cockroach

Asian Cockroach
Actual Size 1/2 Inch

Asian Cockroach Management

Cockroach Management

Inspection and Survey For Cockroaches

Sanitation For Cockroaches

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Electrical Zappers For Cockroach Control

Insecticide Control Methods For Cockroaches

IGRs (Insect Growth Regulators)

How To Kill Cockroaches

5 Steps to a Happier, Cockroach Free Home :

Step 1: Cut down on their food supply

You will leave less food for the roaches if you:

  1. Vacuum or sweep the floor after every meal.
  2. Wash dishes in soapy, hot water to eliminate all traces of grease.
  3. Keep trash in a tight-lidded container.
  4. Keep compost as far from the house as possible. Cover each new "deposit" with a fresh layer of sand or soil.
  5. Store unused portions of chips, cereal, cookies, flour, sugar, rice, etc. in tightly sealed plastic containers or large glass jars with screw-on lids.
  6. After a pet has eaten, remove their food bowl and sweep the floor.
  7. Don't walk through the house eating: contain crumbs in one room (less cleaning for you).
  8. Don't forget to clean crumbs from under appliances daily.


Step 2: Hit'em Where They Hide !

Treatment for roaches involves more than using Raid. Use what the Pros use and you will get results.

  1. Use Demon WP and spray the outside perimeter. (2 feet out and 2 feet up) Also spray around the windows, doors, eaves and any cracks or crevices that lead into the structure. You have to stop them from getting in.
  2. Use Borid (Boric Acid) and put it into the nooks and crannies where roaches hide. They is easily accomplished by looking for small cracks and crevices along counters, behind and under cabinets, etc. For a "SUPER" cockroach treatment, remove all the switch plates and plumbing covers throughout the structure and puff Borid into the switches or into the walls. This usually requires about 2 lbs of Borid for an average size structure. Sub areas under houses and attics may also need a light dusting of Borid. Put the boric acid in a clean, dry duster such as the Centrobulb mini hand duster. Using a flashlight, inspect cracks in areas where you have spied roaches. Remember to check cracks between walls and floors, behind sinks and under appliances. Where you can see them hiding, puff the boric acid into the cracks.
  3. Place Maxforce roach gel in small pea size placements in cabinets, along counters, etc.. Maxforce roach gel can also be placed under and behind appliances, furniture etc. Maxforce Roach Bait Stations can be used for TV's, computers and sensitive electronic equipment.
  4. Use an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) such as Gencor or Point Source in really heavy roach infestations. If you are seeing more than 4 or 5 roaches on a regular basis, then using a growth regulator will give you much faster control. IGR's stop baby cockroaches from maturing into fertile adults, thereby interrupting the egg laying process.


Step 3: Monitor, Monitor, Monitor !

If you don't know where they are, how can you kill all of them ?

  1. Use roach monitors (sticky traps) such as the Victor Professional Roach Monitor or the BioCare Cockroach Trap and place them wherever you think roaches are. By using monitors, you can easily find "pockets" of roach hiding places, you may even find them in places you never thought of. Use lots of monitors and check them every 2 weeks or until the problem is gone. Monitors do not contain any pesticides, are safe and allow for a professional style inspection. 3 or more monitors per room is what is recommended. Place them under furniture, cabinets, behind appliances, inside dressers, nightstands, be creative.
  2. When you find roaches in a monitor check to see if they are baby roaches, or adults. Finding baby roaches could lead you closer to the hiding spot. Check everything within a 10 foot radius of the trap. If roaches are found, treat as described in step 2. Put out a new monitor and check it again in a couple of weeks.


Step 4: Dry Up Their Water Supply

Like humans, roaches can go much longer without food than without water. To keep roaches away, keep them thirsty.

  1. Fix dripping faucets.
  2. Pour some Lysol into toilets at night to make the water undrinkable.
  3. Keep sink plugs over drains.
  4. Don't over water house plants. Soggy soil is a delicious cockroach cocktail.


Step 5: Keep Them Out !

To prevent roaches from migrating from your neighbor's place to yours, seal up common roach entryways.

  1. Fill holes where pipes disappear into walls with Stuffit copper wool or caulk.
  2. Cracks around windows, eaves, doors, etc, need to be caulked.
  3. Doors need to have door sweeps so that roaches can't crawl under them.
  4. On slab foundations, seal the weep holes with Stuffit copper wool.
  5. On pier and beam foundations, make sure that all the vents are screened or sealed.

Cockroach control usually requires an ongoing treatment program. Many pest control companies will require a monthly or quarterly treatment to guarantee that roaches will not come back. Why not setup your own program ? Like the old saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in this case that saying is 100% correct ! It only takes a few ounces of the right pesticides placed into strategic places like those listed above every few months to get good cockroach control. Don't expect to treat only 1 time and the cockroaches to be gone forever. Mark your calendar and treat your home or structure at least on a quarterly basis. If you do, you will get good control, you will be happy with the results, and most of all, you will have saved yourself several hundred dollars in the process !

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