Found a cockroach in your home or business and now your mind is racing? Is your stomach sinking, wondering if there are more?
Don’t panic—you’re in the right place! We’ll help you recognize a roach infestation (if there is one), show you what might be causing it, and help you solve your cockroach problems either way.
A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches
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The Signs of Cockroach Infestation
Few things are more horrifying than finding your cupboards full of cockroach droppings, or a cockroach inside your food.
The unfortunate fact is that finding even one cockroach should have you concerned about an infestation.
Imagine an iceberg, the tip of which is the one roach you’ve seen. The others, the ones you haven’t stumbled onto, are being much more careful. They don’t always reveal themselves directly, but they do leave certain signs.
So what are the signs of cockroach infestation?
1. Seeing a Cockroach! (Dead or Alive.)
Seeing a cockroach is never a good thing, but does it mean you have a roach-infested house? Not necessarily. But the presence of roaches—even a single one—is among the surest signs of roach infestation.
Roaches are wily creatures that are good at hiding, and make it a way of life. Also, cockroaches are nocturnal, doing most of their business when you and your family are asleep.
So just because you haven’t seen a lot of them, it doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of them around.
If it was a dead roach you saw, it doesn’t mean your nightmare is over, either. The real problem could be the living cockroaches that are silently multiplying behind your walls and fixtures.
2. Finding Roach Droppings
Roach droppings might be hiding right under your nose at first (at least until it starts to stink—that’s up next) because it tends to look like certain other things—spilled coffee grounds, ground black pepper, or just everyday smears and smudges.
You’ll find cockroach droppings in clusters where roaches frequently travel, on both horizontal and vertical surfaces, especially those that are hidden.
Here’s the thing: seeing roach feces—as in, there’s enough that you noticed it—is a strong indicator that you’re dealing with an infestation.
3. Cockroach Odors
Roaches produce scents using chemicals in their bodies, called cuticular hydrocarbons, to communicate with each other.
They leave behind these strong, musty odors as they crawl on surfaces and food. Food touched by a roach will smell spoiled or just not-quite-right. That off smell is a warning you should heed!
Dead roaches also release fatty acids that can also stink up a room as more and more roaches… expire.
Will you smell a single cockroach? It’s not likely. But you will smell a roach infested house (and probably never forget it).
4. Finding Egg Cases and Shed Skins
Less common, but a strong sign of cockroach infestation is finding roach egg cases and shed skins from molting.
Called oothecae, the egg cases are purse-shaped and look like tiny beans or grains of rice. When it comes to cockroaches, bad things come in small packages. Because finding egg cases means just one thing—that the roaches in your space are multiplying.
Discovering shed skins is a bad sign too, because roaches gobble up each other’s molted skins, and you’re only finding a fraction of the skins they originally left behind.
What does it mean to be infested?
A roach infestation doesn’t necessarily mean your hygiene is bad. Cockroaches are frustratingly resourceful and need very little to survive. A few crumbs or a leaky faucet in an otherwise clean house is often enough.
However, it does mean that you and your family are at risk for picking up bacteria that cockroaches leave behind. Roaches can also trigger allergic reactions, especially if you have asthma.
How many roaches make up an infestation?
Basically, an infestation begins with anything more than one cockroach. A couple is all it takes to multiply into dozens of roaches in just a few months.
When is one roach really one roach?
If all you’ve seen is one cockroach, there’s a chance that one is all you’re dealing with. And if the roach is big—say, 1 1/2 inches or bigger—it could be an outdoor species that’s less likely to thrive indoors.
The problem is that even if it is all alone, it could be a pregnant female, or the first of a colony that’s living right outside your home. When that happens, even if it is alone, more are likely to follow.
How bad of an infestation is it?
Cockroach infestations can keep growing and growing as long as there’s food and water for them. If you’re seeing cockroaches regularly (especially during the daytime), it could mean that they’re being forced into the open by too many others in their hiding place.
Hint: Using traps or sticky baits can help you track roach’s movement and get a better idea of how many you’re dealing with.
How Do You Get Cockroaches in Your House?
Unfortunately, cockroach infestations happen easily, and usually out of sight. Some types of roaches—like American and Oriental cockroaches—hang out around homes, feeding on mulch and leaf litter. Then they look for ways inside as they search for more food. They can enter your home through anything from a tiny hole in the wall or window screen to a laundry vent or water pipe.
If you live in a city apartment, a cockroach infestation could be completely out of your control. Apartment buildings are like heaven to roaches because they can run from unit to unit through the walls or pipes.
It’s easier than you probably think to bring a brown-banded or German roach problem home in grocery bags or your child’s school backpack. They might also hide in the firewood you carry into your house and scurry away at the first sign of a flame.
How did my space get infested with roaches in the first place?
The first step in stopping an infestation is figuring out how roaches are getting in, and why they’re staying. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I tend to leave leftovers, desserts, dirty pots and pans or pet food out overnight?
- Are there any cracks or crevices in the walls that could let cockroaches in?
- Is my garden or landscaping overgrown or full of fallen leaves and branches?
- Have I sealed all my open pantry items in plastic, glass or metal containers, bug-proofing them?
Cockroaches can sneak in through the smallest of holes. Sometimes, they take advantage of the gaps where pipes or wiring passes through a wall. Other times, flying cockroaches land on the roof and manage to squeeze beneath shingles.
If they come inside and find easy access to food, that’s when an infestation begins.
It’s up to you to remove their food sources so they can’t make themselves comfortable. Let’s break down how to prevent a roach infestation from growing—
How to Get Rid of a Cockroach Infestation
If you think you have a cockroach infested house, it’s time to act. Don’t be afraid! These bugs won’t bite you. Start now to prevent them from spoiling your food, spreading bacteria and spreading themselves in an even worse infestation.
- Identify how roaches are getting in and what’s attracting them.
- Find out where they’re hiding.
- Decide whether you want to use a natural pest control method such as boric acid, or other methods like sprays and roach baits.
- Create a plan for keeping them away, with simple supplies like steel wool and caulk.
Realizing that you may have an infestation can be stressful, and even a little scary. But you’re not alone. Thousands of households and businesses face the same situation every year. In fact, in some cities, more than 40% of households have cockroach problems.
With our tips and your determination, you can eliminate your roach infestation and stop them from ever coming back.
Frequently Asked Questions
Roaches won’t automatically leave a clean house, but cleaning up is a super-effective way to start getting rid of them.
That really depends on the size of the infestation. If you’re only dealing with a few roaches, you can get rid of them in a matter of weeks. A large infestation, on the other hand, can take months to fully eliminate, even with the help of an exterminator.
There are always more cockroaches out there. But a professional exterminator can reapply treatments throughout the year to keep roaches away permanently.
- Why do I have cockroaches in my home? (2016) National Pesticide Information Center. Retrieved from http://npic.orst.edu/faq/roach.html
- Bonnefoy, Xavier et al. (2008) Public Health Significance of Urban Pests. World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/98426/E91435.pdf