Cockroaches are often called water bugs, but the two are actually quite different. Unless you have large pools of standing water in your house, you probably don't have a problem with water bugs since they live in aquatic environments. Roaches, on the other hand, are a common insect pest in homes. They may not bite, but they do spread diseases, such as salmonella and e.coli. According to Orkin, water bugs and cockroaches are similar in appearance and sometimes mistaken for each other. However, control methods differ for each so be sure that you accurately identify them to ensure effective treatment.
Kill the bug and bring it in to an insect specialist for identification. Types of cockroaches include American, German, Broadbanded, Oriental and Wood roaches. Accurate identification will help you identify the source of the infestation and determine the best control methods. Although all roaches look similar, there are some easy ways to tell one type from another. For example, American roaches are reddish-brown and tend to be larger than other species. German cockroaches have tan bands that run across the length of their body and are usually about 1/2-inch in length. Oriental and Wood cockroaches are dark brown or black and an inch in length.
Identify the cockroach habitat. Some cockroach species, such as American and Oriental cockroaches, prefer cool places, such as basements and crawlspaces. Broadbanded roaches like dry pantries and closets, and German roaches prefer warm and humid areas that are close to food sources. According to the University of Missouri Extension, German and Broadbanded cockroaches are most commonly found indoors although other species can live both indoors and outside.
Set up sticky traps in places where cockroaches have been spotted. Sticky traps will give you a good idea of where the cockroaches visit most frequently and help you identify where to place pest control substances.
Poison roaches with boric acid. Boric acid is a relatively safe cockroach control substance since it is odorless and has low toxicity to humans and animals. Overuse is a common mistake since roaches won't be attracted to large clumps of powder. Sprinkle a very fine layer that is barely visible to the naked eye to attract roaches. Or mix the boric acid with equal parts sugar or flour. The sugar or flour contain starch, which attracts the roaches. Mix a little bit of food coloring in with the combination so you can keep track of where you sprinkled it.
Attract and kill cockroaches with cockroach bait products. Cockroach bait comes in small plastic trays that can be stored under counters, sinks, refrigerators, dishwashers and other areas that roaches tend to congregate. The roaches take the bait and bring it back to the nest to destroy populations. According to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, cockroach baits can produce results in as little as one to three days.
Use spray or powder insecticide products if more natural control methods do not help the problem. Avoid foggers and bug bombs, which are usually ineffective and leave pesticide residue, as noted by the University of Minnesota Extension.
Prevent roach infestations with good sanitation practices. Vacuum your home regularly, preferably with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. Keep cupboards and pantries clean and free of food particles and seal off spaces where roaches can enter the home with caulk. Remove boxes, newspapers, paper bags and other clutter from around your home.