Many Illinois residents assume that cockroaches are a “southern problem” and that they don’t need to worry about these pests. But while the massive, two-inch cockroaches seen in Florida may not be common in Illinois, there are certainly roaches around. The German cockroach, in particular, tends to take up residence in homes during the winter since it cannot survive out in the cold. American cockroach infestations are not unheard of in Illinois, either.
All cockroaches need to survive is warmth, moisture, and food. They’re not too picky, but they are most attracted to food scraps. For this reason, most cockroach infestations begin in the kitchen. Here are some steps you can take to ensure these pests don’t move into your kitchen this winter.
Keep Food in Sealed Containers
The cardboard boxes and thin plastic bags that items like cereal and rice come in are no match for cockroaches. They can chew right through the packages and have a heyday before you notice anything’s amiss. Invest in a few thick plastic or glass storage containers. Make sure the lids seal tightly. Then, get into the habit of transferring your dry goods to these containers as soon as you get them home from the store.
Clean Out the Backs of Cupboards
Even in the cleanest of homes, you’ll generally find some crumbs in the backs of cupboards. You might look past them, but the roaches will not. Remove everything from the cupboard, and give the shelves a good wipe-down. Let the surfaces dry before you put items back inside. Then, about one a week, use the wand attachment on your vacuum to suck up any fallen crumbs in your cupboards.
Sweep the Floor Nightly
Little bits of food can end up on the floor quite easily. A little dust goes flying when you open the flour, your child drops a piece of cracker, or a grain of rice tumbles out when you’re pouring it into your storage container. To make sure these little bits get cleaned up quickly, make a habit of sweeping your kitchen floor each night.
After you sweep, empty the broom pan into your trash can. But make sure your trash can is one that seals tightly, or else the food scraps may still attract roaches. The metal garbage cans with lids that open when you step on a pedal tend to work well.
Take Out the Trash More Often
Even if you have a good trash can, it’s important not to let your trash sit too long. The scent of veggie peels or meat scraps that have been sitting in the trash for a few days is attractive to roaches. If you can take the trash outside daily, that’s great. If you can only manage to do this every two or three days, that’s still pretty good. Store your outdoor trash as far away from your home as possible so that if it attracts any type of insects, they don’t end up in your home.
Check Over Used Appliances Before Bringing Them Inside
A common way roaches make their way into homes is by hitching a ride on used appliances. For instance, if you buy a stove from someone who has roaches, there may be some roaches or roach eggs hiding out in the stove. Once inside, they may scavenge around and find enough little crumbs to live and reproduce. Before you know it, you have a full-blown infestation.
The only way to remove this risk completely is to avoid buying used appliances. However, if you do plan on bringing a used appliance into your home, follow these tips to help ensure roaches don’t come in with it:
- Only buy used appliances from a home or facility that appears clean and well-kept. If you see any roaches in the home or facility, say “no thank you” and shop elsewhere.
- Before you bring the appliance into your home, set it in your driveway and give it a thorough wipe-down. This should remove any roaches or roach eggs.
- Clean your kitchen thoroughly before bringing in the new appliance. This way, if a stray roach does make it inside, it will have a harder time finding a food source and will hopefully die before it gets a chance to reproduce.
Especially at this time of year when roaches are scrambling to find indoor homes before they freeze, it’s usually best to avoid picking up appliances from the side of the road.
Fix Any Leaking Faucets
Moisture makes a kitchen more appealing to roaches. If your faucet leaks, you’re practically giving them an ideal water source. Many faucet leaks occur because the washers and grommets wear out. If you’re handy, you can try replacing these washers yourself and see if that stops the leak. If not, you’re probably best off replacing the entire faucet.
Don’t Leave Dirty Dishes
Wash your dishes promptly instead of leaving them to sit around. If you have a dishwasher, run it every night—even if you don’t have a full load. Dishwashers are not typically sealed that well, and desperate roaches could easily find their way in to feed on food scraps.
If you do notice any signs of cockroaches, such as the following, contact an exterminator sooner rather than later:
- Material that looks like coffee grounds around cabinets and counters (these are roach feces)
- Ovular brown bugs with large back legs, which seem to be more active at night
- Holes appearing in bags and boxes of food
An infestation can quickly get out of hand, so the sooner you call in the professionals, the better. Luckily, if you follow the tips above carefully, you can be pretty sure roaches will avoid your kitchen.