First published May 2008, updated July 2011
The sight of a cockroach would have my mother calling the exterminators post-haste (or more accurately, demanding my father to). In fact, I don’t even remember seeing a cockroach in the house we lived in for over a decade, although I’m sure they were there – just scared to death of my mother.
She saw them as a sign of an unclean house – which of course isn’t necessarily correct. I’m sure she also had no idea that what the exterminators were spraying back in those days probably contributed to her premature death at the age of 50.
I’m certainly not a fan of cockroaches, but they don’t stir up such strong reactions in me. There are also many species of cockroaches of which only a few cause problems inside the home. I’ve come across some harmless wood roaches out in the bush that were nearly as large as the palm of my hand and they play an important role in breaking down organic waste. Out of some 4,500 species of cockroach, only a handful are considered pests.
Cockroaches inside the home can spread disease and they are a sign that there is food they can access close by, so it’s best to deal with them. Sometimes if no real food is available, they’ll even resort to eating particle board, a common item in many homes. The fact that they can eat this stuff, which often has formaldehyde in it is testimony to their somewhat indestructible nature.
While heavy duty chemicals are an option, they should be seen as a last resort. Some of the many chemical compounds used specifically for cockroaches and their impact on the environment include:
Indoxocarb – developed by Dupont, indoxocarb is toxic to mammals, birds, fish, and aquatic invertebrates. It has a half life ranging from 3 to 693 days.
Hydramethylnon – highly to very highly toxic to fish in laboratory studies and has a half-life of 10 to 11 days in an aquatic environment
Fipronil – highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates. Toxic to bees. Half-life of 20 to 200+ days.
Environmentally friendly cockroach control
As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; so first, threat reduction:
– Clean up thoroughly after food preparation and don’t leave used dishes out overnight
– Wash your pet’s food bowl as soon as possible after feeding
– Reduce shelter for cockroaches
– Plug up points of entry from outside using sealants or mesh
– Get rid of materials brought in from outside that may harbor cockroach eggs as soon as possible; particularly where those items have come from food sources; e.g. supermarkets
– Dry out damp areas inside your house such as under sinks – something as simple as baking soda can assist with this.
If you’ve got ’em, it’s probably not wise to try and co-exist peacefully with cockroaches as they’ll soon take over. Also, the presence of cockroaches can spark asthma attacks in sufferers.
– Combine 1 part borax, 2 parts flour and 1/2 part icing sugar, then add water and mix into a dough. Place in areas where cockroaches frequent, but out of reach of pets and children.
– A small container of water with a teaspoon of oil can attract cockroaches. They’ll climb in and be unable to get out and will drown (eventually)
– A variation on the above – take a small jar and spread oil around the inside of it, place bait in the jar such as a small piece of sweet fruit; set it upright in roach territory – again, they’ll be able to get in, but not out.
– Sprinkle borax powder where roaches are active. It will collect on their bodies, be licked off and then kill them. Again, keep out of reach of pets and children.
– A Green Living Tips reader suggested the following – “shallow trays of icing sugar mixed with plaster of paris makes a really good cockroach killer – they eat it and it sets in their stomachs.. far better than the organophosphate cockroach traps.”
– Sticky flypaper type traps can be a good non-toxic alternative to any chemicals
Do you have any environmentally friendly strategies for dealing with cockroaches? Please add them below!