Is it OK to Step on a Cockroach? Our Expert Has Answers to Your Roach-Related Questions

As far as household pests go, cockroaches are pretty disgusting. They scuttle around under cover of darkness, multiply rapidly, and leave their shed skins and frass (aka poop) everywhere. Cockroaches are also a health hazard: They can cause or aggravate allergies and asthma in people who are susceptible to these conditions, and they’re a leading cause of asthma in children who live in urban multifamily housing.

Despite what you may have heard, though, controlling cockroaches in your multifamily housing complex is possible, as long as you have the right approach, said Susannah Krysko, an entomologist and project coordinator with Stop Pests in Housing. A recent guest on HAI Group’s risk control webinar series, Krysko shared research-backed approaches to cockroach control with our audience of multifamily housing professionals.

So what is the best way to rid a multifamily building of cockroaches?

Continue reading for tips, or watch the full webinar below. (Bonus content: During the webinar, Krysko shares a treatment option you can request that is guaranteed to impress your pest control consultant.)


“Integrated pest management is the safest and most effective way to control cockroaches in multifamily housing,” said Krysko.

If you’re not familiar with IPM, in a nutshell, it’s an approach to pest management that considers a given pest’s life cycle and the way it interacts with the environment. This information drives the use of a variety of common-sense practices and pest control methods, including pesticides when warranted. Prioritizing the health of the ecosystem, IMP programs enable users to manage pets cost-effectively and with the least possible risk to people, property, and the environment.

Krysco describes IPM as “a system of making decisions and using control tactics that solve the whole problem.”

There are multiple benefits to using IPM in multifamily housing, including:

  • fewer pests
  • lowered rates of pesticide resistance
  • a healthier building
  • fewer tenant complaints
  • cost savings from spending less money treating chronic infestations

How do you put an integrated pest management approach into practice?

There are five steps to IPM, which Krysko says everyone using the approach should follow. They include:

  1. Inspect and monitor. Inspect your property for pests at least once a year, or more often for buildings or units that have had prior infestations. In the case of cockroaches, be on the lookout for frass and other signs that you may have a problem. “Often, we don’t see the actual bugs,” says Krysko.” Monitoring devices, like sticky traps, which you can buy without a license, can help identify a problem as well as the severity of the infestation, and point you to cockroach hiding places.

  2. Identify the pest. Is the bug you saw actually a cockroach? Some pests, including certain beetles, can look like roaches. If it is a roach, what kind of roach is it? German? Oriental? Something else? Different bugs have different habits and require different approaches.

  3. Scale the response. A relatively new concept in pest control, scaling the response to the severity of the problem is considered a smart approach by leading entomologists and pest control experts. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pest control,” said Krysko. “We look at the size of the population and we look at the conditions. The response for seeing two roaches versus two thousand is going to be quite different.”

  4. Treat. There are different methods of effective pest control, not all of them chemical; an IPM specialist can help you devise a plan. For example, behavioral changes, which include things like promptly cleaning up messes, recycling bottles, and keeping tight-fitting lids on trash cans, can be a tremendous help. Physical methods, which include trapping or blocking pests, are also highly effective. When pesticide use is warranted, IPM stresses using EPA-approved products with the least risk that will also get the job done.

  5. Evaluate success. Checking your records is a critical component of IPM. “This is where a lot of properties I work with fall off the IPM wagon,” says Krysko, who recently worked with a property that had a chronically infested unit. After asking the property manager to check service records, they saw that the unit had been chemically treated 41 times! “No one went back to look at the records to say, ‘Hey, something’s going wrong here.’ If the problem hasn’t been solved after 41 treatments…you’re doing the wrong treatment,” said Krysko.

How does a cockroach infestation start?

Cardboard boxes from things like food deliveries are the most common way roaches get into buildings. “A lot of times, we blame residents, but it’s really not their fault,” said Krysko. “Most commonly, there’s one introduction, and the bugs spread from there… quickly and easily through wall voids, cracks and crevices, pipes, etc.”

What’s the best way to prevent cockroaches?

Sanitation and exclusion (keeping bugs out in the first place).

Is routine spraying for cockroaches a good idea?

No. “You want to inspect, monitor, and identify before you treat,” says Krysko. “Treatment without evidence of cockroaches is a waste of money and exposes people to pesticides unnecessarily.”

How do you prioritize cockroach infestations?

Treat the heaviest infestations first, since smaller infestations usually stem from larger ones.

What do I do if I have an ongoing cockroach infestation?

“Check for leaks,” says Krysko. “Often ongoing, stubborn infestations are due to a water leak in the walls. A moisture meter can help here.”

Is it okay to step on a cockroach?

“It’s a great question,” said Krysko. “If you step on a female who is carrying an egg sac, which is sticky, you may get eggs all over your shoes.”

That said, killing one roach does a lot of good. “One pregnant roach, within six months, will result in about 18,400 roaches,” said Krysko. “The population can get out of hand really quickly.”

So go ahead and kill them, but use a newspaper or something else so you don’t inadvertently track eggs throughout the building.

Additional resources

Find additional cockroach-related resources, including lease language, working with residents, and a sample IPM policy, on the StopPest website.

Find resources on integrated pest management here.

HAI Group Policyholders: Contact your dedicated risk control consultant with any risk-related questions or concerns. 

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This article is for general information only. HAI Group makes no representation or warranty about the accuracy or applicability of this information for any particular use or circumstance. Your use of this information is at your own discretion and risk. HAI Group and any author or contributor identified herein assume no responsibility for your use of this information. You should consult with your attorney or subject matter advisor before adopting any risk management strategy or policy.

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