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Sticky traps reveal valuable cockroach clues

By Dr. Austin Frishman, Ph.D.

I first encountered a sticky trap in a kitchen cabinet of a young woman’s home in Brooklyn, New York. The trap was completely covered in cockroaches – but when I asked if I could take it, she replied, “go buy your own!”

Using sticky traps in my first research project was so valuable that I decided to share it with my fellow entomologists. They were skeptical, saying, “not for me, I use boiled raisins in a glass jar.” I then took it to Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) at the Purdue Pest Management Conference, but they also thought it was a waste of money -- “we’re here to kill cockroaches, not to count them," one PMP told me.

It was an invention whose time was ahead of itself. Nevertheless, I persisted to promote the value of sticky traps, and today they are well accepted in the industry. Since behavioral bait resistance is known in some German cockroach populations, sticky baits are even more valuable today.

Here are some situations you may encounter when using sticky traps, and tips on how to read them:

  • Nothing present on the board. Maybe cockroaches are not harboring in the area.

  • 20+ young nymphs on one board. A female dropped a capsule very close by.

  • Three to four different-sized cockroach nymphs on one board. You are dealing with several different egg capsules that developed – a big problem!.

  • Antennae of the cockroaches snap off when touched. They have been dead for a few days.

  • Dead cockroach bodies flex but do not snap. They died within the last 24 hours or so.

  • Most cockroaches are caught on the one side of the trap. They are coming in from that side. Start searching back in that direction to locate the source.

  • Only adult males are stuck on the trap. This life stage wanders farther from harborage sites than other life stages, so you will need to extend your search to find their point of origin.

  • Only cockroach legs and small remnants of the body are visible. Mice, rats or other cockroaches not caught on the traps ate them after they became stuck to the trap. In all cases, use baits for both rodents and cockroaches or food bait on snap traps for rodents.

Once you start catching cockroaches on the sticky traps, add more traps in different directions around this focal point to help you figure out where they are coming from.

Remember, rarely do sticky traps totally eliminate an established cockroach population, even if you try to flood the facility with traps. They will serve as an early alert system, making it much easier for you to accelerate the hunt and achieve control faster.

These tips are based on my personal experiences of doing inspections for more than 50 years, and I am sharing them to help make you a better inspector. Be sure to pass them on to others in your company.

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