Baiting on a Nuclear Explosion

Last year I purchased a house to flip which unfortunately came with a cockroach infestation of epic proportions and I thought I’d share my experience in the form of a how to guide.

First and foremost, cockroach extermination is not fun.  It’s icky, gross, smelly and unpleasant.  But if insects/bugs don’t bother you, than this is a do-it-yourself for you.

The moment I opened the door to changed the locks in the house, cockroaches were falling out of the seams of the door.  The house was filthy; dirty clothes, food and animal feces were everywhere… a haven for cockroaches.  The house should have been condemned.  I simply changed the locks and got out.  I immediately called three local exterminators for bids.  The first was $6,000.  Ouch!  The second came in at $5,800.  The third came in at $5,000, but explained his price.  Simply put, the infestation was so bad nobody wanted to do the job.  And to guarantee the work, which included frequent repeat visits, the job wasn’t going to be cheap.  However, he pointed me in the right direction to get started doing it myself.

Here’s my list of materials:

  • I’m a hazmat technician for the fire department and had a level B suit laying around from training.  If you don’t have one, I highly recommend getting something similar for less than $10 on Amazon.com.  A suit with booties and a hood is what you’re after.  I would avoid a fully-enclosed suit and don’t think encapsulation is necessary.  Maybe get 2-4, because you’ll probably sweat your ass off the first couple of treatments and want to simply throw it our when you’re done each weekly treatment.
  • Pickup some rubber kitchen gloves.  The $1 kind are just fine.
  • I highly recommend steel-toe boots if you have them, but any boots will work just fine that you’re willing to thoroughly hose off when you’re done.
  • I didn’t see the need for an SCBA.  I’ve smelled some pretty nasty shit in my years with the fire service and just tolerated it, although it was bad.  If you feel you need something, respirators aren’t that expensive on Amazon.com.
  • Have a cooler of water and a water bottle with a straw on stand-by.  Any season in that suit is hot after 10-20 minutes.  You will lose fluids.  Stay hydrated.
  • Advion Syngenta Cockroach Gel Bait.  I bought two packs as I knew full well this would take longer than four weeks and I used a tube a week, just throwing out unfinished tubes in my weekly garbage.  This is the meat of the extermination.
  • Talstar Pro.  I only used this on the exterior of the house as a preventative measure to keep the bastards from invading the neighbors.  And if you don’t have it, get a sprayer too.  I have a firefighter buddy who swears by this stuff for the homes he rents, but I found it worked great for protection, not extermination.
  • Gentrol Point Source Insect Growth Regulator Discs.  These won’t kill anything, but it’ll make the roaches easier to kill and stunt the growth of babies.
  • Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade (DE). You’ll want this in the end of the extermination, but will want to keep it on hand because it’s perfect for killing most insects and it’s cheap.  Bees, Wasps, hornets, pinworms, bugs on the plants in your garden, this stuff rocks!  Mammals/Humans heal when we bleed.  Insects have an exoskeleton so when they get cut they bleed to death.  DE acts likes shards of glass when it comes in contact with insects and they essentially bleed to death.  Pickup the Pest Pistol Mini Duster while you’re at it.  Just as a heads up, try not to breathe too much of this stuff; although it won’t kill you it’s not good for you either.

All things considered, including a respirator, we have less than $200 worth of stuff here.  And here’s my schedule:

  • Week 1 – First I emptied the house into several dumpsters; clothes, furniture, dishes — all of it!  I then sprayed the Talstar around the entire exterior of the house, around all doorways and windows I could reach.  The idea was to create a barrier to seclude the extermination from neighbors and prevent me from taking anything home with me.  I then suited up and stuck the discs on walls in the ten most highly infested rooms and broke the pills.  Using the Gel bait, I took the syringe and put a small bead of bait every two linear feet in every room of the house (interior and exterior walls).  I did this weekly.
  • Week 2 – I saw a couple dead roaches, but nothing that would make me think my extermination was working yet.  I repeated the week 1 routine less the discs.
  • Week 3 – I saw a few hundred dead roaches to make me think this might work, but I still wasn’t convinced.  I repeated the week 1 routine less the discs.
  • Week 4 – I knew it was going to work at this point… several thousand roaches lined my floors.  I finally swept the floors. Again, repeat the week 1 routine without discs.
  • Week 5 – Mass exodus!  Tens of thousands lined the floor and I was singing and dancing as I was sweeping the floors.  I sprayed the exterior and baited the interior yet again.
  • Week 6 – Not nearly as many dead, I clearly had gotten the majority the previous week.  I saw lots of itty-bitty babies mixed with the few adult remaining.  I repeated my bait spray and bait treatment, but did some research.
  • Week 7 – I stumbled on DE reading reviews on Amazon and though I’d give it a shot.  At this point I didn’t see the need to suit up anymore, pants and a long-sleeve shirt with gloves sufficed.  I still sprayed the exterior and baited the interior.  I then used the mini duster and coated all the baseboards in the house with DE.
  • Week 8 – No babies.  Save the few adult stragglers I found in the trim around doors and outlets, which I got this week but wish I had gotten the previous week.
  • Week 9 – No movement.  Everything is dead.  The bait was gone so I retreated with just DE.

Cockroaches have a three week life cycle so it took some time for the suckers to take the bait back to the nest and die off.  The whole process took about 12 weeks.  I say 12 weeks because even though I treated for 9 weeks, I let it sit for three weeks before I even began doing any cleanup (and roach poop is tough to cleanup — it stains everything).  We were fortunate that we were able to have nobody living in the house while we treated, which probably could have extended the extermination process.

Bear in mind the casual stray BLACK cockroach is nothing to freak out about.  They’re usually an outdoor roach in search of moisture.  Just kill it and move along unless you start seeing more.  It’s the little brown German buggers that will rapidly infest a building and if you see one German roach, you can guarantee there’s more.

This was a timely process, but not difficult.  Patience and diligence were important virtues in this process.

Rick

Professional firefighter since 2008 and web developer since 1999. Husband, father, musician, writer, Scouter... I'm the swiss-army geek in your back pocket.