Getting a glimpse of a German cockroach scurrying across the floor can leave you second-guessing everything from your neighborhood to your housekeeping habits. Instead of worrying what people will think or wondering what you did wrong, focus on learning more about these common household pests, including how to identify a German cockroach, what attracts them, where they like to hide, and—most importantly—how to get rid of them.
Like other roaches, German cockroaches leave disease-causing microorganisms, excrement, and castoff skin behind as they travel. It’s no wonder that some people experience an increase in wheezing, sneezing, itching, and watery eyes when they’ve got these pests in the house.
What Do German Cockroaches Look Like?
Adult German cockroaches are flat and tan or brown, with two dark, side-by-side lines starting at the back of the head. Although they don’t fly, they have fully developed wings. Most German cockroaches are relatively small, ranging from 1/2 inch to 5/8 inch in length. The female reproduces rapidly, having up to 7 sets of offspring during her lifetime and producing as many as 40 eggs at a time. Once a German cockroach nymph breaks out of the egg case and sheds its outer skin, it looks somewhat similar to an adult, but smaller, darker, and without wings.
What Attracts German Cockroaches to a Home?
Like most cockroach species, German cockroaches are merely looking for a good place to live, one that is warm, moist, and rife with food choices. Because these cockroaches are scavengers, they’ll eat just about anything, making garbage a primary source of food. Given a choice, they’ll opt for sweets, grease, starches, and meat. When food is scarce, however, they’ll eat anything from pet food to soap to hair to excrement to glue.
How Do I Know If I Have German Cockroaches?
Telltale signs of a German cockroach infestation include droppings that look like grinds of pepper or coffee, dead cockroaches, oval-shaped egg cases, and a strong, musty odor.
Where Do German Cockroaches Hide?
A roach’s favorite hiding place is dark, quiet, and away from people. Because of its wide, flat shape, a German cockroach can easily move in and out of tiny places, including many of the cracks and crevices in your house. Other hiding spots include the warmest places in the home, such as around wiring and electronics (like televisions and computers), under sinks and appliances like stoves, dishwashers, and refrigerators, and in walls and ceiling pipes.
How Do I Kill German Cockroaches and Prevent an Infestation?
Getting rid of German cockroaches is best accomplished through a combination of these methods:
1. Bait them.
Since they are looking for food and water, a carefully crafted blend of food, water, and insecticide like that found in Ortho® Home Defense Roach Bait is a good way to kill roaches hiding behind walls and in cracks. Place one bait station every 6 feet in kitchens and bathrooms, along baseboards, in cabinets, and wherever else you notice activity. The food lures them in, then they take the deadly bait back to share with the rest of the colony.
2. Spray them.
Another option is to spray German cockroaches with a no-stain insect killer like Ortho® Home Defense® Ant & Roach & Spider Killer2. Use on non-porous, non-food surfaces wherever German cockroaches travel and hide—it kills on contact and sanitizes* surfaces, too. Don’t use this method if you have roach baits set, though, as roaches need to be alive to share the bait with other roaches.
If you have kids or pets, or prefer something formulated with essential oils, try Ortho® Home Defense® Ant & Roach Killer with Essential Oils. Containing 5 different essential oils, including cinnamon oil and clove oil, this spray is effective at getting rid of many common species of ants and cockroaches, including the German cockroach. It starts killing in seconds, so spray directly on bugs, then wipe away any excess oil.
3. Prevent them.
German cockroaches are bacteria- and virus-carrying insects that can produce a strong-smelling secretion, so it’s as important to prevent future roaches as it is to get rid of the ones that have already made it inside. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a bug barrier that both kills existing roaches and prevents others from invading your home. Ortho® Home Defense Max® Indoor Insect Barrier with Extended Reach Comfort Wand® is a fast-acting, non-staining, fume-free spray that helps control German cockroaches and other listed insects for up to 12 months indoors on non-porous surfaces.
Here are some additional tips to help keep German cockroaches from setting up house in your home:
- DO store people food and pet food inside air-tight containers or the fridge.
- DON’T leave trash, food waste, or other garbage inside or uncovered for too long.
- DO repair leaky pipes, sinks, and drains to eliminate potential water sources.
- DON’T forget to wipe up crumbs and spills on countertops, in cabinets, on shelves, and on floors, as well as wash and dry dirty dishes daily.
- DO get in the habit of decluttering regularly.
- DON’T neglect to vacuum up food morsels and hard-to-see egg cases.
- DO seal, caulk, and repair cracks, crevices, and other tiny openings. Yes, cleanliness does play a part in helping to prevent pests, but cockroaches can be found anywhere – even the cleanest of homes. Follow this advice and you can cross German roaches off your list of worries.
* Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Klebsiella pneumoniae on hard, non-porous, non-food contact surfaces.