Cockroaches are among the most common insect pests and like to eat many of the same foods we do. They’re especially troublesome if found wherever food is prepared or served, as they may transfer disease-causing organisms.
The most common types of cockroaches in Georgia are the American cockroach, German cockroach, oriental cockroach and smoky brown cockroach. German cockroaches spend their lives indoors. American, oriental, and smoky brown cockroaches live mostly outdoors but may move indoors in search of food or water. Cockroaches can infest homes when brought in with groceries or boxes, and, once established, can readily move within structures such as from apartment to apartment.
Cockroaches are not usually the main cause of a disease, but like houseflies, they may play a supplementary role in the spread of some diseases. If a person unknowingly consumes food contaminated by cockroaches, it can make them very ill. In total, cockroaches are known to spread 33 kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella species, six types of parasitic worms and seven kinds of human pathogens. E. coli and Salmonella bacteria can cause food poisoning, or gastroenteritis. Common symptoms include belly pain, severe stomach cramps and tenderness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Some people can experience severe diarrhea, which will cause dehydration and may require hospitalization. In rare cases, the bacteria can spread to the blood stream and cause life-threatening infections.
We’ve learned a lot more about the health impacts of cockroaches over the past 25 years. Besides being unsanitary and capable of spreading disease pathogens, there is now solid evidence to show that cockroaches are major contributors to asthma morbidity, especially among children living in infested homes. Indeed, the feces and shed exoskeletons of cockroaches have proved to be among the most important known indoor asthma cause of asthma. Children who grow up in cockroach-infested apartments have higher rates of asthma, more missed school days, and more doctor visits than do their classmates from cockroach-free homes.
Cockroaches are some of the most adaptable creatures on earth, which makes controlling and eliminating a cockroach infestation all the more difficult. Good cleanup and sanitation practices are essential to effective cockroach control. When food or water is scarce, cockroaches must search farther each night to survive.
National Pest Management Association (NPMA) offers homeowners these tips to protect their families and properties from cockroach infestations:
- Keep food sealed and stored properly, particularly in kitchens. Make sure open pet food containers are sealed or in a plastic container.
- Clean kitchens daily, especially dishes, floors and counters where crumbs and trash are more likely to build up.
- Dispose of garbage regularly and store in sealed containers.
- Seal cracks and holes in homes, including entry points for utilities and pipes. Use a good-quality caulk or sealant to close the gaps around sinks and plumbing, in walls, and along kitchen splash guards.
- Keep basements and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
- Vacuum regularly, making sure to also empty the vacuum’s bag or cartridge.
Cockroaches are not simply attracted to messy or cluttered houses, despite what many people think. Cockroaches like to stay warm, and in the upcoming chilly winter months our homes can provide the perfect escape and source of heat, food and water.
Enraged by roaches? Contact a pest professional for assistance with elimination and prevention.