So, you’ve found a cockroach in your house. Yuck. If you’re like most people, your first thought is probably, “How did they even make their way in here?”
Then, immediately after: “How the heck do I get rid of these?”
The most important thing to know before answering that question is that you shouldn't waste time or money on products like insecticide sprays or bug bombs. That’s because roaches—particularly the German cockroach, which is most commonly found in homes—have actually become resistant to most sprays on the market, making sprays essentially useless against the nasty critters.
“We’ve killed all the roaches that our sprays can kill, and we’ve selected for those that are genetically resistant to insecticides,” says Dini Miller, Ph.D., professor of urban entomology at Virginia Tech and Urban Pest Management Specialist for the state of Virginia.
Plus, products like bug bombs can actually be really dangerous for you, your family, and your pets. “People often misuse them because they deploy many of these units per home, and that can result in fires, explosions, all kinds of nasty results,” says Coby Schal, Ph.D., who heads the Schal Lab at North Carolina State University, which focuses on the study of cockroaches.
So, what is the best way to kill cockroaches?
One word: baits. Baits are gel formulations that usually come in 30-millimeter syringe tubes. Ultimately, you can either use the bait on its own by dabbing it in the places you’ve spotted cockroaches in your home (typically in places like your kitchen or bathroom), or, if you have a particularly large infestation, you can use the bait to create what Miller calls “bait tacos.”
Bait tacos are essentially traps made by cutting wax paper into 2-inch squares, folding them in half, and putting a line of gel bait down the diagonal line. The wax paper will actually protect the bait from other pesticides that have probably been used in the home over the past 100 years, says Miller, which can actually make the roaches sick, but not kill them off.
What are the best cockroach baits to buy?
There are so many baits on the market today that finding a diverse range of active ingredients won’t be too difficult of a task. The reason these baits are so effective? They have more powerful ingredients in them than, say, a spray.
“Many of these active ingredients cannot be used in any other type of scenario because the EPA, for example, will not allow you to spray the material in the home, but will allow manufacturers to put it in bait,” says Schal. “The baits, by being available to the cockroach but not available to humans, become a very reduced-risk insecticide.”
Here are the top roach baits out there right now to add to your rotation:
The catch: The type of roach you’re dealing with determines how many of these different baits you’ll have to use. If you’re dealing with American, brown-banded, or smoky brown roaches, for example, one type of bait formulation should do the trick.
If you’re dealing with German cockroaches, on the other hand, you’re going to need to rotate the formulations of the baits you’re using with different active ingredients every three months, says Miller. That way, you’re targeting any of the genetic mutations that could be occurring in your cockroach infestation.
Then, make sure you’re following other necessary steps to roach-proof your home. Reducing clutter, taking your trash out regularly, and keeping areas where roaches have access to food and water (again, most commonly your kitchen or bathroom) clean will also go a long way in keeping them away.
What about cockroach eggs?
If you’re spotting cockroach eggs in your home, you’re going to want to target those eggs using a desiccant dust like diatomaceous earth or the silica-based Cimexa, which will dehydrate the eggs and kill them.
If you’ve rotated out all three of the above baits, have targeted any eggs you’re finding in your home, and are still dealing with a cockroach infestation, then it might be time to call in the professionals. A trained applicator can better identify the size of your infestation and how to best eliminate it, which means you can get rid of those unwanted roaches once and for all.
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