Getting Rid of Cockroaches

Nobody likes a cockroach ... except another cockroach, and another and another. That’s the trouble: our houses and apartments have everything cockroaches need to survive and multiply quickly. Cockroaches are so good at breeding that if one pregnant female gets into your home, she could be the cause of 100,000 new cockroaches within a year under ideal conditions!

Anybody, no matter how neat and clean they keep their home, can have cockroaches. The reason is simple. It’s very easy for our homes to meet the basic needs of cockroaches for food, water, warmth and dark hiding places to live and breed in.

You should not feel ashamed about getting cockroaches in your home. They can arrive in a grocery bag or a case of beverages you just brought home from the store. Or they may enter your apartment from the one next door to you, since apartment buildings have lots of "highways" for cockroaches to travel on. For example, they may crawl along heating ducts or water pipes. And they can fit into tiny cracks and gaps in floors, walls and doorways.

You can get cock-roaches so easily ... but getting rid of them can seem so hard. This booklet is about controlling cockroaches in ways ( that are the least toxic and most effective in the long term.

Protecting Your Health

Health Concerns about Cockroaches

Cockroaches may be able to transmit disease to people. But it’s not known for sure whether they actually do. For example, cockroaches can carry disease-causing bacteria that are the same ones which cause food poisoning. Cockroaches have these bacteria because they eat almost anything they find, such as food that has gone bad. They can also leave bacteria behind as they crawl around your kitchen or bathroom.

If you are allergic to house dust you may also be allergic to cockroaches. Bits and pieces of cockroach bodies, as well as their feces (which look like specks of black pepper) can become part of the dust in your home. Allergic reactions to cockroaches happen more often to people who have asthma. Children’s health especially can be affected as asthma is more common in them than adults.

If you or other family members have allergy symptoms — such as stuffy nose, sneezing, headaches, watery eyes and shortness of breath — and your home also has cockroaches, you may be allergic to cockroaches. About one in 1 0 people is allergic to cockroaches, and about 50 per cent of people with asthma are allergic to cockroaches.

Health Concerns About Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals used to kill cockroaches and other insects. Some pesticides can be harmful to your health and to the environment, particularly if not used as directed on the label.

One way to try to get rid of cockroaches is to hire a licensed exterminator to spray your house or apartment with a pesticide. However, cockroaches can build up a resistance to a particular chemical over time. More frequent application may be needed to do the job, or a different, more toxic pesticide may be needed to do the job.

Even if one pesticide continues to kill the insects, you may still have a problem. Unless you get rid of the things that cockroaches need to survive, they will keep coming back and you will need to spray again and again.

Using pesticide sprays indoors can be a health risk. The chemicals can remain inside your home for a long time, especially if the windows are closed. Because we spend a lot of time indoors it’s easy to come in contact with these pesticides.

When pesticides are used outside, they break down more easily because sunlj.ght and bacteria in the soil help to turn them into less harmful substances. If pesticide spray drifts over play areas, young children can be exposed to the chemical because they put their hands and their toys into their mouths so often. Children also tend to be more sensitive than adults to the effects of toxic chemicals.

Pesticides are intended to kill pests. They are poisonous and can be harmful to other living things. The immediate health effects on people who are accidentally over-exposed to pesticides may include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • stomach cramps
  • tiredness
  • nausea
  • skin and eye irritation

Some pesticides used to control cockroaches, such as diazinon or propoxur, can affect the human nervous system. The effect of exposure to small amounts of pesticide over a longer time, such as several years or a lifetime, is not fully understood. For example, many people are concerned about whether pesticides may help cancer to develop. Pesticides are tested for their cancer-causing ability, but scientists don’t yet have all the answers.

Preferred Pest Control Products in an IPM Program

Pest control products commonly used in an 1PM program, such as baits and powders, take a bit longer to kill cockroaches than pesticide sprays. They take a few days instead of a few hours. But the sum total of the 1PM way of controlling cockroaches is much more effective long term control and avoidance of a never-ending cycle of pesticide spraying.

BAITS count on cockroaches to move toward the poison and take it in, so that you don’t need to spread it around your home. A bait consists of a cockroach food mixed with a chemical that kills bugs. Bait is available as a paste or gel that can be applied to cracks and crevices, just like caulking.

BAIT STATIONS are small feeding stations. They are placed in or near favourite cockroach hiding places. The chemical is inside the bait station, so it is away from people and pets. Bait stations may last for weeks or months before the bait is used up. These products might not be labeled as “bait stations.” If you see a picture on the label of a small container similar to an “ant trap”, you’ll know that it is a bait station.

Don’t confuse a cockroach “bait station” and a “trap.” A trap (used to measure infestation) does not allow cockroaches to exit, but a bait station does (so that cockroaches take the poison home to pass on to other cockroaches.)

"Can I Solve My Cockroach Problem Just by Using Baits? "

That’s a question people often ask. It’s tempting to hope that simply using bait will get rid of cockroaches. But if applying baited paste and using bait stations are the only things that are done, it’s unlikely the problem will go away.

