Tell cockroaches to hit the road

It may take new residents some time to think of your facility as home, and ensuring that their space is comfortable and the staff is friendly goes a long way in helping them make the transition. A cockroach problem is one sure way to make residents feel unwelcome, but with regular inspections—and a proactive sanitation and facility maintenance program—you can help keep roaches from crawling in.

Cockroaches are extremely hardy and are adaptable to many environments. In fact, they have existed for more than 300 million years. German cockroaches, a species regularly found indoors throughout the United States, can produce 48 offspring in 20 to 25 days, so quick action is integral to preventing an infestation from getting out of hand.

Even though your dumpster may be away from your main building, the foul odors can attract pests and encourage them to go inside looking for more. Keep dumpster lids closed and work with your waste management company to clean it regularly.

Your facility likely provides cockroaches with food, water, shelter, and optimal temperatures—all they need to survive. Preventing them from accessing these elements is the first step to keep cockroaches from becoming your newest residents. Work with your pest management professional to incorporate the following sanitation and facility maintenance tips into your pest management program. Keep it clean. Keep cockroaches hungry and thirsty (and away from your facility):

  • Vacuum, sweep, and mop regularly. Cockroaches will eat almost anything including glue and dust, and it doesn’t take much—just one raisin can feed 300 cockroaches for a day. Regular floor cleaning removes the debris that attracts them.
  • Inspect resident rooms and bathrooms regularly. Clean any spills and fix any leaks that may provide a viable water source for cockroaches. These pests can live for two months without food, but they need a regular water source for survival. Eliminate their water source and you’ll decrease their chances of sticking around.
  • Roaches can arrive on incoming shipments. Inspect deliveries thoroughly for any signs of pests or droppings before you accept the shipment.
  • Cockroaches prefer to have all sides of their bodies touching a surface—making corrugated cardboard boxes an ideal hiding spot. The glue holding the box together also is a ready food source. Discard boxes when shipments come in, and don’t let them pile up next to your building.
  • Remove trash regularly from resident rooms, dining rooms, and common areas. Keep dumpsters as far from the building as possible, and work with your waste management company to regularly clean and rotate your dumpster.

In addition to taking out the trash, clean trash cans regularly to help reduce the foul odors that attract pests.

Use facility maintenance to set up roadblocks to deter cockroaches from entering the building:

  • Seal cracks and crevices in your building’s exterior and throughout the interior. Cockroaches can enter through openings as small as 1/16″. Because they prefer to have their bodies touching a surface, sealing these spaces also helps eliminate some of their hiding spots.
  • Trim any landscaping so that it does not touch the building; this will discourage roaches from coming too close and finding their way inside.
  • Add weather stripping to the bottoms and sides of all doors and windows so cockroaches can’t squeeze inside.

Food waste and debris can get caught in sink and floor drains. Remove the drain cover and clean regularly to remove the buildup that causes foul odors.

If you think you have an infestation, work with your pest management professional to determine the appropriate treatment options. One common treatment and monitoring device is using small glue boards with a sticky, nontoxic surface to trap pests. Place glue boards in areas throughout your facility that cockroaches might frequent, such as under sinks and appliances. Trapping alone is usually insufficient to manage the infestation. Discuss the possibility of using nonvolatile baits with your pest management professional. Available in the form of a gel or a plastic “puck” that encloses the bait, nonvolatile baits don’t become airborne, allowing for targeted treatment.

Involve your staff in the pest management process, and make sure they understand their roles in your sanitation and facility maintenance efforts. Encourage staff to monitor for cockroaches and document any sightings to share with your pest management professional. Through regular preventive techniques and effective treatment plans when needed, you can help ensure your residents—and not cockroaches—feel welcome and at home.

Ron Harrison, PhD, Entomologist, is the Director of Training at the Orkin Training Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail or visit for more information.

Topics: Articles , Facility management , Operations