Of all the pests that people hate the most, the cockroach may hold the crown. We hate ‘em at home. We hate ‘em when we’re on vacation and see ‘em in our hotel room or crawling into our margarita to take a swim.
But where in the U.S. are cockroach infestations large and in charge? You might be surprised.
A new study from Pest Gnome ranked the 25 Roachiest Cities in America, comparing cities based on the share of homes with signs of cockroaches, seasons of extreme heat (in which roaches thrive, and accessibility to pest control pros.
Houston, you have a problem
On top of having some of the worst air pollution in the country, Houston is killing it in the cockroach category, too. Its share of homes with signs of cockroaches reigns supreme at 37% and also has the lowest number of pest control workers per 10,000 households.
Pest Gnome’s researchers said the two most common types of cockroaches in Houston are the huge, brown, and flying American cockroach -- aka palmetto bug -- and the kitchen, pantry, and the sink-dwelling German cockroach.
But, if a roach isn’t an Astros or Rockets fan, they can go 220 miles west to San Antonio and live it up there. The home of the Alamo is second on the roachiest list with 28% of the homes having signs of cockroaches.
Rounding out the top five are Tampa, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Despite the fact that cockroaches can’t survive any temperature under 45 degrees, the problems that northern cities have are mostly cockroaches as houseguests. Minneapolis has big roach problems, and so does Detroit, Rochester, Chicago, and Boston.
However, unlike many of the roach’y places in the south, there are more pest control workers available in those northern climes to take homeowners out of their misery.
Defending yourself against roaches
Roaches are a double-edged sword. Not only are they a nuisance — they also pose health risks and can spread diseases. But, many consumers confuse roaches with bed bugs -- a whole other problem that people are causing. ConsumerAffairs roach warrior Kathryn Parkman says that before you start any treatment, confirm that you’re actually dealing with cockroaches.
“They’re typically brown or black, can range anywhere from 0.07 inches to 3 inches long and have six legs and two antennae. Some species have wings, although not all are good flyers,” she noted.
“Cockroaches are nocturnal creatures, so if you spot one during the day, it could be a sign of infestation. Other signs include droppings that resemble ground coffee or black pepper, an oily or musty odor and oval-shaped egg cases.”
So, if you find an actual cockroach, what do you do? Well, it’s not to reach for a can of spray, it’s not run to Lowe’s and buy a fogger or go to Amazon and buy some electronic roach-ridder, say the experts that Pest Gnome consulted.
“Most sprays are repellent and the roaches avoid them. Baits are almost always the better option — they are safer and more efficient,” said William H. Kern, Jr., in the University of Florida’s Entomology and Nematology Department and one of Pest Gnome's experts.
And if you don't have roaches, Parkman says you can keep things that way by just doing a few simple things.
Seal the deal: For homeowners, the main thing is to seal up any entry points: gaps in the floor, holes in walls around gas meters, electrical outlets or plumbing and doors leading outside. Use silicone caulk to seal the insides of cabinets, windows and anywhere else they might slip through.
Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to prevent roaches if you live in an apartment. It's hard to keep out your neighbor's roaches, even with a sweep under the front door and screen in the windows.
Pick up the crumbs: Don't leave food around, clean your floors and countertops, take your trash out frequently (twice or more daily) and plug your sinks when not in use.
Boric acid: Apply a generous amount of boric acid along window tracks and frames and doors, especially if they lead outside. Put it behind toilets and under sinks. Also, remove your light switch and outlet covers and apply a generous amount behind. Repeat monthly in key areas for long-term prevention.
Keep it up: Whether you hire someone or do it yourself, regular pest control is a highly effective preventative measure to keep roaches out of your home.
If you want to go the pest control route, ConsumerAffairs pest control company guide has verified customer reviews and tips for hiring a professional. More than 40,000 ConsumerAffairs users have offered their opinion about those pest control companies.
What they give their thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs to can give you some added objectivity before you pick a pest control service..