Sometimes a description just can't ever capture the sheer horror of a particular event. For example, if I were to describe what it's like to step on a cockroach barefoot on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night - the unexpected crunch as the smooth exoskeleton shatters against your soft skin, the tiny little legs perhaps barely perceptible, antennae quivering, bits of the body stuck to the goo on your heel - anyone with this problem could tell me that it pales in comparison to the real event.
Tired of sharing these stories with your appalled mother? The first couple of reactions might have been amusing to you, but now you're beginning to realize just how gross cockroaches are. The spread of food-borne allergy, the exacerbation of asthma from airborne particles of feces, the sheer ugliness, the fact that hospitals occasionally have to remove one from somebody's ear canal - need any more reasons to get rid of them? Simply killing all of the roaches in your house will only fix your problem temporarily. The only permanent way to get rid of them is by making your living space inhospitable to them. Here's how.
- Identifying a cockroach. Cockroaches generally look like dark brown beetles, though color and size vary among different varieties. It might measure no more than a half-inch, or might be almost 2 inches long. They have six legs, the back two pairs of which angle backward sharply. The back pair of legs stretches backward beyond the tail end of the body. They have long antennae that, from a distance, can sometimes resemble a 4th pair of legs in the very front. Not all of them can fly, even if they have wings - a common example would be the small German cockroach - but, horror of horrors, some can (such as the American cockroach, a.k.a. Palmetto bug or waterbug).
- Get rid of the food and water. If you want to learn how to get rid of roaches naturally, and without insecticides, then this is a good place to start. These insects were probably first drawn to your living space because of the abundance of food they found there. Even trace amounts can attract them, and their food sources are many and diverse. They can even survive on paper (bad news for messy college students). You must make your living space absolutely fastidious in order to solve your cockroach problem.
- Close up garbage cans tightly at all times, and take out the trash frequently. If possible, keep your garbage can outside until the problem subsides.
- Make sure they can't simply enter your house through open windows and doors. If you haven't already, invest in window screens that are free of tears and maintain a tight fit within the window frame.
- Clean all pots, pans and dishes immediately after using them.
- Put all food away in sealable containers or in the fridge.
- Vacuum, mop and otherwise remove any residue and crumbs from your living space.
- Cockroaches can feed on human tissue... got any dirty clothing lying around?
- Get rid of water. They can survive without food for a considerable amount of time, but not without water. You must keep your living space dry at all times. How dry? I've seen a cockroach drink from the rim of a Coke can (sugar + water = cockroach heaven). Keep all liquids sealed off and fix any leaky plumbing (especially in dark areas such as under your sink). Make sure that all pipes run smoothly and don't back up. When you clean, be sure to dry all surfaces upon finishing.
- If your pantries have shelf paper, remove it.
- Get rid of safe havens. Another easy step in pest control is to get rid of the areas they enjoy. You know what I'm talking about - those piles of junk, dirty clothing piles, bags of paper recycling, any place of clutter and refuge from the light of day.
Those are common areas where they can hide within your living space, but if you find them scurrying away from those locations, you have to assume that you have a decent population of them within your walls as well. When you know you have a population living in your walls, you must find and seal all but one of the openings they potentially use. For your one remaining entry, choose one that is beyond reach of small children or pets (if applicable). Remember, anywhere there is a crack in the wall, they can escape. Often the cracks appear around piping or along floorboards. Search your home carefully. Even loose wallpaper can provide a safe haven.
- Use baits. In warmer climates, cockroaches may leave on their own once you render your home inhospitable to them. But they can't tolerate the cold, so all of us in the northern U.S. will have a more difficult time convincing them to jump ship once they've gotten used to the heat we provide them. Once you have cleaned your house thoroughly and sealed off all possible entry-points except one, your task shifts to killing the population that lingers in your walls. Roach bait stations (known as roach motels, or even Baits Motel) often prove effective, as do the bait gels that you can squirt along the crack.
- Test with glue pads. When you no longer see cockroaches around your house, buy some insect sticky pads. Place them near the entry and where you used to commonly see the insects. If you find none trapped on the paper after a few days, very likely you have gotten rid of them!
- Pesticides are dangerous... Cockroaches could survive a nuclear holocaust, so it stands to reason that anything toxic to them would be toxic to us and to our pets. Sprays only eliminate the problem temporarily anyway, and are toxic to life in general. Take the precautionary statements on the containers seriously if you use pesticides. Use all poisons and pesticides as sparingly as possible when killing roaches. Keep your roach motels and baited areas out of reach of small children and animals.
And now, you know how to get rid of cockroaches! Despite some sympathetic pop culture depictions of them, the overwhelming impression is negative. They do, however, serve an important outdoor purpose, disposing of organic waste. They enter our houses as unwelcome guests, but aren't we partially to blame for making our homes enticing to them in the first place? Let's face it - we could've kept the living space a little cleaner. Aren't they the real victims here?...
No, I can't help it - I still hate cockroaches.