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January 5, 2013 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I've lived in my current apartment for around a year and a half now. I moved here mostly because it was cheap and there were no real problems abound. But now... there are cockroaches. I'd say it's infested. I complained to the landlord and a pest control company came out yesterday... but today... I saw a scary cockroach! WHAT GIVES?

As a small backstory, when I was 18, my best friend lived in a place that badly got infested by cockroaches to the point where they left so quickly they left the majority of their belongings behind because they were afraid they might bring the critters with them somehow. After that period of time, I'm terrified of cockroaches. They make me feel stressed and itchy and I can't deal with it.

Over the period of time I've lived here, I've seen cockroaches here and there-- mostly during periods of rain. In the past few weeks, the sightings are getting more and more frequent. I've not been eating in my kitchen due to these sightings. They range in size from teeny tiny to small-ish. I thought the smaller ones were just babies-- but they were also different colors-- some black in color, and some brown (it seems like that indicates different breeds?)

So I called my landlord and yesterday, a company came out and sprayed what smelled like pretty lethal chemicals in my bathroom and kitchen. While cleaning today in the kitchen, I did notice that there were some dead cockroaches.... but then behind a hanging frying pan I saw the largest brown cockroach I've seen since this whole thing started! -- from what I've googled, I wonder if it may have been laying an egg? At any rate, I washed it down the sink with hot water and turned the garbage disposal on. I also have noticed bites on my skin, and wonder if perhaps this infestation is even worse than I originally thought.

If it helps any, I've talked to my neighbors-- the two couples on either side of me have said they've also had a roach problem as of late.

I'm uneducated in the ways of cockroaches and just don't know what to do-- my lease is up on February 28th. I don't want to have to deal with this until then and I DEFINITELY do NOT want to bring them with me.... while I'm not concerned with my couch, my bed was bought brand new last year and I obviously do not want to have to trash it.
posted by camylanded to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It generally takes a few days for pest control poisons to get rid of an issue - new bugs will come out, they get poisoned, and die. If you see any additional roaches by tomorrow, call for pest control to come back.

And make sure your neighbors get pest control at the same time - otherwise the roaches will just move.
posted by skittlekicks at 3:45 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

First of all, are you doing everything possible to discourage them? This means keeping things super clean, not giving them any hiding spaces if you can help it (no piles of clothes or boxes laying around the closet, etc.), and most of all, leaving not one bit of food or water around. This means everything in the kitchen needs to be sealed airtight and no dishes or water left standing in the sink, ever. If you're not doing those things, nothing the landlord does will help.

The treatment sprayed in your apartment may not have been enough or needs more time to work. Some kill very quickly but the roaches need to have contact with it; if they can find ways in the apartment while avoiding the treated areas, you will still have a problem. You can get something like boric acid and dust it in every crack and crevice you can find yourself, but still, it might take a month before you stop seeing them entirely.

Roaches don't bite humans - if you have bites, that's something else, like bed bugs or mosquitoes or fleas. They're also everywhere but not as persistent as bed bugs, so if you move and you're clean and careful, you probably won't bring the full infestation with you.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:07 PM on January 5, 2013

As a child, we had a vacation home on the Ga cost, hot, humid, tons of cockroaches everywhere (we prefer the term Palmetto bugs), it was just a way of life. A tip that we learned from the locals was to take a small paper plate or napkin and mix a tablespoon of sugar with a tablespoon of boric acid, mix well and put the plate down where the bugs could get to it and feed, in cabinets, under furniture, etc. The sugar attracted them, the boric acid killed them. Easy, controllable and not very caustic. The house was sometimes closed for a few months but we never had a terrible problem... Just wanted to pass along that tip.
posted by pearlybob at 4:09 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cockroaches are moving inside because it is winter and it is cold out. Cockroaches like it when it's well over 20 degrees Celsius, and they like places that are humid such as your bathroom, under the kitchen sink, or anyplace where there might be water.

I think you are in danger of having an infestation. Spraying poison will help a bit, but fundamentally you need to make your environment unsuitable for roaches, and you need to set up a defense plan for areas in your dwelling that make good roach habitat.


1) Wash dishes immediately. This eliminates a food source.

2) Keep your kitchen sink dry. Make sure the area below it is dry. Roaches need a humid environment to stay comfortable, and you want to make these fucking fuckers uncomfortable.

3) Take out trash, take out recycling.

4) Close all windows. Close all doors. Roaches are coming in from outside. Anytime you leave a window open, they can come in.

5) Remove clutter. Roaches love lint, dust, piles of paper, piles of clothes, any kind of mess where they can hide. We had roaches coming in from outside from our showerroom (it's humid) and they would hide in the linen cupboard. Fuckers.

6) Vacuum. Get rid of lint. Vacuuming also forces you to address clutter.

