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Pests

Cockroaches

​​Cockroaches are insects that can be found in any building. It's not true that cockroaches are only found in dirty and poorly-kept buildings. However, poor sanitation/housekeeping is a major factor that leads to infestation. Cockroaches are often brought into a non-infested building by food, by furniture, or clothing that's infested with live cockroaches and their eggs.

In Alberta, the most common cockroach found in homes, apartments, restaurants, and grocery stores is the German cockroach. The German cockroach is usually about 1.3 to 1.6 cm (0.5 to 0.6 inches) long. During the day, cockroaches hide in groups behind baseboards, in cracks and crevices in the kitchen, and under stoves, fridges, and dishwashers.

Cockroaches multiply very quickly. A mature female cockroach creates an “egg case” that holds about 50 eggs. The female cockroach leaves the case in a place that isn’t likely to be disturbed (crevices, briefcases, etc.). The eggs take about 1 month to hatch. Cockroaches become adults in 2 to 4 months. They live about 6 months. Cockroaches die if they go without food or water for 2 weeks.

Cockroaches contaminate food with their feces (bowel movement/stool). Their feces have an oily liquid in it that smells very bad. It can make the whole room smell. Even utensils that seem to be clean can smell.

What problems can they cause?

Many people are allergic to an allergen found in cockroach feces. They can make asthma worse. The feces, with the allergens in it, can stick to the dust and become airborne, which mean you may breathe them in. The allergens can also be eaten if the food's contaminated.

Cockroaches can also contaminate food with bacteria that can cause food poisoning or diarrhea. These bacteria include Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and coliform.

How do I prevent an infestation at home?

  • Closely examine all food, used appliances, furniture, etc. that you bring into your house. Destroy any egg capsules you see.
  • Caulk all cracks and crevices.
  • Keep the kitchen clean.
  • Make sure garbage is put in a container that has a tight lid.
  • Don’t keep pet food in the feeding dish overnight.

How do I treat an infestation?

Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a licensed pest control provider, the best way to control or get rid of cockroaches is to use several methods at the same time. This is called integrated pest management:

  1. Make it harder for them to find water, food, and hide.
  2. Use cold or heat treatments for small appliances that are infested.
  3. Use sticky traps.
  4. Use desiccants (diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel) or boric acid.
  5. Use liquid or aerosol insecticidal sprays (e.g., pyrethrin, permethrin, etc.).

Before using an insecticide, read the label and follow the directions and safety precautions.

When to Hire a Professional

If the problem is bad, it’s best to hire a certified pest control professional. Make sure they have a chemical application certificate. You can ask to see it or check with Alberta Environment and Parks by calling 1-877-944-0303.

The professional should be able to tell you what’s causing the pest problem and come up with a plan to get rid of the pest. Tell the professional if you have children or pets. Several visits may be needed and it may take days or even weeks if the pest problem is really bad.

If you rent, your landlord must, by law, keep the home pest-free and hire a professional as needed. If your landlord doesn’t correct the problem, call Health Link at 811 to register a complaint for a health inspector.

To learn more, call your nearest Environmental Health office.

Current as of: March 15, 2018

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services