Other than cucumbers, which apparently give them gas (who knew?), cockroaches will eat practically anything organic.
They also like warm, dark, moist spaces.
This adds up to your kitchen being a practically perfect insect habitat.
But you really don’t want these beasts in your kitchen. In addition to simply being nasty, these insects carry a number of diseases, and their excrement can cause severe allergic reactions in some people.
Are you gagging yet?
Pull yourself together and read on to learn how to prevent these vile beasts — also known as palmetto bugs — from taking up residence in your home.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The first step to keeping these icky bugs out of your kitchen is to keep them out of your garden, so they’re less likely to find their way into your home.
Read more about keeping your yard roach-free in this article from our sister site, Gardener’s Path (coming soon!).
Your next defense against these 18-kneed insects is to make your home inhospitable to them.
Here’s what you need to do:
Plug the Holes
Keep them out of your home by caulking cracks and crevices in your home’s foundation, in baseboards, and in walls.
Two of the most common types found in our yards and homes, the German and the American cockroaches, can crawl through incredibly tiny spaces — as thin as a dime — so be extra diligent about sealing up even the tiniest cracks or holes.
Look for cracks around heat registers, air ducts, and electrical boxes.
Homeowners should also cover drains in basement floors with window screening, and make sure windows are tight, recommends Barb Ogg, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension. She also recommends weatherstripping doors.
Seal any gaps around water, gas, and heating pipes, both indoors and out, Ogg suggests.
You also want to eliminate water sources by finding and repairing any water leaks. Experts recommend insulating kitchen and bathroom pipes to prevent humidity and condensation.
You can also use a dehumidifier to keep relative humidity to a minimum.
2. Give Them Nowhere to Hide
Now that you’ve sealed everything up, the next step is to eliminate hiding places.
These creepy-crawlies are thigmotropic, meaning they like their bodies — preferably on all sides — to be in contact with solid objects. In other words, they like to be in piles of stuff.
Like in the crammed-together paper bags you might have stuffed between your washer and dryer, for example. Uh-oh.
Look for areas where you might be inadvertently offering these beastly bugs a safe refuge, and have a wholesale clean out.
You might want to have a size 13 flip-flop or a sturdy kitchen clog at the ready for quick extermination of any vermin your cleaning efforts might flush out.
Of course, in general, do your best to keep your home tidy and clutter free. (Ha!)
That brings us to our next point of attack…
3. Keep it Clean
In all seriousness, this one is important. And that’s because, ultimately, it’s food the bugs are after. So you want to keep your kitchen as pristine as you possibly can.
Don’t leave food out on the counter.
Make sure food items in your pantry are thoroughly sealed, and keep pantry shelves clean and crumb-free.
Sweep or vacuum often to not only clean up food particles but to also clean up excrement, which A. stinks and B. attracts more of these unwelcome guests.
When Prevention Fails…
If you’ve implemented all of the above prevention tricks and the vile buggers still infiltrate your home, you may need to turn to more murderous solutions.
A Blast from the Past
Seeing as how these big bad bugs have been around since before the dinosaurs, there’s a bit of poetic justice in killing them with a substance almost as old, no?
Start with diatomaceous earth, a powdery substance made up of pulverized sea-creature fossils. The tiny bits are razor sharp and pierce the bug’s shell, causing death by dehydration.
To apply, clean thoroughly, and then spread a very thin layer of diatomaceous earth in areas known to be trafficked by palmettos.
Don’t apply the diatomaceous earth to damp or wet areas, as the wet powder won’t kill insects.
As the bugs track through the dust, their exoskeleton will be affected and they will die in 7 to 14 days.
Another often used and highly effective insect killer is boric acid. Derived from the mineral boron, boric acid is quite toxic to insects.
It can also be toxic to pets and humans, so use boric acid with caution.
A few licks are unlikely to hurt a large dog, but repeated exposure can cause vomiting and dehydration. Small dogs and cats are at greater risk.
You’ll want to caution children to stay away from treated areas.
Your best bet is to buy boric acid powder in an applicator that allows you to “puff” out a thin layer at popular hangout areas.
Harris Boric Acid Roach Powder, available on Amazon
For more natural approaches and other ideas for getting rid of these unwanted bugs, consult this informative guide from Pest Strategies.
A wide variety of commercial traps, strips, and sprays are also available, like these large bait stations.
Combat Large Roach Bait Station, available on Amazon
They often contain a combination of insecticides, such as fipronil or imidacloprid, which do a good job of killing them. But these are also toxic to pets and people, so use caution.
Bait stations are among the safest toxin-delivery vehicles, as the poisons are contained within a pet- and child-proof container.
The bait stations contain a poison-tainted food attractant. The insects feed, then go back to their nesting area where they expel sputum and feces, and kill others, as well.
Place the bait traps in areas where you’ve seen a lot of bug traffic. Under the kitchen sink is usually a good place, for example.
Have You Had Just About Enough?
If you’re pretty much just completely, totally, 100% over it with these gross bugs in the kitchen, it’s time to take steps to get rid of them.
First, ensure that you’re done everything you can to rid your garden of the pests, so they’re less likely to be around and invade your home.
Seal up your home to make ingress more difficult.
Then, make sure your home is as clean as possible, and eliminate possible hiding spots.
If they’re still intruding on your midnight refrigerator raids, consider using diatomaceous earth, and if that doesn’t work, you might need to turn to more toxic solutions such as boric acid or other chemicals.
Do you have tried and true cockroach-killing methods? Share tips below, in the comments section.
Photo credit: Shutterstock.
About Gretchen Heber
Gretchen Heber is an Austin, Texas foodie whose passion for eating has lead to a fair competence in the kitchen, according to her family and to friends who are generally pretty excited to be invited to a dinner party at her home. Always on hand in her kitchen: a water-filled cup full of upright cilantro, at least a dozen lemons and limes, several heads of garlic, and fish sauce in the fridge.