7) Adopt a concentric defense strategy. First, figure out where the fuckers are getting in. Figure out their main transportation corridors. Then, glue traps. Glue traps Glue traps glue traps.

Glue traps are great, because you can quickly see where the concentrations are, and they also tend to attract stragglers. I put a glue trap near the patio doors, which were open because we hung laundry out to dry, then down the hall, then in the entry hall, the bathroom, under the fridge, beside the fridge, under the sink, next to the sink, under this under that. I quickly got an idea where the main transport routes were.

Glue traps are also an easy way to gauge the nature of the infestation.

8) Set out bait. Borax-based bait is great. The roaches eat it, get covered in it, take it back to their buddies who also pick it up, they shit it out, other roaches eat, and they all die.

Figure out where the concentrations are, and put bait there.

With glue traps, if you find a dead roach, get rid of it quickly, because other roaches will eat it without getting stuck in the trap.

As for taking the roaches along with you to your next house, don't worry about it too much.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:24 PM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I hate roaches - especially the big scary ones. Palmetto is much too nice a name. I've always known them as sewer roaches. (((shudder!!!)))

Go to the nearest hardware store and get boric acid - I like the containers with the spout that allows you to get the powder into cracks and behind appliances. Apply a bead of boric acid along the back of cabinets, across threshholds, along window sills, and other possible entrances to your home.
posted by kbar1 at 4:28 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

First of all, where do you live? When I lived in New Orleans, roaches were pretty much par for the course. San Francisco, not so much.

The big question here actually is: is what type of cockroach? Big nasty looking ones? Or little tiny ones? The big ones (also called Palmetto Bugs) are actually less of a problem, because they don't actually live inside, they just come inside when it's cold. If it's the little ones, they're called German Cockroaches, and they will infest the hell out of your place. We had to leave an apartment because of those things, I swear they're reincarnated Nazis. A few did hitch a ride to the new place, but our new landlord gave us some kind of gel stuff (from Googling I think it was MaxForce) to smear in the kitchen and that took care of the problem.

Did your landlord have the entire building sprayed, or just your place? It may be that they need to spray adjacent units as well for it to be effective.
posted by radioamy at 4:38 PM on January 5, 2013

tons of cockroaches everywhere (we prefer the term Palmetto bugs), it was just a way of life

No, those are the big ones that come in out of the rain and to avoid the summer heat. They're not infesting your house, so you just kill them on sight and try not to think too much about how revolting they are.

The little ones, like the OP describes, are an infestation. Slow Graffiti and KokoRyu give good pointers on how to make your home less attractive, which hopefully will allow the extermination to take full effect. Nth the idea that, if you're in an apartment and your neighbors aren't also doing this, you don't stand much of a chance.

I don't think you should move, but if you were otherwise thinking about moving, the infestation is at unbearable levels (i.e. Joe's Apartment vs. seeing one here and there, mostly dead), and roach infestations are rare where you live, sure, go look at some apartments and see how you feel about the idea of moving.

Unless you are living in sloth, it's unlikely that even the smaller "German" roaches are infesting portable durable items you own like furniture. I wouldn't worry about bringing them to the next apartment with you.

On the off chance that you live in the US south, don't bother moving.
posted by Sara C. at 4:55 PM on January 5, 2013

Unless you are living in sloth, it's unlikely that even the smaller "German" roaches are infesting portable durable items you own like furniture.

In my NYC-living experience, this is unfortunately untrue. I've found roaches infesting toasters and fridges and other appliances, roaches in stacks of paper, roaches in between couch cushions. None of this happened in a disgusting slovenly environment. Some of these things happened in extremely chichi apartments/buildings, or sparse bachelor pads with barely any furniture or food at all. In an infested apartment, I would be especially worried about appliances I couldn't totally see into, like toasters, TVs, etc.
posted by cairdeas at 5:04 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in the mid-west. It is obviously winter here. I thought perhaps this might be happening because it's cold, I live in an old building, and the roaches that usually roam free outside of the apartment have found a crack of some kind and found a new place to live (read: apartments)
posted by camylanded at 5:09 PM on January 5, 2013

It's not that roaches can't be in stacks of paper or under couch cushions or infesting toasters, it's just that you're going to notice if that's the case, while you pack in order to move. You have to be living in a lot of filth not to notice that your couch is full of roaches. It's not like bedbugs where one tiny bedbug can wedge into the crevices of a piece of furniture and live for a year, completely unnoticed.

I once had roaches infest a stereo that sat against a wall which was shared with a closet full of cardboard boxes that also got infested. The whole thing was pretty fucking obvious the minute you in any way attempted to move the stereo or open the closet door.
posted by Sara C. at 5:10 PM on January 5, 2013

First off, don't stress too much; roaches are gross but they won't hurt you.

