Man worker in protective mask spray insecticide chemical maintain kitchen clean from insects and cockroach. Male specialist from pest control service disinfect house. Safe environment concept.

How Exterminators Get Rid of Roaches

By Sarah Horvath

We all know that exterminators are good at what they do — identifying the severity of your cockroach infestation, developing a treatment plan, and completing the cockroach extermination. But how do they come up with these treatment plans? And if you’ve already attracted roaches to your home, what can you expect in terms of service? We’re going to explore how exterminators get rid of roaches when they perform their services below.

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What Do Exterminators Use for Roaches?

Exterminators have several techniques they use to eliminate roaches in your home. The first thing they do is identify which type of cockroach is plaguing your home. There are hundreds of species of cockroaches worldwide (and many in the U.S.), but the most common are German cockroaches, oriental cockroaches, and American cockroaches. Although all these types of cockroaches have wings, they prefer to scuttle across the floor or up walls as their primary mode of transport.

Unlike pest control companies, exterminators take a hardline approach to getting rid of roaches in your home. The most common materials and methods exterminators use to perform cockroach extermination are gel bait insecticides, fumigation, boric acid, hydramethylnon, and fipronil. These last two are typically made into a spray, which exterminators spread around the perimeter of your home, as well as within your home in areas where roach activity is concentrated.

These chemicals are powerful, especially the ones used during fumigation. No one should be inside a house while tent fumigation is being performed. Except for boric acid treatment, you and your family should vacate the premises if the aforementioned chemical treatments are employed.

What Chemicals Do Exterminators Use for Roaches?

Exterminators use a variety of chemicals to kill roaches. Boric acid is a cheap and effective roach killer that’s been in use for over a century. The risk of danger to pets and children with boric acid is minimal. Although it may take several days to completely eliminate your roach problem, you will begin to see dead roaches in and around your home within a day or two.

Despite the name, boric acid is actually a powdery white substance that exterminators spread around your home in areas where they’ve seen roach activity, or where there are entry points for roaches. When they’re not scuttling around plundering available food sources and leaving feces, roaches tend to groom themselves. When they run through the white powder, they feel the need to lick it off their limbs and bodies, thus consuming the boric acid. The acid then dissolves in their stomach and slowly kills them.

Hydramethylnon is a more intensive chemical used by exterminators for cockroach control. It eradicates several different kinds of insects, including roaches, ants, and termites. It is most often found in bait stations or roach motels. These devices work by using a block of bait laced with the poison to tempt the roaches (or other insects) into consuming some of the poison.

These bait stations have multiple exits, allowing poisoned roaches to return to their colonies and infect other individuals. Hydramethylnon acts more quickly than boric acid but is extremely harmful to pets and children if consumed. If deployed safely and properly, hydramethylnon is an effective way to eliminate your roach problem.

Fipronil, the last pesticide on our list, is essentially a paralyzing agent. Like boric acid, it is a white powdery substance. Exterminators spread fipronil both indoors and outdoors, where it inhibits the GABA receptors of cockroaches, severing their brain-to-muscle connection. It’s intended to be spread in both areas where roach activity has been observed and at common entry points for roaches. Ingestion of fipronil is harmful to pets and humans. If your exterminator deploys this chemical, it is recommended that you stay out of the house both during the application and for several days after.

How Much Does an Exterminator Cost for Roaches?

Professional exterminators typically start around $100, though prices can also range from $400 to $500. These numbers will vary based on the size of your home, the cost of living in your area, and the severity of your roach infestation. Some homeowners have paid upwards of thousands of dollars to have their cockroach problems eliminated. It all depends on how intense the infestation of roaches is. The deeper the roach infiltration, the more work the exterminators must do to eradicate the incursion. The bottom line: you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for any of the cockroach treatments described above.

How Much Does Fumigation Cost for Roaches?

Tent fumigation is a process where exterminators identify all potential entry points for cockroaches in your home, then seal them up temporarily so that your home is essentially airlocked. Exterminators then don special protective equipment and pump in toxic chemicals designed to eradicate the roach problem within your home. Because this is one of the more intense cockroach control services, it can cost between $1,200 and $2,400. Tent fumigation is an invasive technique, and you cannot be present in your home while it’s happening.

If you have an intense infestation of these reddish-brown miscreants, tent fumigation may seem like an extreme option. However, this process is incredibly thorough and may be the best way to eliminate your roach problem for good.

What to Expect After an Exterminator Sprays for Roaches

Exterminators only do one service per visit. Most of the time, they apply pesticides in spray form inside and outside the home. Within your walls, exterminators pay special attention to common entry points for roaches, including baseboards, kitchen cabinets, and dark, humid areas.

