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Expert Opinion

Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

By Dr. Stuart Mitchell

In today’s, and even more so, tomorrow’s challenging pest management industry, you must be in a constant process of education. The key to the edification process is applying what you know once you know it. Of course this all begins with the question “Do you know what you don’t know?”

Do you know what you don’t know about cockroaches? Of the approximately 4500 species of cockroaches, there are only about 30 species that are associated with human structures. Only 4 species are infamous pests. Two species, German cockroach (B. germanica) and American cockroach (P. americana) predominate indoor environments and detriment public health.

German cockroach, at 0.60 inches long, is about half the size of American cockroach at 1.2 inches long, but German cockroaches are perhaps two times as pestiferous. Other notables include Asian cockroach (B. asahinai) and Oriental cockroach (B orientalis).

Amongst the fittest insects on the planet, some cockroach species are capable of survival for long periods. Emerging from egg cases (oothecae), young cockroaches resemble adults, but lack developed reproductive organs. Generally, cockroaches have a 1 to 2 year lifespan (depending upon the species). The initial half of the lifespan is spent undergoing a series of molts in which the exoskeleton is shed to produce a new and larger one until adulthood is reached.

Cockroaches have a preference for warm and moist habitats with abundant protection from predators (refugia) and rich carbohydrate-based food sources. Cockroaches must feel close bodily contact within environmental surroundings and are therefore most comfortable with small cracks and crevices (thigmotactic).

Omnivorous scavengers, cockroaches will consume starches and fats (glue, soap, and refuse). Adult cockroach excrement and cast exoskeletons provide sustenance for nymph stages. When food sources become scarce, cockroach cannibalism soon results.

German cockroach prefers inhabited structural interiors (endophilic), exploiting high-quality food resources (food preparation systems and garbage processing areas). American cockroach prefers dark-humid areas (boiler rooms, basements, sewers, and drains). By extended habitat, American cockroach populations are established outdoors in association with decaying vegetation and clutter (including tree holes and voids).

Plausibly, cockroach pressures can be reduced or potentially eliminated via structural pest-proofing practices coupled with habitat modification. Supportive environmental factors can be corrected or removed.

  • Manage vegetation via landscape planning and removal of excess growth (prune branches and plantings that contact the building).
  • Maintain gutters and keep roof systems serviceable.
  • Exclude means of ingress (seal exterior holes with appropriate construction materials and caulk exterior cracks).
  • Screen and weatherproof attic vents and service windows.
  • Utilize customized door seal technology (brushes and strips) on all service and overhead garage doors as well as weatherproofing seals.
  • Exclude sources of food and water (food stored and rotated within sealed containers and correct available water conditions or removal of excess RH, condensation, leaks, and moisture intrusion due to delayed maintenance).
  • Routine refuse disposal (a supply of properly maintained dumpsters that exceed the refuse flow from the facility-positioned at proper distance from the structure).
  • Manage debris (relocate firewood, lumber, lumber products, and other sources that can accumulate).
  • Maintain clutter-free basements, crawl spaces, and sub-structures.
  • Maintain a Master Cleaning Schedule (MCS) that defines cleaning types, cleaning locations, cleaning frequency, cleaning assigned duties, cleaning follow-up, etc.).

Now more than ever the pest management industry offers unprecedented and structured educational opportunities in the form of academics (facilitated, correspondence, and on-line), on-line training (webinars, lectures, and lessons), apps, print media (training manuals, trade journals, and newsletters), and many others. Education, Direct To You, so that you know what you don’t know!

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