Nothing makes your toes curl like seeing a cockroach scurry down your kitchen sink. Scrubbing down the floors and countertops might give you peace of mind, but have you considered removing outdoor food sources, too?
Many cockroach species live outdoors but will move indoors for sources of food, water, and shelter (instead of your squeaky-clean kitchen, it might be the outdoor garbage cans inviting roaches to your property). By learning how to get rid of roaches in your yard, you can help stop an outdoor problem before it becomes an indoor problem.
- What are cockroaches?
- How to control cockroaches in the yard
- Why should I remove roaches from the yard?
- Signs you have a roach problem
- FAQ about cockroaches
- Leave the creepy crawlies to the pros
What are cockroaches?
Have you ever walked into your kitchen at night, turned on the light, and saw insects scatter beneath the refrigerator or stove? You likely witnessed cockroaches escaping from the light (and your screams).
Cockroaches have flat, oval-shaped bodies with long antennae and long spiny legs. Their flat bodies allow them to slip through cracks and crevices as small as 3 millimeters.
Most cockroaches are between ½- to 2-inches long and don’t fly. Yet some species of roaches, like the smokybrown cockroach, can fly short distances or use their wings to glide, like the American cockroach.
Most female cockroaches carry their egg case until it’s ready to hatch. The egg case is about the size of a bean and extends past the roach’s abdomen.
There are many different species of cockroaches, all with varying degrees of body size, shape, and color. Their body color typically ranges between reddish-brown, dark brown, black, and tan.
How to control cockroaches in the yard
As soon as you spot cockroaches having their lunch break by your outdoor trash bins, it’s time to take action. Although many cockroach species live outside, they also can live and breed indoors. If they find out your home is filled with food, shelter, and water, it’s game over.
As you begin to control cockroaches in the yard, keep in mind the job won’t be as easy as spraying a few chemicals around the house. Insecticide alone will not get rid of cockroaches. An integrated pest management (IPM) approach that involves several control methods is necessary to remove cockroaches.
What is IPM? Integrated pest management is a pest control approach that focuses on the long-term prevention of pests through a combination of techniques such as habitat modification, exclusion, and modified cultural practices. Pesticides are only used when needed and are applied with minimal risk to humans, non-target organisms, and the environment.
Roaches have no trouble squeezing through small cracks in and around your home. To prevent these backyard pests from invading your personal space, you’ll need to block all entryways around your home. Follow these outdoor exclusion tips to help keep roaches at bay:
- Caulk or seal any visible cracks or crevices that are entry points to your home
- Install door sweeps underneath your doors that lead to the yard
- Weatherstrip your windows and doors
- Install a layer of gravel around the house that extends 6 to 12 inches from the foundation. The gravel helps prevent moisture, making the area less attractive to roaches.
- Remember to check grocery bags, firewood, furniture, or any other item that may carry a cockroach into the house.
Remove food sources
Limiting access to food is one of the best ways you can make your lawn less inviting to roaches. These pests love to snack on human foods, making your compost bin and outdoor trash cans cockroach heaven.
Cockroaches aren’t necessarily a nemesis in the compost pile –– they help with the decomposition process. But if the compost bin is too close to your home or the cockroaches have easy access to the indoors, you might want to consider removing them from the compost bin.
Ready to remove food sources? Here’s what you can do:
- Bring pet food bowls inside at night.
- Clean Fido’s dog house.
- Cover your trash cans with tight lids.
- Line your trash cans with garbage bags; otherwise, the walls will become dirty and attract roaches.
- Keep garbage cans away from doorways.
- When you eat outside, clean up all crumbs or accidental spills.
- If you have an outdoor kitchen or grill, keep its surfaces clean and store all food.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in your compost bin –– don’t worry, it won’t hurt your friendly earthworms.
- Do not compost meat, eggs, or dairy products. Otherwise, the compost will smell and attract cockroaches.
- Turn the compost pile regularly to disturb any cockroaches that are present.
