Industry News

Opportunities to increase cockroach control income and reduce callbacks

Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D.

Our industry stresses the importance of proper sanitation and reducing harborages to complement pesticide applications. We call it integrated pest management, but the reality is it rarely gets accomplished for several reasons, including a lack of customer cooperation, time and/or resources.

Harborage reduction to control cockroaches has been prevalent for almost 85 years. Study the following tips for different cockroach types, which you can excel in and make a profit from.

German cockroaches


A June 1938 Colorado State Extension Service publication quoted, “Preventative measures consist of eliminating crevices and nooks that may furnish concealment for this pest and also in keeping all types of food materials in places where roaches cannot reach them.” Eliminating crevices and nooks is as pertinent today as it was then.

There are many sealants that work well, and industry experts have already done the legwork for you. Search online for “SCOPE-Scientific Coalition of Pest Exclusion” to see what they suggest. Note that caulk is not the same as a sealant. If used incorrectly, caulk can create additional harborage areas.

Using sealed plastic bags and containers works wonders. You can label the containers with your company name and even a catchy phrase.

Construction alterations

I like to call this "arco pestology,” or the study of pest behavior to determine what architectural changes should be initiated to deter pests. This could be as simple as installing pipe collars (escutcheons) on walls. These flat pieces of metal protect utility penetrations into structures where sink pipes enter wall voids.

For commercial accounts, installing vertical wall guards on corners can prevent them from getting smashed. Two additional services are installing metal shelves rather than wooden ones, and constructing ports into pipe chase areas so one can inspect and make treatments if necessary.

Peridomestic cockroaches

  • Install proper exterior door sweeps to prevent cockroaches from crawling under the door or climbing over the top of the door
  • Learn about astragal (vertical) door seals, even for glass doors
  • Properly trim trees to reduce harborage, such as palm trees or even hardwood trees with large tree holes that need screening
  • Repair screening on soffits leading into attics
  • Install air vents to create air movement in attics
  • Install sewer caps over cleanouts in basements
  • Work with plumbers to install sewer traps that prevent cockroaches and rodents from entering the building from the sewer system
  • Use smoke machines to detect breaks in pipes inside walls — I have seen this work for single-family homes and large apartment complexes
  • Remove debris from the exterior and in garages

One of my cockroach control sayings goes like this: “Out of sight, out of reach, out of mind, out of control!” If you can eliminate the most difficult out-of-sight and out-of-reach areas, you can easily achieve successful control.

This type of work leads to better inspections to help determine how cockroaches enter a structure and where they harbor. It can also lead to other construction projects for controlling carpenter ants, termites, rodents and more. Either we as an industry pursue this work, or other businesses already doing this could end up purchasing pest management firms and adding these services.

This doesn’t mean control products aren’t needed to eliminate existing cockroach populations. You will still encounter plenty of jobs where you should initially eliminate the infestation with appropriate treatments.

To find out how to start and/or improve your current cockroach management programs, contact your local Syngenta territory manager.

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