Second, radioamy is right, it's the german cockroaches that are the biggest pain. The huge palmetto bugs or waterbugs (like one to two inches) are hideous but just an occasional nuisance. If you are dealing with german cockroaches, then clean, clean, clean, and see if your landlord will send a monthly exterminator. The biggest thing though is to make sure nothing in your place is attracting the roaches.

When I was a kid, we had german cockroaches in our (NC) house for many years. This in spite of the fact that my mom was crazy scrupulous about keeping the house clean. The problem was that my dad's office was infested with the things and he kept bringing them home (I know, disgusting). His office was adjacent to a not-very-clean cafeteria. That place finally shut down, and afterwards, voila, the problem went away completely.

If you are moving at the end of next month anyway, don't worry too much. You might take a few with you, but you should be able to get some traps and poison at the hardware store to take care of the stragglers. You're not going to carry a whole infestation along with you without noticing it.
posted by torticat at 5:14 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also, I do not live in filth-- I know you're not implying that I do, but I have little clutter-- so unless they are somehow living between pages of books on my bookshelves, I do not think they're "EVERYWHERE". Our kitchen has now been cleaned top to bottom since we had to remove everything out of it.
posted by camylanded at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

They may not be living between the pages of your book, but they could be eating them. Roaches can hitchhike into your home via paper bags, boxes, and backpacks. At one time I drove a school bus. I saw a roach on the bus and bombed the bus over the weekend. There were about 40 dead roaches Sunday morning.

Keep an eye on the details: dishwasher hinges, exposed water pipes, the underside of stove knobs where food collects, and pet-food dishes, for example. The dark crevices of coffeemakers, toasters, and microwaves attract roaches, so unplug these appliances and vacuum them regularly. The bugs can live off paper, so recycle newspapers and boxes. And don’t line cabinets with contact paper: Roaches will eat the glue and use the area between the paper and the shelf to breed.

More gross facts here
posted by JujuB at 6:04 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a cockroach problem for the first time since an awful post college apartment experience about 6 months ago. My next-door neighbor is a hoarder, and I think they were coming in somehow through the party wall. I tried several remedies, cleaned thoroughly (obsessively, actually) and still saw them, though only in the kitchen. I finally caved and called an exterminator. They sprinkled some sort of powder along the tops of the counter splash guards and inside the cabinets along the joints. There was no need to treat the rest of the house, since they hadn't been spotted outside the kitchen. Two days later I saw a single roach and called the exterminator again. They returned and did another treatment gratis. Not a bug seen since, for several months.

They did say that I should remove the piles of mail and catalogs that accumulate on the kitchen counters because roaches apparently love piles of paper. I did, but they've started to accumulate again, as piles do. But, no bugs seen.

So as helpful as all the comments are about making your home a place no self-respecting roach would choose to occupy, I think you need more intervention if you already have them. It was the best $100 I've spent in ages.
posted by citygirl at 7:09 PM on January 5, 2013

I live in the mid-west. It is obviously winter here. I thought perhaps this might be happening because it's cold, I live in an old building, and the roaches that usually roam free outside of the apartment have found a crack of some kind and found a new place to live (read: apartments)

If you're living in an old building, it's pretty likely that the building itself is infested. This isn't unusual - old buildings have lots of cracks and crannies and passageways to inhabit, and lots of ways to get in. For various reasons, older buildings are more difficult to keep clean. Think about where everyone stores their garbage. Think about leaks.

So, you're going to be spending your time fighting the roaches that you can see. You'll have to be vigilant. I don't think they're ever going to go away, since they're inhabiting the walls around you. All you can really do is prevent them from forming a beachhead in your apartment itself.

Personally, I would move. Roaches poop a lot, and their droppings can cause allergies and asthma.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:51 PM on January 5, 2013

roach hotels. ROACH HOTELS.
posted by titanium_geek at 12:58 AM on January 6, 2013

I had a family member who worked in pest control (in Southern California); he insisted that you should never bring cardboard boxes or paper bags into your house, because you could be transporting cockroaches or cockroach eggs in on the paper. I once saw him seal up a paper grocery bag in a plastic trash bad a la the anal retentive chef, and carry said plastic bag straight outside to the garbage can.
posted by vignettist at 2:09 PM on January 6, 2013

The roaches are still here. I came home to find several more wandering around my sink area. Ugh. This time it was due to less persistence from what I can see-- my boyfriend left dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Terrific! I'll give it another day and I'll call the pest control company tomorrow and see what they say about how long this will take.
posted by camylanded at 2:15 PM on January 6, 2013

Max Force Gel was recommended to me right here on Ask Mefi. You can buy it cheap online. Put it where you've seen them (we had them in our kitchen nd bath), they eat it, they take it home, they stay gone.

In apartments you need to be sure the landlord is spraying those next to you. Our worst infestation was under the fridge. Good luck.
posted by emjaybee at 5:13 PM on January 6, 2013

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