Hone Your Cockroach Inspection Techniques


August 8, 2008

By: Austin Frishman

When pesticide applications were the fundamental foundation of the entire service, it was not necessary to inspect. You applied a residual pesticide, flushed to see whether any would come out and if things got out of hand, scheduled (and charged) for a booster fogging or ULV treatment. You harvested a lot of cockroaches, and then went back to routine spraying.

Hopefully, that is not what you are doing any more. The need for inspections indicates we can always use some fine-tuning. Here are a few tips for you:

1. Look high. American cockroaches, for example, stay right out in the open in basements and attics. They tend to congregate near the upper regions of vertical walls. Just look.
2. Use extended mirrors. Use mirrors to look on top of objects you cannot reach, such as the top of a tall refrigerator. Look up under tables and shelves by angling a mirror in those areas. Also, shine your light on the mirror: It will reflect onto the hidden area where cockroaches often harbor.
3. Wear knee pads and crawl. Get down and way back into hard-to-reach areas.
4. Bang a table or chair. Cockroaches hiding up under the table will not be expecting a thud. Some will fall onto the floor. Lift with your feet together to avoid a hernia.
5. Look for lines. German cockroaches follow lines. Where pillars touch a suspended ceiling is a good example. They use the pillar to come down into commercial kitchens and return back to hide for most of the day.
6. Get the right light. Flashlights are obviously necessary to seek out dark sources, but sometimes you can get too bright of a light. The beam of light is so strong, it can give you a headache reflecting off of the plethora of stainless steel surfaces.
7. Don’t automatically flush. When inspecting, it is not necessary to flush with a pyrethrin-based product. True, it irritates cockroaches, but it also kicks up allergy-producing material that can potentially trigger an asthmatic attack in a residence within minutes after you leave. Many years ago, when New York state mandated we post what pesticide we used, I stopped using a flushing agent for that purpose. A small puff of air from an empty duster will slightly flush cockroaches.
8. Go with the flow. Understanding flow patterns helps you find cockroach harborage areas. Let us assume a cockroach shows up on a dining room table. Start tracing back all the items brought to the table and where they are stored. Examples might include the silverware, tablecloth, wicker bread basket, etc. Besides, it’s kind of cool to be a forensic entomologist and figure how and where it came from!
9. Breathe in deeply. You can pick up the cockroach odor. Different cockroaches smell differently. By waving your hand slightly in front of your face, it increases the air flow and makes detection easier.
10. Search for heat. Cockroaches still exhibit their tropical roots and prefer warm, moist areas. In kitchens, look for compressors and pilot lights. Hot air rises, and the cockroaches may be near the ceiling.
11. Leave the lights off. Enter a room or closet in darkness. Flip on your flashlight and search. If you see cockroaches, then turn on the light and watch them run. They will guide you to where they hide.
12. Catch the early bird. In commercial accounts, find out who the first employee is to arrive every morning. They tend to see cockroaches first because they turn on the lights. It helps to ask for help from anyone who resides in a given room. They spend hours there. If you ask them where they saw cockroaches, though, they may answer “everywhere”! Help pinpoint it by asking them to point out where they last saw the pests.
13. Sticky trap monitors are your best friends. We could have a column just on these tools. They work 24/7 and never complain. They work best on German and Oriental cockroaches, but you will catch other species — just not as readily.
14. Learn from your experiences. Every time you find cockroaches, it goes into your memory bank. This will make you even more competent at the next account. Time on the job is like a good wine: It ages positively, with time providing you with more know-how to inspect.

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