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The information presented on this page was originally released on August 23, 2007. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.

Large roaches find way inside for water

MSU Extension Service

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Summer's heat tends to drive people indoors, and it can do the same for some unwanted pests.

Mississippi is home to three kinds of large roaches that reach 1-2 inches long as adults. Blake Layton, entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the American, Smoky Brown and Brown cockroaches are all found in the state and look very similar. These winged insects can fly, but they usually don't unless provoked.

“The large roaches like to live near people, but they don't have to live inside,” Layton said. “They commonly breed around the outside of homes and commercial buildings and invade buildings from these outdoor breeding sites.”

Layton said dry weather and cold temperatures tend to drive them indoors. With this summer's lack of rain, many people are finding these pests inside.

“When it's dry, they come inside seeking a moist refuge,” Layton said.

Roaches live a long time by insect standards, taking a year or more to develop from egg to adult, and then living as adults for many months. They feed on a wide range of organic matter. Food sources for cockroaches include human food, plant material, pet food, pet feces, garbage and dead insects.

“They prefer to live in warm, moist, protected areas such as hollow trees, sewer lines, storm drains, masonry voids, crawl spaces, eaves of buildings, garages, storage sheds, attics, under siding and in similar places,” Layton said. “Populations are generally higher in more southern areas, but high populations can occur anywhere suitable habitat is found.”

The best way to keep large roaches from invading a house is to make it difficult for them to enter. Make sure doors and windows seal tightly, and seal cracks and crevices around holes for plumbing and wiring. Keep ventilation openings properly screened and repaired, and take other measures to make the home bug-tight.

Sanitation is another key element in the fight against roaches.

“Large roaches feed on naturally occurring organic matter, but they thrive if they have access to man-made organic matter like dirty garbage cans, pet food and pet feces,” Layton said. “When scientists grow large roaches for research purposes, they often feed them dry dog food. This explains why there are often infestations around areas where pets are fed.”

Seal pet food in bug-tight containers, and do not allow uneaten food to sit out overnight. Crumbs left in pizza boxes are food for roaches, as are many contents of garbage bags. Layton said garbage should be placed in sealable bags and disposed of frequently. Keep garbage cans away from the house, and clean them periodically to remove food residues. Do not store empty drink cans or bottles inside the house because residues inside can feed roaches.

Another way to minimize roach populations around houses is to eliminate accumulations of plant debris and stored items that can house roaches. Do not store boxes or firewood near a house, and keep shrubbery pruned and vines off the sides of buildings.

“Cleaning up debris and clutter is a key first step in attempting to control a heavy infestation of large roaches,” Layton said.

Specially formulated granular baits are available for outdoor roach control or in non-living areas indoors. Insecticide sprays can help in certain situations to provide short-term control and some residual control. Read and follow all label instructions when using any insecticide.

Bobby Pugh, division supervisor with Redd Pest Solutions in Gulfport, said roaches are a year-round problem.

“The best way to keep roaches under control is with a routine spraying program with the most important area being the perimeter of the home,” Pugh said. “This can prevent pests from invading the home.”

He said homeowners have many products available for use against pests, but a professional pest-control operator can provide a treatment plan for multiple pest problems that may occur throughout the year.

Released: August 23, 2007
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