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German cockroach accounts: A step by step guide

|  October 3, 2017

There’s no such thing as a “typical” cockroach account, but arming yourself with several essentials will go a long way toward success.

Managing cockroaches has always been, and will always be a significant part of the professional pest management business. Each species has its own problems and its own best practices. But let’s look at one of the most common and pervasive problem accounts: German cockroaches (Blattella germanica) infesting a subsidized multi-family housing apartment complex.

This type of housing calls for simple equipment, but more than just a compressed air sprayer. To control German cockroaches, you’ll also need:

  • Philips and straight-edge screwdrivers for removing switchplate covers, electric receptacle covers, and other items.
  • Flashlight.
  • Small Swiss Army Knife in case you may need a thin edge to start an edge on appliance backing.
  • Glue monitoring traps.
  • Small paint scraper.
  • Vacuum to suck up any and all adult cockroaches.

Photo: ©iStock.com/ErikKarits

Control in these types of accounts is neither easy nor quick, so set aside enough time to properly treat the account. We perform the service once annually, and in most accounts we have one callback per complex per year.

As you embark on your initial inspections, use a checklist to indicate the intensity of the cockroach infestation in each unit. Keep it simple: Just write in the apartment number and check a box to indicate the level as “none,” “light,” “moderate” or “heavy.” This will help you keep track (and reflect back on whether a neighboring unit is a source) if you get a retreat call or you need to schedule an additional service call.
 

Get cookin’ in the kitchen

Inside each apartment, inspect the kitchen first:

  1. Start with the stove. Pull out the unit and look behind it. Pull out its bottom oven drawer and examine the roller slides and top of the compartment. Pull off the stove’s control knobs and check those areas.
  2. Move on to the refrigerator. Examine the condensation tray for signs of cockroaches, and check for live infestations in the electric wire coil found behind most refrigerators.
  3. Proceed to the dishwasher. Examine the exterior closely, especially where the wall meets the floor or where there is cove molding. Treat accordingly while you have everything exposed.
  4. Turn your attention to the cabinets. Pull out every cabinet drawer and inspect behind them. Treat accordingly. Then examine the cabinets, door frames (especially the top hinges), the pantry and the sink. Remove and examine every object hanging on the walls — including window coverings, if possible. Vacuum window treatments thoroughly.
  5. Place at least two monitors in the kitchen area.

By now, some of you probably are saying you do not have the time to do all of this. I am saying charge enough so you can do this. It will help; you only will have to do this once per year and maybe perform a couple of retreatments on some units.
 

Go to the bathroom

  1. Conduct a thorough inspection. Concentrate on any loose fixtures, including light fixtures and wall plates surrounding the plumbing fixtures. Do not forget the razor disposal slit in the bathroom cabinet. Treat door hinges and the backs of loose wall plates.
  2. Install rubber plate backers on all electrical outlets so as to seal the opening. Check out the electrical outlet insulators in your local hardware store; they are inexpensive.
  3. Place one monitor close to the bath trap, if possible.

What’s in the closet

  1. Open the hall closet, which typically houses the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system as well as the water heater. These closets usually are dimly lit or not lit at all, so carry a good flashlight with you.
  2. Focus on sanitation and exclusion. Use your vacuum to get the dirt out and then caulk, screen or stuff the holes around the walls and wall penetrations. If warranted, treat closet corners and inside door hinges.
  3. Place one monitor in the hall closet.

Remaining room roundup

Finally, go through the rest of the residence and carefully pay attention to, and treat the following areas as warranted and allowed on the label:

  • Loose wallpaper (use your paint scraper to check).
  • Bookshelves.
  • Seat cushions and loose upholstery on any recliners.
  • Decorative objects.
  • Underneath beds.
  • Live plants.
  • Electrical switches and outlets.

It’s been my experience to be very careful inspecting under sofas. They are a prime harborage for brown recluse and black widow spiders, and on occasion even snakes.
 

What’s next

After you finish your inspection and treatment, you can perform any exclusion work you noticed needed to be done — provided the property owners are paying
you for it. If they are not, make very specific notes with photos for the building’s maintenance staff to follow through on the necessary repairs. Very minor exclusion work pays great dividends, and really impresses the owners and/or management company.

Combine the work you’ve completed so far with sanitation, the single most important control and prevention task that exists, and the one on which you must keep notes. Sanitation is critical to preventing and eliminating any cockroach infestation. Keep photos of any issues you find, and send them with a list that shows their relationship to your infestation findings. A note that an apartment has a heavy cockroach infestation is one thing, but when coupled with a photo showing extremely poor sanitation, the management can then start eviction proceedings and send that occupant away.
 

Price for profit

To succeed with cockroach accounts in multi-family housing apartment complexes, you must negotiate a fair price for the amount of work you need to do and the amount of work the building’s management needs to do. This should be common practice, but somehow or other I keep running into pest management firms that perform monthly apartment services for less than a dollar per unit per month.

To perform an annual service on this type of account successfully, you need between 15 to 25 minutes per unit. In other words, one technician can handle about 24 units per day. Take the production value you need per day per technician, and divide it by 24; that is your annual per-unit charge for cockroaches only. If the building’s management company wants you to cover other pests, you need to charge for them.

Contributor Robert Kunst, ACE, is a 2010 PMP Hall of Famer and consultant with Fischer Environmental Services, Mandeville, La. Contact him at rlk@fischerenv.com.

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