RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Toxic bug bombs that leave a cloud of chemicals lingering in the air are far from the only way to rid a home of a serious cockroach problem. In fact, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, the most effective way to kill cockroaches is to swap the bug bomb for a magnifying glass.
THE DETAILS: The researchers looked at roach-control methods used by three North Carolina school districts. One district used a professional exterminator, who sprayed organophosphate or pyrethroid chemicals (the same synthetic chemicals used in Raid and other commercial insect sprays) to baseboards once a month, and occasionally used baits in cracks and crevices, but didn’t inspect the property to see where the bugs were likely to be living (or if there were any to spray for).
The second district left the chemical spraying up to the janitorial staff, who applied boric acid and bait gels along baseboards, but called in professionals on an as-needed basis. The professionals used pyrethroids as well as insect growth regulators (chemicals that don’t kill an insect but disrupt its breeding process).
The third district used integrated pest management (IPM) tactics, which use chemicals only as a last resort. Specially trained technicians visited schools monthly and performed visual inspections for pests, documenting conditions that may have been conducive to roaches (for instance, food on countertops, or leaky pipes) and asked the school to fix those problems. They used sticky traps to monitor cockroach activity between visits. If eliminating a roach-friendly condition didn’t solve the problem, they would use bait traps, or spray chemicals into cracks and crevices where insects were found to be living (rather than on surfaces with which children could come into contact).
To see how well each system worked, researchers set out cockroach traps in cafeterias, kitchens, bathrooms, and teachers’ lounges, and performed visual inspections at each location. At the IPM schools, the researchers’ 41 cockroach traps didn’t catch a single insect, while the 80 traps set out at the conventionally treated schools caught an average of 82 insects per trap per week.
WHAT IT MEANS: If chemical-free pest control methods can work that effectively in schools with all those kids, crumbs, and cockroach-friendly hiding places, just imagine how well they’ll work in your home. IPM does require a bit more effort, but as this study found, what you pay in time and effort, you get back in a bug-free home.
Put down the can of toxic spray and try these IPM methods to keep roaches and other pesky bugs away this summer: