Cockroaches have been around for millions of years and can live for weeks without food or water.
BI Answers: What’s the worst way to kill a cockroach?
Cockroaches are notoriously difficult to eliminate. These suckers can keep chugging for up to a week without their head, thrive for a month without food, and even withstand a nuclear fallout.
It’s not just that cockroaches look disgusting; the pests can also spread different kinds of bacteria, carry parasitic worms, and transmit salmonella. Their decomposing bodies can also trigger allergic reactions.
When you see one these grotesque critters scooting across the kitchen floor, what should your plan of action be? We’ve recently heard a rumour that squishing a cockroach is a bad idea because it could spread the insect’s eggs around, making more baby cockroaches.
“The crushing in itself doesn’t really spread eggs,” said Louis Sorkin, a scientist in the entomology department at the American Museum of Natural History. That’s because the fertilised eggs aren’t likely to survive being smashed by your foot, according to Chad Gore, an entomologist and technical director for the Pennsylvania Pest Management Association.
There is a concern that squashing roaches will bring out others to feed on the corpses since roaches do eat dead roaches. However, this form of cannibalism can be used to a homeowner’s advantage if pesticides are used, said Sorkin, since the poison will be transferred from one insect to the next.
“The worst thing,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), “is to step on a roach and hope you solve the problem.” Where there’s one cockroach, there are almost certainly many more hiding in walls and other nooks and crannies.
Cockroaches don’t “travel in onesies and twosies,” said Henriksen. And the longer you let cockroaches live in your home, the greater the infestation can become. Anywhere from 900 to hundreds of thousands of cockroaches can invade urban homes, said Henriksen.
It may seem like obvious advice, but Henriksen said the best way to control a cockroach problem is not to let them in in the first place. That means removing anything that the insects are going to find attractive — food, water, and warmth. Fix leaky pipes under your sink or the bathroom, sweep up crumbs, and do your dishes. It’s also important to seal cracks and crevices through which cockroaches can march into your home.
Even if you keep your home spick-and-span, cockroaches still happen. They can be carried into the house in boxes and grocery bags. Once you have a cockroach, the best advice is to contact a pest professional.
From an average joe’s perspective, Gore said, the worst method for winning a war on cockroaches is to use total release aerosols that can be purchased by anyone.
“It doesn’t take a lot of training or know-how to activate and release all the contents,” Gore said. “That’s bad, because the material doesn’t get to where cockroaches are and leads to unnecessary insecticide exposure.”
As for other do-it-yourself options and homemade remedies, “some may work and some are dangerous,” said Henriksen.
This post is part of a continuing series that answers all of your “why” questions related to science. Have your own question? Email [email protected] with the subject line “Q&A”; tweet your question to @BI_Science; or post to our Facebook page.
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