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The Roach Patrol - Getting Rid of Roaches Using IPM

By Jim LaRue and Stu Greenberg

In Cleveland, OH several years ago, asthma issues were joined with lead-hazard-control work into a program called Lead+Asthma. In that new program, roaches, their body parts, and feces were an important focus because, as it turns out, many children with asthma are allergic to "roach dust," and its presence increases the frequency and severity of their breathing problems.


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To attack the roaches, we employed Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is now a state-of-the-art strategy in the pest-control industry. We learned several things:

  1. Traditional spraying, fogging, or bombing with insecticides is not effective - it kills some roaches, but it drives others into parts of houses they had never visited before and, over time, the roaches acquire an immunity to the poison. Hence, the need for regular spraying. The toxicity of the sprays is also a very important issue, especially around small children crawling on floors. IPM does not use spraying or other broadcast applications of insecticides.
  2. IPM starts by putting out sticky traps to locate where the roaches are active and what routes they travel. This allows for a targeted attack, rather than the broadcast approach of sprays, foggers, and bombs.  
  3. Very tiny amounts of low-toxicity, low-volatility pesticides (in the form of gel baits with an attractant) are applied in areas identified by the sticky-trap survey. A roach eats the bait, goes back to the harborage and dies. Then, other roaches eat the dead roach, and its feces, and they die. In a few weeks, there is virtually a total elimination of the infestation.    
  4. Application of an insect growth regulator (which interferes with roach reproduction) provides long-term prevention.
  5. Where roaches are visible, or their hiding places are accessible, HEPA vacuuming (combined with flushing them out of hiding with hot air from a hair dryer) is an effective technique. A HEPA-filtered vacuum is necessary because we don't want to exhaust the allergenic roach dust back into the room's air.
  6. We found that IPM work should be done several weeks before any other repair or remodeling work is done in the house. Otherwise, the disturbances associated with renovation or repair can drive the roaches out of sight until all the work is done - then they reappear.
  7. Although we have had tremendous success in getting rid of the roaches themselves - even in houses where the problem had been intractable for years - that is not the end of the story. Getting rid of the remaining roach allergen in the household dust has been troublesome. Not even thorough cleaning will consistently reduce dust/allergen concentrations to below levels that can trigger attacks.


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The Roach Patrol - Getting Rid of Roaches Using IPM:  Created on November 20th, 2009.  Last Modified on November 20th, 2009


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