Cockroaches are scavengers. They spend their lifetime foraging for food and water and will happily set up home anywhere that gives them easy access. Cockroaches love eating fermenting organic material. Rotting garbage and faecal matter, both human and animal, are high on their list of preferred foods. As they scurry through sewers and feed on pet stools, they pick up a multitude of potentially lethal bacteria on their legs and bodies. These bacteria include salmonella, staphylococcus, e-coli, streptococcus, helminths, and poliomyelitis virus, amongst others. Cockroaches also love eating food particles and liquid spillages, so household kitchens, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, residential homes, as well as food preparation and storage facilties are their favourite hunting grounds. As soon as they locate a good source of food, cockroaches will vomit and defecate on it to send signals to other cockroaches that food is readily available, and to encourage the mating instinct. The consequences can be very serious if you inadvertently eat food or use kitchen items that cockroaches have come into contact with during their search for food and water. Food poisoning, gastroenteritis, dysentery, worms, and typhoid are just some of the causes of ingesting bacteria borne by cockroaches. Their secretions also aggravate asthma. The sick, elderly, and young are particularly vulnerable to these diseases.
In Malta there are two species of cockroach that are conspicuously menacing to human wellbeing: the American Cockroach or Wirdiena Ħamra (periplaneta americana), and the German Cockroach or Kokroċċ tal-Faxx (blattella germanica). Both species reproduce prolifically and just one fertilised female cockroach can generate thousands of cockroaches within a matter of months. One can prevent the cockroach population in homes and workplaces by following the instruction points below:
- Never leave food exposed – not even in your kitchen cupboards; use tight-sealing plastic containers
- Cockroaches easily go through paper and cardboard, so transfer food from packets to plastic containers
- Do not leave pet food and water out after dark
- Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink, particularly overnight; if you cannot do the dishes until the next day, let them soak in a strong solution of water and detergent
- Clean underneath, around, and behind your cupboards and appliances, particularly where food grease and particles accumulate
- Clean your kitchen thoroughly every day and vacuum food areas regularly to eliminate particles of food
- Keep your garbage tightly sealed in plastic bags, keep your rubbish bin closed, and dispose of garbage on a daily basis
- Repair leaky taps or plumbing that might provide fresh water sources
- Seal up any openings around plumbing, both in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, which might provide entry from service shafts
- Seal up any gaps between splashbacks and tiling in kitchens and bathrooms where cockroaches can nest; likewise, seal up cracks and crevices in your walls, particularly those at basement level
- Windows, particularly those looking into services shafts are a major entry point for cockroaches, so consider investing in window screens - even if you live on the top floor of an apartment block
- Hungry cockroaches will eat the starch in bookbindings, the glue on the backs of envelopes and stamps, and other similar material, so keep a look out for signs of cockroach and act immediately
While following these best practices will prevent a cockroach population, it will not eradicate or control an existing one. DIY products such as cockroach dusts and sprays can be useful but they are not a complete solution since cockroaches quickly learn to avoid treated areas.
To eradicate a cockroach infestation, one needs the help of a professional pest control specialist who can undertake targeted eradication judiciously and safely. A certified pest control company will also make use of qualified technicians who understand the environment of the pest species that has invaded your home or business. The benefit of having the specialist knowledge of a professional company means that the pest control carried out is not a hit and miss affair. This knowledge, combined with specialized equipment and biocides used will aid treatment of inaccessible areas typically favored by cockroaches. The use of such professional-strength products and systems will help to eradicate cockroaches from a home or business, and protect one’s family as well as employees and business reputation.