I’ve been reading through a lot of cockroach research this week—getting plenty of strange looks on the bus. It’s fascinating stuff and so applicable to what we’re doing in housing.
One tool that seems like an obvious fit for IPM work is the vacuum. One study, “Evaluation of Trapping and Vacuuming Compared with Low-Impact Insecticide Tactics for Managing German Cockroaches in Residences,” showed that vacuuming is just as effective as spraying, baiting, and trapping for the initial knock-down of a cockroach population. Benefits of vacuuming include:
- Immediately impacts the cockroach population.
- Reduces the reproductive potential of the population.
- Removes both the susceptible and insecticide-resistant cockroaches.
- Can be accomplished without vacating the premises.
- Reduces the number of dead or dying cockroaches the [residents] will see.
- Reduces the level of allergens present when a HEPA filter is used on the vacuum. (Hedges in Mallis, 2004).
Before I get into the research results, here’s your pest control vocabulary word of the day: GRAVID. “Gravid” means really pregnant. In context: Forcing gravid females from their deep and hard-to-reach hiding spots and removing them are important steps in reducing cockroach population reproduction and growth (KaaKeh & Bennett, 1997).
KaaKeh & Bennett (researchers) did this study to compare spraying, baiting, trapping with sticky traps, vacuuming, and vacuuming with a flushing agent on German Cockroach control. In short, they found all these methods were effective. Of course, they were taking their time and making sure the treatments were thorough.
I want to highlight the vacuuming parts of their paper, because I think the vacuum is an underutilized tool in pest control in public housing and I want to make you all believers:
- “Vacuuming should be directed into cracks and wall voids, sides of cabinets, behind baseboards, and potential harborage in appliances and furniture….
- [The stress caused by vacuuming] places cockroaches at greater risk to the effects of insecticides and other biotic and abiotic control tactics (Gold, 1995)…
- Vacuuming treatment significantly reduces cockroach populations to a low level, but does not eliminate them because there is no residual, and the remaining cockroach populations tent to rebound in 3-4 weeks (Frishman, 1995)…
- Gravid females are more important than males and nymphs from the standpoint of long-term population reduction (Moore and Granovsky, 1983)…and
- The use of a flushing agent before vacuuming led to a greater population reduction and removal of hard-to-reach gravid females” (Kaakeh & Bennett, 2004).
A quick note on flushing agents: These are chemicals that should only be used by a PMP. And if the PMP is going to use a flushing agent, make sure the residents that see are well-aware of what is happening. If the residents only see the initial effect and miss the vacuum part, the rumor mill will start. I have been to more than one property where the residents’ strongest argument against the PMP is that he, “sprays stuff that makes it rain roaches. He makes the problem worse.” I can’t stress enough the importance of communication between residents and the PMP.
Flushing agents are for the pros, but anyone can use a vacuum. Backpack vacuums are especially useful because they are easy to carry around. Some ideas of how to incorporate vacuuming for pest control into procedures include:
- During housekeeping inspections,
- When maintenance staff or contractors are doing renovations or repairs (in many states it’s illegal for them to use a pesticide in units…even vacant ones), and
- During a one-on-one visit with a resident who is living in an infested unit.
See the sample newsletter article below for the how-to on using a vacuum for pests control. It’ll even work for bed bugs.
Have I sold you on the value of vacuums yet?
Almost every property has homes with known infestations. I encourage you to focus your pest control time and effort on these locations. Work with the resident and offer any resources you can—some time with a vacuum will impact more than just the pests. I’ve heard from many PMPs and experienced myself, that when you show up with a vacuum and spend some time taking out the bugs, the residents actually believe that you are with them in the battle and then are more willing to do their part. In addition to being an effective pest control tool, a vacuum is a conversation-starter.
And in all honesty, the thrill of the kill is kind of fun—knowing you’re actually taking the bugs OUT. I know, the strange looks I get on the bus are well-deserved.
-------------------sample newsletter article-------------------
Pests: Take Control. Take them Out.
Pests are bad. Doesn’t matter if they’re crawling across the floor or dead on their back—even the dead ones may trigger asthma. How do you get rid of any bug—dead or alive? A Vacuum.
Vacuuming is one of the most effective ways to get rid of the pregnant female cockroaches that keep the infestation going—these ladies hide away from sticky traps and pesticides. If you see pests, do this monthly:
- Get a vacuum cleaner. If you can, get a one with a bag and a “HEPA” filter—this will catch the asthma triggers.
- If it has a bag, make sure the bag is in it.
- Get one knee-high pantyhose and stuff the toe down the vacuum hose at the sucking end.
- Keep pushing it down the hose until about 8 inches are sticking out.
- Fold the open end of the pantyhose over the vacuum nozzle (like you fold a trash bag over the edge of a trash can) and secure it with a rubber band.
- Put the crevice tool on the vacuum hose over the pantyhose.
You just made a pantyhose bug bag inside your vacuum!
Now go on a bug hunt. Move appliances, open cupboards, and check around your bed. Focus on cracks where bugs like to hide. When you see an insect—dead or alive—suck it up!
When you’re done, remove the crevice tool and rubber band, tie off the end of the pantyhose, get a plastic shopping bag, and pull the pantyhose out of the vacuum carefully. Put it in the plastic bag, tie it off, and throw it away outside.
As long as there are no holes in your pantyhose, this will works on all bugs!
Works Cited in this Post
Frishman, A. 1995. Vacuum cleaner becomes successful tool. Pest Control 63: 11.
Gold, R. E. 1995. Alternate control strategies, pp. 325-344. In M. K. Rust, M. Owens, and D. A. Reierson [eds.], Understanding and controlling the German cockroach. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Kaakeh, W., and G. W. Bennett. 1997. Evaluation of Trapping and Vacuuming Compared with Low-Impact Insecticide Tactics for Managing German Cockroaches in Residences. J. Econ. Entomol. 90: 976-982.
Mallis, A. & Hedges, S.A. [ed.]. Handbook of Pest Control: 9th Edition. Ohio: GIE Media, Inc. 2004.
Moore, W. S., and T. A. Granovsky. 1983. Laboratory comparisons of sticky traps to detect and control five species of cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattidae and Blatellidae). J. Econ. Entomol. 76: 845-849.