What to consider when managing cockroaches at sensitive accounts


November 4, 2016

Sanitation levels are rarely more important than at a sensitive account. Photo: ©Pan Luo

Sanitation levels are rarely more important than at a sensitive account.
Photo: ©Pan Luo

Healthcare facilities like surgical centers, hospitals, nursing homes and clinics have several unique features that require pest management professionals (PMPs) to deploy special strategies and techniques. Because cockroaches are a reservoir of pathogenic bacteria, fungi and protozoa, cockroaches might pose life-threatening impacts to certain patients or senior residents whose immune system is impaired. On the other hand, patients and visitors are expecting sterile conditions in healthcare facilities; therefore, their cockroach tolerance threshold is set for absolute zero.

Schools and childcare facilities are also considered sensitive accounts because children’s immune systems are immature, and the curiosity of toddlers and infants may expose them to direct contact with a pesticide or a pest management device. In addition, parents have high expectations schools and childcare facilities to be pest-free environments. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local school boards also have implemented strict rules and regulations regarding pest management programs over the years.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a core concept that contributes to a successful pest management program.

A thorough inspection always comes as the first step, and serves as the foundation of a quality pest management program. When conducting an interior inspection, special attention should be focused on the drains, sanitation rooms, and electrical or mechanical equipment rooms, which are usually the “blind spots” for the public — but harborages for the American, Oriental and German cockroach species. An exterior inspection on vegetation and landscaping is necessary to assess the risk of American cockroaches, smokey brown cockroaches and some invasive species like Asian and Turkestan cockroaches.

Pest exclusion, including patching the holes on the wall and around conduits and installing pest-proof door sweeps on the exterior doors, is important to achieve the cockroach-free goal.

Communication is another key to securing a successful cockroach management program. The majority of health facilities have complicated management teams and contracts with various vendors. Documenting any conducive conditions and ensuring they are delivered to the right person cannot be overstated. Establishing an efficient information exchange platform is another key to achieving a successful pest management program. Many companies deploy a “pest activity log” in the sanitation or custodian’s office. With pest management software and smartphones available to the majority of companies, many customers, especially millennials, favor emailed recommendations and photos to show the problem areas.

The Asian cockroach is often mistaken for the German species. Photo: ©istock.com/mindscanner

The Asian cockroach is often mistaken for the German species.
Photo: ©istock.com/mindscanner

With the development of global commerce and transcontinental transportation, invasive species like Asian and Turkestan cockroaches have widely spread to the southern United States. Asian cockroaches (Blattella asahinai) have been reported from Florida to Texas. They’re similar to the German cockroach (B. germanica) in appearance, which could lead to “German Cockroach-panic” in clinics, hospitals and other sensitive accounts. However, Asian cockroaches have very different behavior compared to German cockroaches. They’re stronger flyers and attracted to lights. Their breeding sites are usually shady, grassy areas, especially beneath thick landscape and ground covers where humidity stays relatively high.

Asian cockroaches usually have two breakouts a year in southeastern Louisiana. From time to time during the swarming time of Asian cockroaches, we receive calls from clinics and surgical centers that claim they have a German cockroach infestation.

Turkestan cockroaches (Blatta lateralis) have been reported from California to Texas. The male resembles an American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), while the female is similar to an Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis). They are often found in the basements and water meter boxes of hospitals and clinics.

Dos and don’ts when servicing a sensitive account


  • Design a customized action plan based on your inspection and the information provided by customers.
  • Document all conducive conditions and recommendations provided to the customer.
  • Use vacuums and apply non-chemical treatment first prior to the traditional methods.
  • Place an appropriate amount of monitors as a proactive approach.
  • Obtain approval for the application of pesticide when necessary.


  • Never apply pesticide where patients or small children are present.
  • Do not make an action plan prior to the completion of a thorough inspection.
  • Do not leave the account until the paperwork is complete.

Diaper-changing station becomes cockroach cafeteria

We recently received a phone call from the manager of a child development center, complaining of cockroaches. She said several teachers reported small cockroaches in two areas where diaper-changing stations and toys were present. The changing stations were relatively new and were sanitized daily. The carpet and the toys on the carpets were also very clean.

After the inspection, German cockroaches were found breeding in the hollow area beneath the diaper-changing pad. When small children were put on the changing stations, their snack crumbs slid off of them and under the pads. Therefore, that hollow area became a “cafeteria” for German cockroaches.

After some simple disassembly work, the change pad was removed and the roaches and crumbs were vacuumed. Several dots of roach gel bait were applied in the bottom corner of the hollow space. No complaints were reported after the visit.

Contributor Pan Luo, BCE, pest control supervisor for Fischer Environmental Services, Mandeville, La., can be reached at compass@fischerenv.com.

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Contributor Pan Luo, BCE, is pest control supervisor for Fischer Environmental Services, Mandeville, La. He can be reached at compass@fischerenv.com.

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