I was sitting watching TV the other night and what did I see but an aircraft carrier cruising across my floor! No, wait; it is just one of those large cockroaches. Have you had a similar experience?
With the recent rains in the Houston area, many insects’ habitats have been disturbed and you may see some around your home as they try to get out of the wet conditions. One you will commonly see is the American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana).
|American cockroach. photo by Bart Drees|
Cockroaches have flattened bodies and can crawl through spaces as little as 1/8 inch. Their elongated, spiny legs allow them to move quickly across the floor. I have had to make several attempts when trying to step on one because of their ability to move fast, they can be very elusive. Because they are most active in the dark, you usually see them find their way into your home in the evening hours because of their increased activity at this time.
The American cockroach (also known as waterbugs or palmetto bugs) is the largest cockroach in Texas, can grow up to 1½ to 2 inches long and are usually found outdoors and in nonfood areas of homes. Both the adult male and the female can fly. Which is very disturbing when this large insect is seen flying around your home. Adults are reddish brown and are one of the most common cockroaches in sewer systems.
How do we go about making sure this insect does not find its way into our home where it can carry off our prized possessions (just kidding folks!). First, DO NOT go for the aerosol can of bug spray (or in some cases hair spray, cabinet cleaner, or spray deodorant, yes, you know who you are!!!) and chase it around the house. Swatting it or stepping on it is the most effective way of removal. Then pick it up (I know “ugh!”) in a paper towel or tissue and toss in the trash can.
There are things you can do to reduce the chance that his insect will even find its way into your home. The main thing is removing things from around the home that may serve as a great nesting location for this insect. Look for dark, moist areas close to decaying organic food sources.
Cockroaches can live in compost piles, ground cover plants, hollow trees, mulch, old stumps, palm fronds, woodpiles, sewer manholes, and underground water meters. We can’t do much about, sewer manholes, and underground water meters, but we can reduce the movement of the insects from these locations close to our homes by reducing the possible nesting areas around the home.
What can be done?
- Move potted plants away from the house
- Do not rest items up against the house, store them appropriately
- Move woodpiles, mulch bags to the back of the lot
- Do not mulch up to the house, and remove unused bags of mulch from beside the house
- Repair holes in screens
- Plug weep holes in brick homes with copper mesh (a copper mesh wash pad works well)
- Repair gaps around doors and check threshold seals under doors
- Make sure that roof soffits are screened
- Check for gaps around windows and window seals, wall boards and repair/caulk
If all of the above is done and you still see this insect in your home. Place sticky traps in various places around the home to see where the insect is the most abundant. Bait stations are available for large cockroaches. Place the stations against walls, especially around doors and other suspected entry points as identified by the sticky trap.
As an addition, an insecticide spray can also help manage outdoor cockroaches or treat them in garages and home utility areas. A good general ready-to -use insecticide can be purchased from a local retail outlet to spray around the house (Usually 3 foot up the exterior wall and 4 foot out from the wall). Please follow label directions when using any pesticide. Do not misuse. Spray suspected cockroach nesting sights and entry points such as building perimeters, doors, soffits, and water boxes. In garages and utility rooms, spray the room edges and places that are unlikely to be contacted by children or pets. I prefer the use of an insecticide spray but a granular insecticide labeled for outdoor insect control may also be used to place a barrier around your home.
An excellent publication published by my counterpart, Wizzie Brown, in Travis County addresses cockroaches and can be found at this link: Cockroach Biology and Management
Here is a lengthy video on the cockroach showing an American Cockroach, uploaded by backyardbugs to YouTube.