Cockroaches: Conquering a persistent pest


September 25, 2020



In its Healthy Housing Reference Manual, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examines how exposure to conditions within a home can adversely affect the health of residents.

Listed among the health concerns are cockroaches, which is why control and prevention is critical. Cockroaches may cause allergies, trigger asthma and spread disease.

“It is vital for customers to understand that when a cockroach infestation gets out of control, they could be at risk for a whole host of problems,” says Foster Brusca, trainer and consultant with The Pest Posse, Santa Clara, Calif. “When working with customers, I provide enough information that conveys my years of experience, without being too overwhelming or shaming.”




Customers may not understand cockroach behavior and how their actions may be contributing to an infestation. The material on which cockroaches feed is plentiful in residences and commercial facilities. These pests favor sweets, meats, grease, vegetation, leather and glue, particularly if it is holding together books or cardboard boxes, according to Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations.

In addition, cockroaches are scavengers that feast on whatever your customers discard, which is why they can be found in garbage disposals and cans, sewers and septic tanks.

Typically, cockroaches are active at night, emerging from their harborages to seek out food, water and mates. Because most species are tropical or subtropical, they prefer environments that are moist, warm and humid. That’s why they often are found behind refrigerators and under stoves, which is where crumbs and spills are, too.


David Moore, BCE

David Moore, BCE

Because unresolved structural and sanitation issues may impede cockroach control, enlist the help of customers.

“The chemistries that are available now are very good,” says David Moore, BCE, manager of Technical Services for Dodson Brothers in Lynchburg, Va. “But your treatment can be severely hindered if you cannot get the product where you need to.”

Communicating your expectations is imperative, notes David Jennett, general manager of Green Valley Pest Control & Lawn Care in Creston, Iowa.

Foster Brusca

Foster Brusca

“Sanitation and other important practices cannot be performed by PMPs, so you have to have cooperation,” he explains. Customers who do what they can to help reduce conducive conditions can help put PMPs on the path to cockroach control.

“Customers must be brought around to the idea that to successfully control their cockroach infestation, they must be willing to work with me and not against me,” Brusca says.


David Jennett

David Jennett

Help customers understand why their cooperation may assist your cockroach control efforts.

“Spend some time educating customers about the importance of sanitation and other practices,” Jennett says. “Stress to them how the success of the treatments is directly affected by what they do or don’t do.”

PMPs should take note of conducive conditions by documenting those that are relevant. “This will help direct customers to accelerate their resolution and reduce your liability,” Moore says.

Sharing your observations and explaining the actions you plan to take may help you form a productive partnership.

Bernard Wendell Jr.

Bernard Wendell Jr.

“The biggest challenge to gaining control can be overcome by meeting with a customer prior to each service, reviewing your findings after the service, and recording your findings and recommendations,” says Bernard Wendell Jr., an entomologist consultant in Philadelphia, Pa.

“The customer’s expectations are directly affected by the PMP’s ability to explain what the job consists of,” says Alejandro Christ, service technician for Greenleaf Pest Control in Surprise, Ariz. “PMPs need to inform the customer what to expect and how their contribution is valuable and helpful.”


Macy Ruiz, BCE

Macy Ruiz, BCE

PMPs never should cut their prices just to attract customers.

“Be fair to yourself and to your customer. The worst mistake you could ever make is cutting the price just to get the job,” says Macy Ruiz, BCE, technical services manager, Rentokil, Pineville, N.C. “You never know what you are going to encounter, and in the long run you will regret it.”

Don’t cut corners to stay within budget. Price the job accordingly.

“Many times, I have heard a tenant or landlord say something like ‘The last company was here four times and the problem didn’t get any better; you treated once and the cockroaches are almost gone,’” Jennett says.

About the Author

Diane Sofranec

Diane Sofranec is the senior editor for PMP magazine. She can be reached at or 216-706-3793.

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