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Interesting topic! It's also an important definition for homeowners trying to set their own action thresholds. When is it time to act? I think you're right; it depends on the pest species and situational factors. Are there sensitive people living in the structure? Is there a public health risk?

One dead roach is NOT an infestation....yet one live Roach IS an infestation? Wasn't the dead roach ALIVE at one point in the area? So, at what point does the live roach turning into the dead roach go from infestation to non-infestation? A roach runs in under a door from the outside. Infestation? Or, just a single roach in the room? A person steps on the roach. No infestation? Just before it gets stepped on, it drops an egg case with 30+ nymph in-stars......dead roach but active roach egg case. Infestation? INFESTATION refers to the state of being NUMEROUSLY overrun or invaded by insects or animals in LARGE numbers as to cause damage or disease......Wikipedia, American English, Oxford. One "bug" is NOT an INFESTATION!

Don, this can be indeed a confusing and gray area when dealing with pests - even for professionals. And that's the point we wanted to convey with this article. In most cases, you probably can't tell if that dead cockroach has been dead for days/weeks, or someone stepped on it earlier today. And for that matter, whether or not it left a viable egg case in the kitchen before dying... However, we all need to make certain decisions when it comes to choosing our course of action.
You probably wouldn't treat a 1 bug sighting the same as dozens of critters crawling up your walls, right? But also, as we've mentioned before, this will depend on who lives in your home - is there an infant, or someone with asthma? As surprising as it may sound, yes, even one cockroach can trigger an asthma attack! To make things even more complicated, most people wouldn't care about 1 ant as they care about 1 mouse or rat... so it also depends on which pest(s) you're dealing with.
When it comes to public health pests (e.g. cockroaches, rodents, bed bugs), not only we have a much lower tolerance, but it can be critical to have some clear thresholds to guide our decisions and actions towards an effective solution. This becomes even more important for organizations such as housing authorities, regulatory institutions, or pest control companies, that perform inspections and work under very specific policies, contracts, and procedures. These folks use numbers and other types of measurements every day to decide what treatment to apply, how much, how often, and so on.
The definition and thresholds for infestation in the pest management world are all but 'set in stone', they rather vary based on various factors (as alluded here) and interpretation. However, researchers and different organizations - like HUD, EPA and others - continue to work hard to create better protocols, including clearer thresholds and action levels.

I found info on Orkin's site that seems reasonable. Finding a live cockroach during the day, droppings, smells or egg cases would be a clear sign of an infestation to me.

Thanks for sharing, KF. Yes, those would be typical signs of a roach infestation. For more information on how to recognize and address cockroach and other pests issues, check out the Pest Solutions page on our website: http://www.stoppests.org/pest-solutions/

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