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What to do in the event you see a cockroach

What to do in the event you see a cockroach

Prevent a cockroach infestation with these easy, expert-approved tips

If you see a cockroach, don’t panic! Cockroaches enter the home in search of food, water and shelter, but there are many ways to get rid of cockroaches and prevent them from coming back. In this article, we’ll help you determine where cockroaches hide, the symptoms of an infestation, and ways to eliminate them (plus when to call an exterminator).

This article is based on an interview with our MMPC-certified pest control specialist, Kevin Carrillo.

[Edit]things you should know

  • To determine if you have an infestation, look for possible hiding places in your kitchen and bathroom, such as under sinks and cabinets.
  • If you find lots of cockroaches, droppings or egg cases, call an exterminator as soon as possible.
  • If there are no signs of infestation, use glue traps to kill cockroaches outright, or set up a bait station to eliminate a few random cockroaches.


[Edit]What should I do if I see a cockroach?

  1. If you see a cockroach, look for hiding places and signs of infestation. With a single cockroach, there is little chance that it will wander in from outside. You don’t need to call an exterminator right away, but take proactive steps to diagnose the scale of the problem: Search for possible hiding areas and look for any signs of infestation (roach droppings, eggs, skin papules). Once you see 2 cockroaches, you have an infestation – contact an exterminator as soon as possible.[1]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 1.jpg
    • Cockroaches are nocturnal, so you won’t find them when they are most active. If you see one during the day, get professional help as soon as possible – it’s usually a sign of overcrowding.[2]

[Edit]finding hidden cockroaches

  1. Clean out the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Cockroaches thrive in warm, moist environments, so check inside your kitchen and bathroom cabinets for possible hiding places. Empty all shelving for the entire room, and carefully scan the cabinetry for any cracks or holes.[3]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 2.jpg
    • Usually 80-90% of cockroaches live in the kitchen or bathroom.[4]
  2. Find cracks and crevices in the walls. A cockroach can only get through a hole 1 millimeter (0.04 in) to 2 millimeters (0.08 in) thick, so check your walls, window curtains or door frames for any damage.[5]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • While feeding, cockroaches usually congregate in corners and travel along the edges of walls, so prioritize the perimeter of your home before inspecting the interior walls.[6]
  3. Inspect areas around kitchen appliances. Cockroaches are attracted to sources of heat, so check under your refrigerator, dishwasher, and oven to check for possible infestations.[7]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • Additionally, pay attention to places where food residue may be, such as your pots, toaster and garbage disposal.

[Edit]signs of infection

  1. Roach droppings {endbold} Cockroach droppings look like little black specks, similar to spilled coffee, and they are usually a good indication of population size.[8]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • Feces can be found anywhere in your home, but pay extra attention to areas near food sources.
    • If you see droppings, clean them up as soon as possible: Cockroach feces can spread disease, attract other cockroaches, and trigger allergies.[9]
    • To clean up feces, wear protective equipment (gloves, mask), clean up feces, and cover all affected surfaces with a disinfectant.[10]
  2. Egg Case {endbold} Roaches don’t lay eggs one at a time – they lay egg cases. These reddish-brown cases are made of a tough protein, and they look almost like long, small, dried kidney beans.[11]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 6.jpg
    • Egg cases typically contain up to 40 chicks, and the female incubates them 1–2 days prior to hatching.[12]
    • Look for egg cases around hot appliances like your oven, fridge, dishwasher, washer, dryer and water heater.[13]
    • If you find an egg carton, climb over it, vacuum up the pieces, and throw it in an outdoor trash can. Then, call an exterminator as soon as possible.[14]
  3. Skin Casts {endbold} If you find light brown, cockroach-sized casts around your home, you may have an infestation. Cockroach nymphs shed their exoskeleton when they reach maturity, indicating a complete reproductive cycle within a nest.[15]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 7.jpg
  4. Musty odor {endbold} If there is an infestation, you may notice a musty, musty smell in your home. It can come from live cockroaches or dead, decaying cockroaches.[16]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 8.jpg

