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A Complete Guide to Cockroaches

A Complete Guide to Cockroaches

Sharing your house with cockroaches is a nightmare. Cockroaches are hard shelled insects that resemble beetles. They have a flattened oval body with three pairs of legs. Their long antennae help them identify their surroundings and act as olfactory bulbs. They spent a large amount of time cleaning their antennae.

Some of them also have wings, which they use to escape a dangerous situation. Taking a flight is quite a task for cockroaches. Some species can fly short distances, but many can only glide. Cockroaches generally prefer ground-routes. Cockroaches run about 3 miles/hour, allowing them to get out of sight in seconds. Their various shades of brown and black help them blend into the background and enable them to hide in the dark unnoticed.

Types of Cockroaches

There are over one hundred of types of cockroaches present around the world, but there are four species common in North America.

German Cockroaches

German cockroaches are the most common cockroach in Canada. They love humid areas like bathrooms and kitchen sinks. They tend to avoid bright areas and come out of their hiding spots for only about 25% of their lives. They grow up to half an inch long and are a light brown shade.  

Brown-Banded Cockroaches

This species of cockroach prefers warmer temperatures of around 26⁰C (80⁰F) or higher. They can nest many small spaces like behind a picture frame or under an appliance. Their full-grown body length is about half an inch. The males look golden brown while the females are a darker shade of brown. Their shells have yellow bands, noticeably distinguishing them from other species. The males have better-developed wings and can fly.        

Oriental Cockroaches

Oriental cockroaches are also water lovers. They live in moist and dark places like a laundry room, basement, bathroom, etc. They do not travel much and are usually found around the lower floors of a building. Their musty odor helps homeowners quickly identify their quickly. They are either dark brown or black with a body length of about one inch.

American Cockroaches

American cockroaches love food more than any other species. They have long wings and are reddish-brown in colour. They are usually found in cooking areas of restaurants, canteens, groceries, etc.   Even at these places, they prefer warm and moist areas like basements. However, they prefer temperatures below 29⁰C (85⁰F) and tend to fly away from overly warm areas. They are rarely seen in residential sections of buildings.  

Pennsylvania Wood Cockroaches

Pennsylvania wood cockroaches do not live indoors and are usually found in the woods, although they can enter your house via a wood stack or wooden furniture. Despite their name, they are not only in Pennsylvania but in other parts of the country too. Their full-grown body length is up to one inch, and they feature a dark brown shell.

What Brings Cockroaches into Your House?

Like many creatures, cockroaches have a few basic needs like food, water, and shelter. Once they spot these things, they quickly inhabit the space. Dirty dishes in the sink, food crumbs, or exposed pet food are open invitations to these critters. Many cockroaches are attracted to moist and wet areas and would love to infest these areas. Hence, leakages and sinks are of great interest to them. Once a cockroach is comfortable in your house, it will lay eggs. This approach elevates their population rapidly. It doesn't take much to have a cockroach infestation in your house.

What do Cockroaches Eat?

Cockroaches have a large and varied diet; they can eat almost anything. Not only do they eat human and animal food but also every type of waste material. However, they are most attracted to sweets. Some of their everyday food items are:

  • Sweets
  • Grains
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Grease
  • Pet food
  • Hair
  • Toothpaste
  • Glue
  • Fingernails
  • Dead insects

This ability makes roaches highly adaptable and great survivors. Moreover, they can live without food for a whole month. One good thing about cockroaches is that they do not bite humans or pets. But the thought of them creeping around in your house is bad enough for most people.

What are the Impacts of Roaches on Humans?

Even though cockroaches do not bite humans, they have a significant impact on people.

1. Anxiety

According to research, cockroaches are among the most appalling insects. The thought of these creatures living in bathrooms and sewers, eating feces and dead insects, make them repulsive to nearly everyone. This repugnance encourages people to get rid of them right away.

2. Musty Odor

The stink glands in the cockroaches create a musty, strong odor to drive the predators away. The females also produce quite stronger smells to attract males during the mating season.  This smell is unpleasant to people.

3. Property Damage

Cockroaches cause significant property damage. If they do not find other food sources, they will eat your books, papers, glues, etc. They contaminate everything they step on due to their dirty habitats. They leave stains on every surface they touch.

4. Diseases

Eating dirty and contaminated food accumulates human pathogens, like Salmonella in the roaches. They transfer this bacterium to human food and other surfaces that they walk over, causing diseases like diarrhea, cholera, and dysentery in humans.  

5. Allergies

Humans are prone to allergies and asthma with cockroaches around. The proteins making up various parts of their body triggers allergies in humans. In some cases, it also contributes to increased asthma attacks.

How Long Do Cockroaches Live?

The duration of a cockroach's lifespan depends upon the species and their living conditions. A female American cockroach can live for about fifteen months while the males survive for only six months. German cockroaches live for less than six months. Brown-banded cockroaches also have a lifespan of about six months. Oriental cockroaches have the shortest lifespan with females living for around 1-6 months and males around 3 ½ -5 months.