Why? For the same reasons that using only pesticide sprays won’t really work for cockroach control. Unless you get back to the causes of the problem, you won’t get a lasting solution. You need to concentrate on getting rid of the cockroaches’ food, water and shelter. Using a chemical - no matter which one it is - won’t give good results without the other actions we’ve suggested. The only lasting solution is to take all the steps in the 1PM approach to cockroach control.

Another type of pest control product is a powder (also known as a “dust”), such as boric acid powder. The powder is spread in a thin layer under your refrigerator and stove, in dark places behind appliances and cupboards, and into cracks and crevices before caulking is done. As long as the powders are put in out-of-the-way places, they can stay there safely for weeks or months and kill cockroaches for a long time.

Anyone who applies a pesticide powder should always wear a dust mask (available at hardware stores or safety supply stores). Boric aid powder is less harmful to people than some of the other products available. But it is not harmless! Make sure you take all the precautions listed on the label.

FAREWELL To Cockroaches

What YOU Need to Do to Prevent Cockroach Problems

Cockroaches can grow to a huge population on what may seem to us like very little food and water. That’s why it’s so important to reduce all possible sources of food and water for cockroaches.

There are lots of “good housekeeping” habits you can practise, whether or not you have a cockroach problem. If cockroaches later move into your home, you’ll be glad you took some steps at prevention. The problem would be far worse if you had done nothing.

Taking preventive steps might seem like a lot of extra work for you and other people in your household. But try not to get discouraged — it really is worth the time now.

Taking action now to reduce food, water and hiding places for cockroaches will save you time and trouble later. And it could save you from possible over exposure to the pesticides that might otherwise be needed.


even if you don’t notice a cockroach problem


especially if you already have cockroaches:

All foods stored in kitchen cupboards should be kept in sealed containers. Put store-bought foods packaged in paper or plastic bags (such as sugar, flour, rice and cookies) in glass jars or plastic containers with tight lids.


After depriving cockroaches of food and water you need to reduce the number of hiding places they need for shelter in your home. Cockroaches like tight, small places. Try to remove as much clutter as you can:

Making Sure Your Home is Well Maintained

In addition to the good habits that you can adopt to get rid of shelter places for cockroaches, your kitchen and bathroom must be in good repair. If you are a tenant, you need to discuss structural improvements with your building manager, superintendent or landlord. These may include:

If you own your home, you can do structural improvements yourself or hire someone to do them. One of the most important things to do is to caulk and seal up the many cracks and crevices in the typical house or apartment. These are the tiny “doorways” that cockroaches use to get into their dark hiding places behind the walls. If they can’t get there, they can’t keep multiplying.

The IPM Five-Step Approach

The IPM approch has five steps to control cockroaches.

The steps are:

  1. Inspect
  2. Monitor
  3. Decide
  4. Control
  5. Evaluate


Inspect your house or apartment closely:

The most common kind of cockroach in Canadian homes is called the German cockroach. The places they like are warm, dark, and moist.

You’re most likely to find them in your kitchen or bathroom. Since cockroaches love darkness, you will see them scurrying for cover when you switch on the light at night. You won’t see them in the daytime unless the cockroach problem in your home is very bad.

If you see cockroaches, be sure to deal with the problem right away. If you are a tenant, tell your superintendent or building manager. Just putting up with cockroaches will not make them go away. In fact, because cockroaches breed so quickly, ignoring them will make it worse.


Monitor to find out how bad the problem is and where it is, by using "glue boards." Glue boards, also called sticky traps, can help you pinpoint problem areas within the kitchen, dining room and bathrooms. They show where most of the cockroaches live. Keep a written record of the results.

There are several kinds of traps available to catch and count cockroaches.

To monitor for roaches, place the traps in several locations where cockroaches visit and leave them in place for two to seven days. Use the same trap locations for all follow-up monitoring.

Where To Place Traps to Find Problem Areas

In the Bathroom

In the kitchen


Decide on the number of cockroaches you can tolerate in your building. For most people, this means no cockroaches. However, if you live in an apartment building, it may mean sometimes seeing a few cockroaches near the garbage collection chutes on your floor, or common waste collection areas.


Control cockroaches by using several control methods at the same time. These include:

Use pesticide sprays only as a last resort for a severe cockroach problem.


Evaluate how successful your cockroach control program has been by repeating Step 2 —Monitor. The number of cockroaches on your sticky traps should be a much lower after the 1PM program than it was before. Ideally, it should be zero. If you still have cockroaches, you need to go back to Step 4.

Controlling Cockroaches the Better, Least-ToXic Way

As you an see, there are now actually two groups of unwelcome guests in your home — cockroaches and pesticides — especially if pesticides are the only control used. If all we do is spray pesticides, we are killing the cockroaches but doing nothing to get at the reasons they are in your home. In that situation, it’s almost guaranteed they will return and your house or apartment will need to be sprayed with pesticides again and again.

When you take some actions to prevent a cockroach problem, it’s easier to get rid of a few of them if they get into your home. And you’ll have much less trouble with cockroaches if you take action as soon as you see one, instead of waiting until you have hundreds.