[Edit]get rid of cockroaches

  1. Use a glue trap to kill cockroaches on the spot. Glue traps help determine the size of the problem and pinpoint the most infested areas of your home. To trap cockroaches, place glue traps in corners of rooms, behind large appliances, and inside cabinets.[17]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 9.jpg
    • Cockroaches are often caught within 24 hours of setting the trap, but check them daily to determine where the most insects are located.
    • Throw away the glue trap every 2-3 days, securing it in a plastic bag placed inside a trash can.[18]
  2. Set up a bait station to eliminate an entire nest of roaches. Bait stations are small plastic units filled with insecticide; Cockroaches enter through small holes to extract feed, then share the feed with others. Position bait stations along walls and equipment, and use roach droppings to help determine other high traffic areas to place them.[19]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 10.jpg
    • Alternatively, buy gel baits that you can apply under the lip of your countertop or under the hinges of your cabinet doors.[20]
  3. Apply a liquid concentrate to quickly control the infestation. Liquid concentrate or liquid cock deterrent usually repels cockroaches for 1-2 weeks. Follow the directions on the concentrate to dilute it properly, and wipe a thin layer of the solution on the surfaces where you’ve seen the most cockroaches.[21]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 11 Version 2.jpg
    • Alternatively, use an aerosol can to spray deterrent into cracks and crevices where cockroaches enjoy hiding.
    • Because the liquid concentrate contains toxic chemicals, avoid using it near children and pets.
  4. Kill cockroaches directly with insecticide spray. For a quick and easy solution, use an insecticide specially formulated for cockroaches. Spray it into any crevices to coat and kill cockroaches that may be lurking in that area.[22]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 12.jpg
    • Insecticide sprays contain harmful chemicals, so avoid using them in the kitchen or near children.
    • If you don’t have any spray, spray the cockroach with rubbing alcohol.[23]
  5. Sprinkle insecticide dust to dehydrate and kill cockroaches. When cockroaches pass through insecticide dust they become dehydrated, so this is a great option for long-term treatment. Use a bulb duster to apply a thin layer of insecticide dust into any cracks and crevices, especially under sinks, cabinet corners and along baseboards.[24]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 13.jpg
    • Thin layers of dust are more effective than thick layers, which can clump or stick together.
    • Boric acid is the most common dust treatment, and it is significantly lower in toxicity than commercial insecticides.[25]
  6. Use with essential oils to repel cockroaches. For a natural insecticide, place a few drops of rosemary oil around the corners of your home. Rosemary oil is highly toxic to cockroaches, so reapply it at least once a week to maintain effectiveness.[26]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 14 Version 2.jpg
    • Alternatively, make an essential oil spray by mixing water with 15 drops of rosemary oil.

[Edit]prevention tips

  1. Seal any holes and cracks. To prevent cockroaches from entering your home, use caulk to fill gaps in your walls, around windows and doors. Be sure to cover areas in the walls where pipes run through, especially in your kitchen and bathrooms.[27]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 15.jpg
    • If you live in an apartment, be sure to check with your landlord before attempting to repair any cracks yourself.
  2. Clean your kitchen frequently. Cockroaches love fat and grease, so pay extra attention to your backsplash and grease traps. Clean the kitchen appliances, sweep the floor for crumbs, and make sure there aren’t any piles of dirty dishes.[28]
    What to do if you see a cockroach Step 16.jpg
    • Keep food in airtight containers, and avoid leaving pet food outside.
    • Garbage is the primary food source for most cockroaches, so take out the trash daily.[29]
  3. Eliminate sources of moisture. Cockroaches are constantly on the lookout for water, so clean up spills immediately and eliminate any sources of standing water. If you have a higher water bill than normal, it could be a sign of a water leak. Check your water meter when no one is home and when they return. If the meter has moved at all, you have a leak.[30]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 17.jpg
    • If you find water leakage in your home, contact a plumber to get the problem treated as soon as possible.[31]
  4. Pick up the clutter Cockroaches readily hitch a ride on delivery, and cardboard boxes are excellent breeding grounds for cockroaches. If you have any cardboard boxes at home, use them up quickly or recycle them.[32]
    What to Do If You See a Cockroach Step 18.jpg
    • Newspapers are common hiding places for cockroaches, so avoid storing them inside your home.


  1. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  2. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  3. [v161169_b01], 22 October 2019.
  4. [v161169_b01], 22 October 2019.
  5. [v161169_b01], 22 October 2019.
  6. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  7. [v161011_b01], 18 February 2021.
  8. https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/ENTO/ento-528/ENTO-528.pdf
  9. https://www.epa.gov/ipm/cockroaches-and-schools
  10. https://www.centralsan.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/cockroaches.pdf?1511470413
  11. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1878&context=extension_curall
  12. https://www.epa.gov/ipm/cockroaches-and-schools
  13. [v161011_b01], 18 February 2021.
  14. https://extension.umn.edu/insects-infest-homes/cockroaches
  15. http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcsaferoach.htm
  16. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  17. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  18. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  19. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  20. [v161169_b01], 22 October 2019.
  21. https://extension.msstate.edu/publications/control-household-insect-pests
  22. https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publications/E-23/E-23.html
  23. [v161169_b01], 22 October 2019.
  24. https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publications/E-23/E-23.html
  25. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5186743
  27. https://extension.psu.edu/german-cockroaches
  28. [v161011_b01], 18 February 2021.
  29. https://extension.psu.edu/german-cockroaches
  30. https://www.hawaiidws.org/how-to-detect-for-leaks
  31. [v161169_b01], 22 October 2019.
  32. [v161169_b01], 22 October 2019.


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