How to Prevent Cockroaches

Preventing cockroaches from entering your house is very tricky. Due to their swift movement and multiple potential entry points, you have to be very careful and quick to act. There are certain measures that you can follow to keep them away from your premises and control an infestation.

  • Avoid leaving your pet food open overnight.   
  • Fix damaged pipes and faucets.
  • Keep your place tidy and clutter-free.
  • Do not leave the trash open in or near your house.
  • Try not to leave dirty dishes in the sink and wash them right away.
  • Do not leave the food out in the open.
  • Store your food in air-tight containers and keep them in the refrigerator.
  • Only eat food at the dining table and wipe it after the meal.  
  • Vacuum the floor properly to ensure no food particles are left. Give extra attention to areas underneath the appliances.   
  • Wipe your kitchen counters after using them to clean them of any spills.  
  • Apply caulk in holes and cracks on the exterior wall of your house.
  • Remove standing water.
  • Frequently clean your kitchen cabinets.
  • Avoid condensation by insulating pipes.

Ways to Keep Cockroaches Away

Home Remedies

. These effective DIYs have proven to be effect for many years. Since they are low-cost, they can be easily tried before seeking professional treatment.

1. Baking Soda and Sugar

Baking soda works well to eliminate cockroaches. Mix equal amounts of baking soda and sugar in a bowl as bait. It does not instantly kill cockroaches but mixes with the acid in the cockroach's stomach and slowly kills it. Sprinkle this mixture in active cockroach spots around the house. The sugar portion of the mixture will attract the insect, and the baking soda will kill it. Before applying this remedy in bulk, we would recommend that you test small amount.

2. Boric Acid

Boric acid or Borax is the best pest control agent. It is affordable and easily accessible.  You can sprinkle this toxic powder over all the potential hideouts and the perimeters of your house. Make sure to use only a small amount of this chemical and prevent water touching it as water makes it ineffective. The cockroaches ingest this acid when they walk over it and will die quickly.

Warning: Boric acid is hazardous for humans and pets. Be very careful using boric acid if you have kids or pets in the house. Make sure to only use it in places they cannot access.

Another way to use boric acid is to making small dough balls. For this, you will need equal amounts of boric acid and flour mixed with olive oil to form a dough. Take small portions of the dough and make tiny balls. Place these balls near all entry points and other areas where you notice the most activity. You can repeat the process if you do not get satisfactory results.

The great thing about boric acid is that it can be used with a variety of food products like bananas, peanut butter, or honey to form bait.

3. Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth Powder

Diatomaceous earth is a powdered chemical that cuts open the insect's body. This leads to immediate death. For better results, use food-grade diatomaceous earth powder. It is more effective and quicker than other versions of the compound. Sprinkle the  powder around your premises, especially near all the entry points and hideouts.  

4. Fabric Spray

This option is a very tricky home remedy. In a spray bottle, mix 3/4th cup fabric softener with ½ cup of water. Shake the spray bottle well before use. You cannot just spray the mixture around the house and wait for it to work. Instead, you must spray it on the roaches whenever you see them. Since cockroaches breathe through their skin, the thick mixture will suffocate them.

5. Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are a great way to repel cockroaches. They might not be able to completely rid your house of cockroaches, but they are significantly effective in reducing their population. Take a few bay leaves and crush them to make a powder. You can use mortar and pestle, the back of a knife, or even your hands to crush the leaves. Sprinkle the powder in the areas where you found cockroaches.

Since bay leaves are safe for humans and pets, you can easily place them around your house.      

6. Lemon

Due to the acidic nature of lemon, it can be used as a roach repellant. There are several ways to use lemon for this purpose.

  • Method 1:

Fill a spray bottle with fresh lemon juice and spray in the corners of the house, in all the possible hideouts. 

  • Method 2:

Take some lemon peels and grind them . Sprinkle the powder around the house to repel the roaches.

  • Method 3:

Mix one part fresh of bottled lemon juice with ½ part water. The mixture should smell strongly of lemon. Take a piece of cloth, dip it in the mixture and use it to wipe all the surfaces around the house. It will not only repel the cockroaches but also clean your house and leave a fresh, lemon scent.

7. Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are great bait for cockroaches. Take a jar and fill a quarter of it with finely grounded coffee powder. Fill the pot up halfway with water. Apply Vaseline or petroleum jelly on the interior of the pot. You can prepare several such jars and place them in areas where roaches are found the most active. They climb the pot for coffee, but they will drown in the water. The petroleum jelly applied on the sides of the jar will prevent them from crawling out. However, cockroaches can survive up to 30 minutes inside the water so avoid emptying the jar too soon. Cockroaches can survive under water for up to an hour

For effective results, check the jars regularly and remove dead roaches from them. You can reuse the same pot for about three to four days and renew it after that. Continue the process for a few weeks until you do not have roaches in the pot.

