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HOME MAINTENANCE : How to Keep Cockroaches From Driving You Buggy

March 27, 1993|From Associated Press

The only nice thing about cockroaches is that they eat bedbugs.

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Cockroaches are a relatively primitive form of life, and, as fossil remains show, have changed very little in millions of years.

Roaches range from about one-fourth of an inch to three inches in length and from yellowish to reddish brown to black in color. The tiny German roach--about five-eighths of an inch long and light brown with black stripes--poses a special problem because it's resistant to many pesticides.

Cockroaches have broad, flat bodies that enable them to slither though narrow cracks and crawl along pipes. They can run swiftly on their long, powerful legs. The male cockroach has wings, but not all species can fly. Female roaches have small or no wings.

Roach eggs are enclosed in little satchel-shaped pouches that look like seeds. Each pouch may contain 50 or more eggs, depending on the species.

Roaches come out at night and hide by day. They eat crumbs, stored food, garbage, soiled clothing and the glue in book bindings.

Roaches love damp, warm places. Favorite spots are near steam and water pipes, in walls and baseboards and under floors. They can also be found under sinks, behind stoves, refrigerators, bookcases, wall clocks and window and door frames, under shelf paper, in cupboards and cabinets--especially the upper corners of cabinets--and even in drapery pleats and inside curtain rods.

The first defense against roaches is prevention. Good housekeeping is crucial.

Deny them food, water and shelter. Deprive them of food by storing it in metal, glass or plastic containers. Clean garbage cans regularly and secure their lids. Keep counters, shelves and floors immaculate. Fill cracks and crevices. Fix leaky plumbing.

Wring out and dry sponges and dish towels. Caulk openings around pipes, appliance connections and cabinets. Clean under low furniture and appliances. Don't allow soiled clothing to accumulate unless you keep it in a metal hamper with a tight lid; never store soiled clothing.

Keep trash outside in closed containers. If you notice roach eggs, scrub them away or vacuum them up with the crevice nozzle of your vacuum cleaner and discard the dust bag.

If an infestation does occur, take all these steps:

* Sprinkle boric acid powder, diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel dust into cracks and crevices, wall openings, and especially under appliances, moldings and cupboards.

* After removing all food and utensils, spray suspected hiding places and paths with commercial residual or space roach sprays.

* Line shelves with fresh shelf paper after the spray has dried--usually four hours. Repeat this two to four weeks later, when a new generation will have hatched.

* Effective control can frequently be achieved with bait traps that have hydramethylnon or amidinohydrazone as the active ingredient. Place several bait traps in the kitchen, bath and wherever else roaches congregate. The pests are attracted to the bait, eat some and go off to die.

If an infestation is severe, you may need to call a professional exterminator. In an apartment building, you may be able to keep your roaches under control. However, they will return unless all units and hallways are treated simultaneously, preferably by a professional.

Before using an insecticide, read the precaution on the label and use it only as directed. Don't let insecticide drift onto food, eating and cooking utensils or food preparation surfaces. Don't use powdered insecticide where children or pets can touch it and store it in a cool, dry place out of their reach.

Be careful not to inhale insecticide or get it on your skin or in your eyes. Wash your hands and face with soap and water after use. Don't smoke when handling pesticides. Never spray near an open flame or furnace. Don't touch surfaces where residual spray has been used.

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