How long can roaches (or their eggs) survive without oxygen?
December 3, 2017 7:15 AM   Subscribe

We are storing some personal items in our house for a family member who is going through hard times. Mainly t-shirts, CDs, small-ish art prints, and some records. When we collected these items, this person's house was horribly infested with german roaches. In an attempt to prevent the spread of roaches from their house to our own home, I put all of the belongings in a plastic container and painstakingly duct-taped the lids to the containers.

The containers were double wrapped in trash bags, and all the containers were stacked and zipped into one of those mattress protector bags. They've been sitting in an unused closet for nearly 6 months at this point.

My question is: if we open these containers now, what are the chances that any roaches will have survived ~6 months without oxygen? There were unfortunately a number of cardboard boxes put in the containers, so they did have food and nesting material. If they laid eggs, can the eggs survive in some sort of quiescent state and return to life when exposed to oxygen again? I would be happy to leave the containers unopened forever but this family member needs something that was stored away.
posted by Oliva Porphyria to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Depending on what’s in the box, the size of the box and your access to a chest freezer, would you be able to freeze the box before you open it? I’m no expert but it looks like german roaches aren’t cold tolerant.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 7:31 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

That environment is not ‘without oxygen’, there was a ton in there when you bagged it, maybe enough for a roach or two to breathe for months, they really don’t need much.

German cockroach oothecae are only viable for a few days after the female deposits them.

On balance, I’d rate this as low odds of live roaches emerging. Lack of water would be the probable cause of demise, imo, not lack of O2.

If you want to be sure, open them up and add some roach bait, then close them again for a week.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:42 AM on December 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Your best bet is to put them in the freezer.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:51 AM on December 3, 2017

Where do you live? If you live someplace cold, putting them in a garage or storage space will freeze them. If you live someplace hot, a car can get quite hot inside in the sun in summer. I think I would put roach traps in and re-seal.
posted by theora55 at 7:58 AM on December 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Gases can pass through plastic bags. I'm not sure that roaches will experience oxygen starvation in a plastic bag. However, the advice to put the bags in the freezer is echoed here. You could also leave bags on a porch or in a car outside on a freezing cold night.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

You probably don't need to go this far, but another option would be to put a no-pest strip in each container. Read the label and make sure you get the kind that is made for this. At this point that would likely be overkill, but I mention it for future reference. It would be difficult to seal the containers well enough to prevent a hungry baby from escaping, no matter how thorough you were. So since you haven't seen anything in six months I would say it's likely safe, on the other hand, life finds a way, so I would agree freezing wouldn't hurt, if for no other reason than peace of mind.
posted by ambulocetus at 9:01 PM on December 4, 2017

When we moved from a roach-infested rental to a new, non-roach-infested house, we hired an exterminator to come lay chemical death over the new house before we moved our stuff, so that anything that hitched a ride would die asap. If you're not opposed to chemical extermination* you could always do that before/after opening the containers.

* If you have pets you're worried about: we have cats and the exterminator used a poison paste dabbed in inaccessible areas instead of the spray.
posted by telophase at 8:55 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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