Some squirt, others can fly: How to keep roaches out of your home and avoid infestation –

They are fast. Some can fly. And if you see one, you’re likely to find more hiding in the nooks and crannies of your home.

They’re cockroaches, and experts say they can cause significant health problems if not treated properly, including allergies and contamination of common and kitchen spaces.

Nationally, the cockroach species that poses the greatest threat are German cockroaches, said Benjamin Hottel, a board-certified entomologist and Orkin technical services manager.

German cockroaches are smaller and are primarily problems in restaurants and multi-unit housing.

“(People) could bring them in groceries from a grocery store that has them, maybe from their work,” Hottel told USA TODAY. “They could come in your backpack or your work bag if you work at a restaurant that has them. These roaches can spread quite easily.”

However, he and other experts say there are ways to protect your home. This is what you should know.

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A German cockroach feeds on an insecticide in the laboratory part of a Purdue University study that found that insects are gaining cross-resistance to multiple insecticides at once.

When are cockroaches most active?

Cockroach activity depends on temperature, said Changlu Wang, a professor in Rutgers University’s department of entomology.

Take oriental cockroaches, for example. They are more likely to be active during the summer, whereas German roaches, more common in the US, are active year-round.

“And here in the US, we have a very good heating system,” Wang said. “The room temperature stays between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s really optimal for roaches to thrive.”

Another common species that is much larger in size is the American cockroach, Orkin’s Hottel said. They are mainly found in sewer systems and tunnels.

“When things are warmer, you tend to have more roach activity outdoors,” Hottel said. “But for the ones that are already inside, like German roaches or American roaches in sewer systems, they can still be active in the winter.”

And in the South, like Georgia, the smoky brown roach lurks outside, usually in mulch, but it can also make its way into basements and attics. Smoky brown roach activity tends to decrease as the weather cools, he said. They are more common during the warmer seasons.

How do cockroaches get into your house?

Cockroaches often appear when there are sanitation problems in restaurants or apartments, Hottel said.

Maybe there is food or water that they can easily access.

“In older facilities, it can be even more common because they tend to have more structural issues… and older plumbing,” he said.

They can even enter your home through bathroom sink pipes, he said.

If you take a look under your sink, there’s a looping pipe called a p-trap, he said. Holds water to prevent sewer gas from reaching the bathroom or shower area.

If that pipe dries up, sewer gas and roaches can pass through.

“Sometimes the roaches come out of the pipes or the pipes rust,” he said. “Once they get out and go to the bathroom or office area, because there’s not a humid environment, there’s not a lot of food for them in there, they end up running and dying.”

But many species of cockroaches have no interest in entering the house, Hottel said. Often, they enter because they are attracted to light or because they were brought in via potted plants brought into homes.

Peridomestic cockroaches, like the smoky brown cockroach, live outdoors or under houses, occasionally going into “areas they shouldn’t be in,” Hottel said.

“They’re not really feeding on anything in the kitchens or anything. They are feeding on decaying things below decks and maybe under people’s houses or maybe even in attics,” she said.

Can cockroaches fly? Yeah, and some squirt fluid.

Some roaches can even fly, while others can spew liquid as a defense mechanism.

Asian cockroaches can fly and occasionally enter people’s homes.

“Usually, Asian cockroaches are attracted to a home when an unscreened door or window is left open and a light is on in the home,” Hottel said.

However, Hottel said: “They would not infest a person’s home like German cockroaches and are mostly found outdoors under leaf litter in the southeastern US.”

Cockroaches in Florida’s woods, Hottel said, can shoot a “defensive secretion” fluid from their rear ends.

“The secretions can potentially irritate the skin and have been shown to etch plastic,” he said.

Can cockroaches make you sick?

Orkin’s Hottel said cockroaches inhabit sewers, kitchen trash bins and decaying areas, so they carry bacteria on their bodies and can contaminate food preparation areas or the food itself.

“If a food inspector or a health inspector walked into a restaurant and saw German cockroaches, that would be considered a safety issue,” he said. “They could fall into the food. That’s pretty gross, right?

They can also produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks, said Wang, of Rutgers.

“There are different proteins from cockroach feces (or) carcasses,” he said. “Proteins can circulate in house dust… You’re more likely to have sensitivity, or if you have asthma, you’re more likely to have asthma attacks.”

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What can you do to get rid of them?

When it comes to these pests, Wang said roach bait is one option.

And don’t bother with foggers, liquid sprays and aerosols, he said.

“Fogs are not very effective,” Wang said. “Aerosols are also not very effective because most cockroach populations have developed resistance to those chemicals.”

He also cautions against using electronic repellents because no scientific studies have shown that they actually work.

And according to Orkin’s Hottel, cleaning can help, as well as sealing off areas where utility lines penetrate the walls of your home.

Also, be sure to remove leaves from the house and also check the gutters.

“If there’s a lot of leaf debris inside a gutter, the leaves will start to break down,” Hottel said. “Roaches can live in it.”

And if you’re not sure what to do or it’s too much to handle on your own, don’t be afraid to get your landlord or a pest control company involved.

“Especially if you are in a multi-unit housing situation because your neighbor might have them,” Hottel said. “Even if you’re really good at controlling (the situation) or controlling roaches in your apartment, get landlords involved in having pest control companies check surrounding units.”

Water bugs, palmetto bugs: other names for cockroaches

The name of the cockroaches depends largely on the region in which you live, Hottel said.

In Maryland, people call them water bugs because they are primarily associated with sewers.

And in Florida, cockroaches are sometimes called palmetto bugs because of the palm plants they live on.

Saleen Martin is a reporter for USA TODAY’s NOW team. she is from norfolk virginia the 757 and loves everything related to horror, witches, Christmas and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email him at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to keep roaches out of your home: experts say bait over sprays

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