Here’s what you can expect after an exterminator sprays for roaches:

  • Fewer droppings: Cockroaches leave droppings near their nesting sites — you may even see these signs of cockroaches before you see an actual roach. Their droppings look like powdery black specks. After successful extermination, you should see far fewer droppings within your house.
  • A very small amount of dead roaches: After a visit from the exterminator, you will encounter a few dead roaches on their backs, waiting for you to sweep them up. But this isn’t as common as you think. After cockroaches ingest or inhale poison, they generally return to their nests to die.
  • More roach activity than before: Paradoxically, you may notice an unusually high amount of roach activity after treatment. This is because the ordinarily nocturnal cockroaches are fleeing the scene of their demise. They are running away from the repellents and insecticides the exterminators have released in your home.
  • Juvenile cockroaches: Finally, you may also see an uptick in young cockroaches a few weeks after the extermination treatment. This is because the life cycle of a cockroach — especially a German cockroach — takes several months to complete. If the exterminator uses chemicals that target adult cockroaches exclusively, you may see an increase in youth cockroach activity after your initial extermination.

Some people think that a single visit from the exterminator will solve their roach problem. That is a fallacy — one extermination treatment is not a permanent cockroach prevention solution. Although you will see a dramatic decrease in roach activity, your home may require multiple treatments to permanently solve your cockroach problem.

How to Get Rid of Roaches Without an Exterminator

There are DIY methods you can use if your home has a mild cockroach problem that doesn’t verge on a full-blown infestation. Here are some excellent homemade remedies you can try to repel the roaches you do have, as well as prevent others from finding your home appealing in the first place.

  • Homemade repellents: If you’re wondering how to get rid of cockroaches in your home in a safe and chemical-free way, there are essential oil sprays you can make yourself. Roaches hate the smell of basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, and cloves. You can mix one (or several) of these essential oils with water and spray it where you suspect roach activity. These sprays are also safe for you and your family. Luckily, roaches hate smells that we love, including anything citrus. Wipe kitchen surfaces like countertops, refrigerators, and garbage cans with citrus-based cleaners and roaches will run for the hills.
  • Seal all entryways: Brown or black smudges on walls and baseboards is a common sign of roaches. This is because these pests have greasy bodies and like wet areas — their grease, dirt, and moisture mix together to create these smudge tracks. Inspect your baseboards and cabinets for crevices and cracks, then fill them with caulk. It’s an easy and affordable way to stop roaches from entering your home in the first place.
  • Secure all potential food sources: Roaches love to eat, so make sure to clean up crumbs and spills in the kitchen right away. Rinse out your recycling bins to ensure that no sugary, starchy, or savory materials remain. Make sure to empty your garbage can regularly and clean the inside of the can with a bleach solution. Make sure your pet food is sealed tight, and that any food containers are in good physical condition.
  • Use boric acid: Although exterminators commonly use boric acid, that doesn’t mean it’s hard to find. You can purchase boric acid at most convenience stores, hardware stores, and supermarkets — usually for less than a dollar. Sprinkle it where you’ve seen evidence of roaches. Once they get it on their carapaces, they will want to lick it off, and it will slowly poison them. However, be careful not to sprinkle too much. If the roaches see big clumps of boric acid, they will avoid it.
  • Use diatomaceous earth: Like boric acid, diatomaceous earth is also a white powder. But that’s where their similarities end. Diatoms are the remains of microscopic aquatic plants and animals, and these diatoms are added to soil to create an effective pesticide for gardens. Diatomaceous earth can be found in the garden section of your local supermarket or home improvement store. Once the roaches run over the material, the abrasive diatoms will cut through their exoskeletons, creating tears that cause roaches to dry out and die. Just make sure not to sprinkle too much. If roaches see large amounts of diatomaceous earth, they will travel around it

How Much is Pest Control for Roaches?

Pest control is a much different method for getting rid of cockroaches than extermination. Pest control services work on a subscription basis — usually quarterly — and they use different methods for taking care of pests than extermination companies.

The initial consultation with a pest control service like top termite exterminator Terminix usually costs between $50 and $100 and should include a preliminary inspection of your property. If they provide any services during this first visit, the fee can climb from between $120 and $150. Some companies waive this fee if you sign up for a subscription. The average annual pest control company fee may range from around a few hundred to about $1,000. This is less than one fumigation treatment.

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How Often Should Pest Control be Done for Roaches?

Most pest control companies offer subscription plans for certain pests, which can include roaches, rats, mice, moles, bed bugs, and other creepy crawlies. You may have the option to subscribe to monthly or quarterly services, so it is up to you to decide how often you want the company to come out for pest control treatments. Quarterly visits from a qualified service provider should be more than sufficient for a roach control plan. If your pest control company recommends more frequent treatments, they will let you know and you can discuss your options with them.

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