- Follow all proper composting practices. If you don’t maintain your compost pile, it will be more attractive to pests.
Remove water sources
Cockroaches need moisture to survive. If your yard is full of puddles or dripping pipes, you’re sending an open invitation to these pests. Here are some tips on how to remove sources of water in the yard:
- Repair leaky faucets and pipes.
- Avoid watering your lawn in the evening. The water will cling onto the grass blades at night and create a moist environment for cockroaches. The best time of day to water the lawn is early morning before 10 am.
- Remove buckets, watering cans, empty plant pots, or other items that may fill up with water.
- Bring pet water dishes inside at night.
- Direct downspouts away from your home.
- Remove debris from your gutters that may be blocking water from draining.
Remove hiding places
Roaches like to hide in dark, warm areas. If you can remove suitable hiding places from the lawn, roaches won’t have good access to shelter and will likely look elsewhere for a place to survive.
Here’s what you can do to turn your yard into unappealing real estate for roaches:
- Seal cracks and crevices where cockroaches are likely to hide.
- Remove debris from the yard, such as cardboard boxes.
- Rake the leaves.
- Avoid growing ivy or other vines near the house.
- Avoid planting palm trees too near the house.
- Store wood piles away from the house, and only bring firewood inside when you’re ready to use it.
- If you have organic mulch near the home, either pull the mulch 12 inches away from the house’s foundation or replace it with an inorganic mulch like rubber or gravel.
Set sticky traps
Sticky traps or glue boards are handy monitoring tools. They have a sticky adhesive that traps the cockroach and prevents it from escaping.
Not only do sticky traps catch cockroaches, but they also allow you to determine where to focus your control efforts and monitor the effectiveness of those control efforts.
For example, if the trap near your compost pile collects several roaches, this reveals that you need to focus your roach-control methods in this specific area. Once the trap near the compost pile begins to catch fewer roaches, this can help you confirm that the increase in control efforts made a positive difference.
For best results, place the sticky traps where cockroaches are likely to encounter them when out foraging.
Control with bait
Cockroach baits contain insecticide combined with food that attracts the roach. Most baits are slow-acting and won’t kill roaches right away. You may need to wait as long as seven days or more before you notice less cockroach activity.
Place the bait near where the roaches hide or forage for food. Baits do not attract roaches from far away, so you want to place the bait where the pest is most likely to encounter it.
For roach baits to be effective, you’ll need to remove all available food sources in the yard. Otherwise, the cockroaches will have plenty of other food to snack on.
Baits come in three forms: bait stations, gels, and powders.
Remember: Not all bait products are suitable for outdoor use. Always read the application instructions for the bait product you are using. Misapplication is a hazard to yourself, animals, plants, and people.
Bait stations are an easy DIY application method because they already come prefilled with bait, and many stations are refillable, too. The bait is confined in a small plastic container that’s difficult for pets and children to tamper.
Stations are most effective when you place them in corners where you suspect roaches are hiding or entering your home. The bait can last for many months, so you needn’t worry about frequent replacement.
Keep in mind that bait stations are not traps that capture the cockroach. The stations are meant to store the bait which attracts the cockroach to the poison.
Gel baits are another effective roach control method. Dab small drops of the gel (no larger than a pea) between cracks where you suspect the pest is hiding. Place the gel in areas inaccessible to pets and children but where roaches will easily find the bait.
Read the product instructions to determine how often you’ll need to reapply the gel. A good rule of thumb is to replace the bait when the gel dries; otherwise, the roaches won’t consume it.
Dust and powder
Although dust insecticides are a chemical treatment option, they’re not always ideal for outdoor use. For example, boric acid is a common insecticide powder that’s highly toxic to plants and shouldn’t be applied in open areas. Boric acid is also only effective when the powder is dry, which means a rainstorm could wipe out your most recent application.