The best way to get rid of cockroaches is to do these three things:

The IPM Approach

In this book, the approach we describe to controlling cockroaches (or any insect) is called Integrated Pest Management or 1PM.

1PM is the most effective approach because it combines all available cockroach control methods instead of relying only on spraying pesticides.

1PM combines changes in the cockroach’s living space with the careful use of pest control products. The result is elimination, or reduction to a level so low that you won’t even notice.

The Differences Between Traditional Pest Control and IPM
Traditional IPM
Responds to existing pest problems
Applies pesticides routinely
Uses sprays and aerosols
Moderate risk of exposure to
Uses pest control products that tend to be moderately toxic

Prevents pest problems
Applies pesticides only if needed
Uses baits and powders
Low risk of exposure to pesticide

Uses pest control products that tend to have low toxicity

WHO Does WHAT in IPM in an Apartment Building?

The checklist below shows the five steps undertaken by a pest control company in an ideal 1PM program for cockroach control in a multi-unit building. The checklist shows who is most responsible for each step. As you can see, a successful 1PM program is a partnership between the residents, the landlord and the pest control company.

  Steps in 1PM Program   Resident Landlord Pest Control Company  

See what problem you have

Use traps to see where the problem is

Aim for total elimination of cockroaches

  • make structural improvements such as caulking
  • improve housekeepingg such as removing food and water sources, and hiding places
  • use the least-toxic pest control products

Use traps to count cockroaches and to measure your success

Using the Least—toxic Pest Control Products

By now, you (and your building manager or landlord, if you’re a tenant) have done all you can to cut off food, water and hiding places for cockroaches. But you still need to take some action against the cockroaches themselves. If you own your own house, you can do most of this work yourself. If you are a tenant, most of the work will be done by a pest control company hired by your landlord.

There are several kinds of pest control products that are much better and less toxic than the traditional sprays. They come in various forms, such as baits, bait stations, gels and powders. With these kinds of products, your exposure to pesticides is lower than if you use sprays. So will health risks. Always avoid skin contact with pastes, gels or powders containing pesticides.

About Illegal Pesticides

Many variety and discount stores are selling two pesticide products illegally imported from China. The federal government has issued a warning to the public against buying these unregistered products. The most common is a chalk used to control cockroaches. The chalk, which looks like the white chalk sticks used on blackboards, is labeled MIRACULOUS INSECTICIDE CHALK and may be a health hazard. It has been found to contain a pesticide called deltamethrin. It may also be contaminated with lead.

Another product that is finding its way into stores is called COCKROACH SWEEPER and contains an illegal pesticide called mirex.


Some Common Pest Control Products

Many different pest control products are permitted for sale in Canada. A few of the preferred products useful in an 1PM program are listed. These products are less toxic than most pesticide sprays. Furthermore, unlike sprays, they come in a form (i.e. bait stations, gel, paste, powder) that prevents them from spreading throughout your home into places where your family — particularly children and pets — may come in contact with them.

Examples of Preferred Pest Control Products
(Used in IPM Program)

Type   Pesticide Name   Active Ingredient

Bait Stations   Impact®   Hydramethylnon
    Mr. Roach Killer®   Boric acid
Baits   Blue Diamond® Paste   Boric acid
    MaxForce® Gel   Hydramethylnon
Dusts   BoraDust®   Boric acid
    Insectigone® 100 % Natural
Cockroach & Ant Killer
  Diatomaceous earth
(silicon dioxide)

When Pesticide Spraying Is Needed

The actions we have already described may be all that’s needed to solve your cockroach problem. But sometimes, when the problem is severe, even all the steps we went through earlier aren’t enough. That’s when there may be a need for cautious spraying with one of the traditional pesticides. Two common pesticides used for cockroach control are diazinon and propoxur.

If you are a homeowner, there are some types of pesticide sprays you can use yourself. But whether you’re a homeowner or tenant, it’s more likely that a licensed pest control company will be brought in to do the job. Usually, the company applies a liquid form of the pesticide to very specific places in your home, such as in cracks and crevices behind kitchen appliances and long baseboards.

All pesticide containers are labeled with important directions and safety precautions. Be sure that you -- or the pest control company you hire -- follow the directions when applying pesticides.

If your house is going to be sprayed with pesticides, find out from your pest control company which areas are going to be sprayed. If your apartment is going to be sprayed, find out from your landlord which areas are going to be sprayed.

If you are part of an 1PM program, never buy your own can of pesticide spray and use it yourself. If you spray, it will stop the 1PM method from working. 1PM uses baits that attract cockroaches so that they will eat the poison. Sprays do the opposite — they repel cockroaches and make them hide deeper in cracks and crevices until it is safe for them to come out again and breed.

Precautions YOU Need to Take If Your Home or Apartment is Sprayed

Getting Involved

Solving cockroach problems the 1PM way means people need to co operate and work together. It’s a good idea to talk with other tenants (or with your tenant association, if there is one). Find out if they have a cockroach problem too. You can each inspect your own unit to see where and how severe the problem is.

Keeping a personal Record of Cockroach Problems