8. The Great Mixture

The three ingredients, onion, cayenne pepper, and garlic, together make a great mixture to repel the cockroaches. Grind a clove of garlic with a medium-sized onion and mix them with a cup of water in a bowl. Add one tablespoon of pepper into the bowl of mixture and mix them well. You can wipe your kitchen counters, cabinets, floor, cupboards and every other place where you suspect to find the insect. You can also convert the mixture into a spray bottle and spray it around all such places. Make sure to keep the mixture away from your eyes as it can irritate them.

9. Mint Spray

Cockroaches avoid the smell of mint. To make a mint spray, you will need fresh mint leaves and hot water. Add mint leaves to hot water and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spritz it on the infested areas.

10. Catnip Leaves

The oil found in catnip is an amazing cockroach repellent. You can use catnip leaves or their oil to make a mixture water and spray it around your house. This approach will drive them away permanently.

You can also use other essential oils like peppermint and lemongrass for the purpose. Take ten drops of any essential oil and mix them in one and a half or two glasses of water. Spray the mixture around in the house to drive these critters away.

11. Cedar

Cedar balls and chips are also effective in driving cockroaches out of your house. They are easily available in supermarkets and online stores. Simply place the balls or chips in an area the cockroaches frequent. They will be effective until you remove them.  

Conventional Methods

To get results instantly, you can pair your home remedies with conventional methods. These are easiest, most affordable, and effective methods.

  • Entry points

Spotting out the entry points needs to be the first step in treating every kind of infestation. These uninvited guests do not need your approval to enter your house.

Cockroaches appear rigid, but due to their flexible exoskeletons, they can reduce their body structures to exceptionally thin proportions. This ability enables them to easily pass through small cracks and crevices. You must seal every possible crack on your walls. Locating every crack in and out of the house might not be practical, but you must take care of the ones you see. You can use caulk or steel wool to fill these spaces.    

  • Fix All Leakages

Cockroaches cannot survive for long without water. That is why they prefer to live in moist areas, such as basements, drains, and under the sink. If you frequently spot these critters near water sources like your bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room, it indicates leakages or stagnant water. Look out for any leakages and fix them. Keep every corner of your house dry and do not let water stand anywhere. Avoid overwatering indoor plants or keeping water in cups etc. All this will cut out the roach's water supply, forcing them to leave your house.    

  • Locate and Eliminate Hideouts

Eliminating cockroach hideouts is key to eliminating a cockroach infestation. Since cockroaches enter your house for food and water, locating their food sources will help you find their hideouts. They mostly live near food sources. Wooden furniture also serves as good nesting points for these creatures. Eliminating hideouts requires cleaning the house, sealing the gaps, fixing your leakages, etc. To get rid of cockroaches from your furniture, vacuum every piece of your furniture thoroughly.

You can also cool treat your furniture by placing smaller, removable parts in the refrigerator or moving them out in cold weather below -6⁰C (20⁰ F).


Cockroaches are opportunists and cam eat almost everything they find. For such creatures, left-over food particles on the floors and kitchen counters are the perfect buffet. You have to keep your house pristine, especially your kitchen and the dining area. Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.

Glue Strips/ Glue Traps  

Glue strips or traps are efficient in identifying high-trafficked regions around the house. They are readily available in stores and online. These traps contain sticky material that catches cockroaches the moment they step on the trap. You can set the bait and wait for the trap to do the rest. The traps that capture the most roaches will identify the area they frequent.   

Since an infestation does means a large amount of roaches, you'll need to set at least 5-6 traps to catch a considerable number of them.  

Gel Bait

Gel baits come in syringes or tubes and are applied in dabs at the cockroaches' hiding spots and nesting areas. They are quite easy to use and clean. Based on the level of infestation, you can increase or decrease the amount of product used. Since these baits kill cockroaches instantly, clean the areas frequently. 

Remember, cockroaches do not hesitate in eating their fallen brothers. If you leave the dead cockroaches around, it will only increase the infestation. You will have to reapply the bait every three days to prevent it from drying out.

Bait Station

Bait stations can be a long-term solution if you follow all the preventive measures carefully. These stations feature plastic houses containing a poisonous bait. The cockroaches die a few minutes after eating the bait. The dead cockroaches become a meal for other cockroaches who too ingest the poison and die. This chain reaction continues, decreasing their population to almost zero. For quick results place as many bait stations as you can around the house.

Professional Help

If nothing else works or if you need instant results, then call a professional service. They are experienced and have the right knowledge and tools for the task.

Dedicated professionals always want to give the best results, and you will know it through their old customers. Check their website and read feedback from their customers. Make sure to have guaranteed service so that you can contact them again if roaches reappear after treatment.

The exterminators usually visit your house before the treatment to  determine the right service, its time frame, number of sessions required, etc. They check the severity of the infestation and look for the hideouts. They look for all the possible causes of the outbreak and advise you on the best preventative measures.


Cockroach populations can grow dramatically. They can lay up to 16-50 eggs at a time. So, don't wait for before taking action against them. Using the home remedies or conventional treatments paired with preventative measures will be most effective. 

You need to make sure your house is spotless and clear of all food crumbs. For the best results, you can call an exterminator as they make sure to eliminate the roach population along with the unhatched eggs.