How to deal with cockroaches

CARTOON_COCKROACH_DANCE_cropI’ve been thinking about this post for almost a year, ever since some construction workers knocked down a wall in my kitchen to plug a slow leak in the pipes in the building. Unfortunately, this operation invited thousands of cockroaches (who were depending on that leak) into my kitchen, a discovery I made late one night while attempting to forage for a snack. I was astonished to turn on the light and discover an immense army of roaches coming out of that hole in the wall towards my garbage can.

One of my biggest problems had been the employment of a pre-baited glue roach trap that contained roach hormones. Apparently, those hormones were strong enough to draw every roach in my building into my kitchen, which left me with a really difficult problem, one that took months to get under control, mostly because I have a resistance to using chemical sprays, as I don’t want to poison myself and consider chemical pollution one of the biggest health issues today.

Formerly, I’d relied on periodic applications of boric acid to hold back the roaches, but that was not effective against such a serious infestation. I read online you could turn any glass jar into a roach motel by baiting it and putting petroleum jelly around the inner lip. Some sites recommend rubber banding a paper towel around the jar to help the roaches climb into their new prison cell. I built many of these contraptions, using various baits and various size jars, and even threw in some live roaches to see if they could escape. Most could not, but the one who just took off full speed and ran like hell actually did succeed in climbing his way out out a greased jar, proving the jar concept was not effective at holding the most committed roaches captive.

cockroach-name-changeOf course, I also tried some standard roach traps and the gel baits that have replaced a lot of the spraying of poison, at least here in New York City, where the roaches reign supreme in pre-war apartments below the 7th floor.

But just as I gave away my secret in digitizing records in a previous blog (weight your records and not the stylus), I now give away my secrets to defeating the roach army.

1) Roaches need food and water. Typically, they nest only 10 to 15 feet from both sources. If you clean your floor and counters (or paint them white) you can easily find the roach nests. They live in colonies and drop little bits of roach shit wherever they go. Follow their black dots to the nest. I discovered one of these nests was inside an old unused speaker cabinet, so I removed the cabinet from my apartment and deposited it outside in the garbage, thus eliminating millions of future roaches from my abode. What does this tell you? Put your garbage can on top of an old speaker cabinet. Let the roaches move in and roar! After they are comfortable and having babies, remove the cabinet from the building. Worthless old speakers can have a vital new function.

2) Roaches come and go on a regular schedule, just like you do. They usually have a couple times every day and night when they are active, and the rest of the time they hide and procreate baby roaches like crazy. If you know their feeding times, you can bushwhack them. Put the garbage can into the center of the floor and wait until feeding time is well under way. Then burst into the room and stomp on every roach you see. You may think this task is insurmountable, but you will soon discover the roaches are limited in number and every one you can stomp goes a long way to solving your problem. Use an alarm clock to arrange commando raids on your kitchen every three of four hours. After much stomping, your problem will be greatly diminished.

3) Put a 24-7 light over your sink and/or garbage can, one that uses little electricity, like an LED. Roaches like the dark and get really confused when it’s light all the time. This helps with the periodic surprise attacks as they never know when to expect your presence.

4) Get some basic glue traps and bait them in the center with a sliver of banana. You must place these traps along the path wherever you find those black dots of roach shit. This is the most effective means of controlling roaches I have ever found, and uses zero poison. Glue traps are available on amazon for pennies a piece. But remember, don’t use those pre-baited traps with roach hormones, as they will probably only make your infestation worse.

5) By far the most effective deterrent these days are the new poison gels that remain soft for weeks. Get some at a shop that supplies exterminators for around $12 for a syringe and it will last a year or more. A day after applying you’ll find dead roaches lying on their backs, and out in the open.

Since I’m committed to non-violence I take no joy in stuffing out life forms, but I guess my life as a roach assassin shows that my commitment to non-violence doesn’t extend to certain creatures of the insect world who invade my space. Still, moving that speaker cabinet was certainly the best solution I ever found.

In truth, though, my fight proved futile until I gut-renovated my kitchen, tearing out all the layers of old linoleum floor and tossing my cabinets and sink. Every crack in the floor and walls had to be filled in and all my appliances were junked. Everything that could harbor a roach egg was thrown out. The gutted room was visited by a professional exterminator who applied gels and powders. Two weeks later, after I was assured there were no roaches in the room, I began the task of rebuilding my kitchen anew. Most important, my new garbage cans have lids that lock shut so no roach can get inside. This may be the most important element in discouraging new roaches from arriving as the smell of food or water is what brings them in. Two years later, however, I had another very minor infestation that was easily wiped out in a few days.




Author: Steven Hager

I'm a writer, journalist, filmmaker and event producer.

One thought on “How to deal with cockroaches”

  1. the hormone part reminds me of when, years ago, consumer reports warned that those lights that kill bugs lure 10 times the bugs into a yard and then kill only so many. i loved it when our neighbors had one and attracted all our bugs into their yard.

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