Locating cockroaches: The next best thing to X-ray vision


August 22, 2019


Cockroaches often hide in plain sight. But when they don’t, you still have some options. PHOTO: MARK SHEPERDIGIAN, BCE

  • Cockroach hangouts would be easier to find if we had the ability to see through walls.
  • A little knowledge, imagination — and in some cases, infrared cameras — can help you get by instead.

Controlling the German cockroach (Blattella germanica) may seem to require superhuman efforts. But most of us haven’t been bitten by radioactive spiders, dosed with gamma rays, or originate from some doomed planet under a red sun. And who has a Bat Cave?

Fortunately, we don’t need all that. All we need is a special pair of glasses with infrared, X-ray vision and magnifying powers. Until someone comes out with an affordable pair, however, we’ll just have to use our brains and our imagination.

Infrared vision

Like most insects, cockroaches are drawn to warm spots because heat makes all their systems work better. If we could see the warm spots, we could get a head start finding population centers and better target our control efforts. While infrared cameras and monitors can be wonderful tools to use in many cases, you already know that every home’s refrigerator and freezer have hotspots and a condensation pan. You already know that in restaurants, the ovens, grills and fryers put out a great deal of heat and leave warm spots all around them. These are always great places to start.

X-ray vision

Cockroaches have made a living for countless generations by sliding neatly into cracks and crevices. These spaces often are between elements of construction, such as wall voids and under equipment bases, but they also are behind laminate wall panels, inside tubular equipment legs, and behind wall-mounted brackets. You don’t need X-ray vision to find them. When you see wall panels and backsplashes, imagine where these hidden voids may be and check them out individually. As an added bonus, a crack-and-crevice, ultra low-volume (ULV) injector can offer its own kind of magic for driving cockroaches out into the open from hidden voids.

Magnifying vision

When searching for cockroaches, we often miss the tiny little clues that give away their position. As gregarious insects, cockroaches will be hanging out together, and there will be an accumulation of fecal spots in their home areas. PMP Hall of Famer Dr. Austin Frishman (Class of 2002) calls these accumulation areas “fecal focal points.”

In heavy infestations, it isn’t uncommon to see the outline of a calendar in fecal spotting, but it doesn’t take a lot of searching to find cockroaches in those situations. They grow by molting, and a developing population generates many cast skins. When you see cast skins, it means you’re in an area where nymphs have been actively growing. This is pay dirt. If you see several cast skins on the floor, look just above them.

The bottom line: You don’t need superpowers to find cockroaches, just imagination, know-how and a little patience.

Read moreHow to improve German cockroach control? Learn their behavior

You can reach Mark Sheperdigian, BCE, vice president of technical services, Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich., at shep@rosepest.com.

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