It doesn’t take a genius to notice that cockroaches usually make their raids on pantries, countertops and kitchen appliances when evening falls. They can get into houses in a variety of ways -- food packages, used furniture, appliances, suitcases and more -- and once there, often make homes in the overlooked corners and crevices of your home.
Cockroaches are one of the most numerous groups of insects in the world, found almost everywhere and comprising some 4,500 different species. The American or palmetto cockroach is the most common one in the United States, but German, brownbanded and Oriental cockroaches are also common. They breed quickly, and as omnivorous scavengers, can subsist on a wide variety of food sources. They are difficult to kill and can even live for a long time without their heads.
Because cockroaches dislike light, they disappear during the daytime to dark places, including the undersides of appliances like stoves and refrigerators, underneath sinks or other installations, near plumbing, inside light switches and behind wall paneling or doorjambs. They also hide in the insides of bookcases or furniture, the folds of drapes or other fabrics, in piles of detritus like old newspapers, paper bags or pet food bags, and in among brooms or mops. Their hiding places are nearly endless, provided they are dark and usually undisturbed.
Cockroaches emerge at night to feed on whatever they can find in your house. Leftover food, dirty counter or appliance surfaces, pet food, crumbs on the floor or compost bowls all provide ample feeding grounds for roaches. They even eat the glue in book bindings, though without moisture they won’t last more than a few weeks. Unfortunately, their close contact with human food and other objects can transmit bacteria and disease because they also come into contact with human and animal feces.
The first step toward eliminating cockroaches is to get rid of their daytime hiding places. Clean out all cupboards, eliminate heaps of detritus or trash, clean underneath appliances, and remove all sources of potential food from commonly dark, undisturbed areas. Remember that they prefer moist hiding places, so take especial care under sinks, near water heaters or in bathrooms and laundry rooms to clean effectively and remove all potential food, such as pet kibble. Place traps near potential hiding places to determine where most of the infestation is located, then seal up cracks, fix leaks, make repairs and otherwise limit their access to refuge.
Sarah Moore has been a writer, editor and blogger since 2006. She holds a master's degree in journalism.