When using powder insecticides outdoors, you must confirm the product is approved for outdoor use, and you must never apply it where animals and people will contact the powder. Always read and follow the application instructions for your specific product.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a non-toxic powdered form of fossilized microscopic aquatic organisms called diatoms. When cockroaches come in contact with DE, the powder’s sharp and abrasive edges will damage the insect’s exoskeleton and lungs. DE also will dehydrate the roach by absorbing the exoskeleton’s fats and oils.
Sprinkle the powder around areas where you suspect roach activity or in areas where you want to keep roaches at bay, such as around your garden, lawn, or compost pile.
DE is non-toxic, but prolonged exposure can irritate the lungs of people or animals. When applying DE, wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling the powder.
Apply outdoor perimeter treatments
Outdoor perimeter sprays are an effective way to block a cockroach’s access to the house. These insecticides act as a forcefield around your home’s foundation, doors, and windows.
If applying the insecticide yourself, always follow the product’s application instructions. For peace of mind, you might prefer hiring a licensed professional to do the job for you. A professional pest control company is trained to apply the insecticide in the safest and most effective way possible.
Follow up on your treatment methods
For an IPM strategy to be successful, it must provide long-term prevention of the pest. Once you execute the various control methods, such as closing trash bins or removing food outdoors, it doesn’t mean you can let your guard down.
You’ll need to return to these methods and evaluate their effectiveness. For example, remember to routinely check your compost pile or trash bins to ensure no reinfestation has occurred. Investigate areas that once had cockroaches and see if signs of activity persist. Sticky traps are an excellent way to see if a spot in the yard still has roaches.
Why should I remove roaches from the yard?
When cockroaches are a problem in the yard, the last thing you want is for these pests to move indoors. These house guests can pose a threat to your health, so it’s best to show them the door. Here are some concerns regarding cockroaches:
- Cockroaches can affect the flavor of foods they come in contact with.
- Roaches can contaminate foods and utensils with disease-causing organisms they often carry on their legs and bodies. According to the EPA, these bacteria can cause salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus if deposited in food.
- According to the American Lung Association, not only can cockroach allergens trigger asthma and allergies in people, but there is some evidence that early exposure to cockroach allergens can cause asthma to develop in young children.
Signs you have a roach problem
Think you might have a cockroach problem? Here are some signs to look out for around your home:
- Living or dead roaches: If you’re finding cockroaches around your home, there may be more hiding where you can’t see them.
- Musty odor: The bigger the roach infestation, the more pungent the stench.
- Feces: Cockroach droppings can look like black pepper flakes or smear marks.
- Egg cases: The female cockroach’s egg case typically looks like a bean.
- Discarded skin: As cockroaches grow, they shed their exoskeletons.
FAQ about cockroaches
Many cockroach species live outdoors, including the:
We’ve all heard that these unstoppable insects can survive a nuclear blast. While it may be hard to kill cockroaches, these insects can’t survive a nuclear explosion.
Cockroaches might not be able to survive a nuclear war, but they sure can survive an attack from your broomstick!
Cockroaches can run up to 50 times their body length in one second, and they can squeeze through cracks as small as 3 millimeters. They also can withstand forces up to 900 times their body weight.
These invincible creatures also can quickly develop a resistance to insecticides, which is why it’s always important to implement multiple control techniques.
Leave the creepy crawlies to the pros
When you hire an exterminator to handle a cockroach infestation, you can have peace of mind knowing a qualified professional is on the job. DIY outdoor cockroach control is possible, but one small mistake could invite these pests indoors. And if you choose the insecticide route, you can rest assured a trained professional is applying the chemicals safely.
Don’t have time to modify the habitat or keep debris off the lawn? Hire a local lawn care professional to keep your lawn in tip-top shape so that it’s less appealing to cockroaches. A pro can help remove overgrown ground covers, rake the leaves, and even help modify your mulch beds. Let the pros handle the roaches while you finally clean those dirty dishes!
Main Photo Credit: Brett Hondow | Pixabay