Mr. Meek

Security & Safety

Old Cockroaches Learn New Tricks

By Frank Meek, International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC

It seems cockroaches, one of Earth's oldest active species, are learning new tricks when it comes to survival. These hardy pests, which have survived 350 million years on the planet, lately are demonstrating more of the cunning that has made them so resilient. Since the 1990s, cockroaches have exhibited an increasing tendency to avoid pesticide baits commonly used in pest control. If your hotels are seeing an upswing in the reports of roach activity, this could be a reason why.

Baiting is a popular method of roach control for hotels because baits lower the chances of pesticide exposure, as compared to airborne sprays. The problem is not that cockroaches have become resistant to the chemicals used in the baits themselves. Rather, these pests have "learned" to avoid the baits altogether. For researchers looking into the matter, this discovery is concerning because roaches are circumventing extermination efforts, but fascinating because the pests have actually learned how to work around specific kinds of baits. For hoteliers and the pest control industry, the phenomenon can be frustrating.

The current trend, known to pest management professionals as "bait aversion," was first observed in 1999 in Florida when pest management professionals noticed that some bait materials previously effective on roaches were beginning to lose their edge. Over the next two years, similar situations began to crop up in Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Georgia, Wisconsin, California and other areas. In all of these locations, baits that had previously worked were coming up short.

As the pest control industry began to realize what was happening, technicians and bait manufacturers quickly went to work to figure how to turn the tide. According to a recent study performed at Purdue University, bait aversion appears to be rooted in the inactive ingredients in the bait. In other words, cockroaches are not avoiding the pesticide in the baits, but the presence of the material altogether. Manufacturers are currently developing new bait materials that will entice roaches to feed.

The realization that cockroaches can learn to avoid baits has helped reinforce the importance of integrated pest management (IPM) for long-term control of roach populations. IPM is a method of pest management that stresses non-chemical methods such as trapping, physical removal and exclusion in order to control pests and keep them out of a facility in the first place.

It is imperative that hotels partner with their pest control provider to implement effective IPM strategies. For example:

While the news that cockroaches have learned to avoid baits is surprising, it is important to note that there are other options available for preventing roach problems. Hotel operators and their pest management providers must return to fundamentals, in a sense, focusing again on making their establishments less attractive to roaches. Meanwhile, the pest control industry must constantly research and test the "next generation" of bait materials.

Remember that a typical cockroach may measure an inch or less in size, but the sight of these pests can leave an enormous impression on a hotel guest. If you are experiencing an increase in cockroaches, contact a pest management professional who can help you identify the source of the problem and recommend some new tricks to rid your hotel of these unwanted "guests."

An industry veteran, Frank Meek has been with Orkin since 1986. In 2003, he was named among the future leaders of the pest management industry in Pest Control Technology magazine’s “40 Under 40” ranking. Currently, as the International Technical and Training Director, Mr. Meek provides technical support and training in both sales and service to Orkin's international franchises, helping them grow and develop in their specific markets. As a board-certified entomologist, Mr. Meek teaches Integrated Pest Management principles and can explain how to use all available methodologies to prevent pest infestations in various commercial settings. Mr. Meek can be contacted at 404-888-2898 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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