If You See a Cockroach in Your Home, Never Kill It Like This, Experts Say
This bug can withstand nearly 900 times its body weight, so you'll need some serious force to kill it.
When you spot a bug crawling across your floor, your first instinct is probably to swat it with the nearest item. Newspapers, magazines, books, anything laying around nearby may seem strong enough to squash the creepy crawler and put an end to the whole affair, but experts say this isn't always the best approach. There is one bug that can survive being banged around quite a bit, so it needs to be killed with a lot of force. To see which bug can withstand nearly 900 times its body weight, read on, and to see which bug you should never step on, check out If You See This Bug in Your Home, Don't Step on It, Experts Warn.
Hitting a cockroach with a newspaper likely won't kill it.
"Cockroaches are insects with extreme adaptability," says entomologist and pest control expert Ryan Smith, PhD. "Thanks to their strong exoskeleton, they can withstand great force to an extent. Such exoskeleton is also flexible, allowing them to easily shift their energy to the legs for running. This is also the reason a mere newspaper slap won't successfully kill them." In a 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, researchers found that cockroaches' exoskeletal strength allows them to withstand forces up to nearly 900 times their body weight without injury.
"A newspaper is normally not enough to kill a cockroach. You'll need to apply more force in order to crack its outer shell," pest control expert Natalie Barrett explains. A failed attempt at trying to kill a cockroach gives it the opportunity to get away. "If you don't manage to kill or seriously harm it, the cockroach will quickly escape," she warns. And to see if you have this subtle sign of bed bugs, check out If You Smell This in Your Bedroom, You Might Have Bed Bugs.
If you try to step on a cockroach, you need to use extreme force.
Cockroaches are very durable—they can withstand serious injuries and survive without food for months. Pest control expert Jordan Foster says cockroaches can even "live without a head for more than a week."
If you do decide to try to step on a cockroach to kill it, you'll have to use extreme force. "If you've chosen the method of applying force with a shoe or another heavy object, force is necessary. To make sure the cockroach has been killed, you need to ensure that its protective layer around its body is crushed and the hit reaches its internal parts," says Barrett.
You'll want to be sure you killed the insect since they're experts at playing dead and can recover from many blows. Experts say to be sure you've killed the insect—you should listen for a popping sound, which means you've broken through the exoskeleton. Additionally, "you'll notice cockroach blood, which is a clear substance that flows through its body. It will escape the body and will be visible once you crush the outer shell of the body," says Barrett.
To see if this rare event will be happening in your state, check out If You Live Here, Prepare for a Major Bug Infestation, Expert Warns.
There are other ways to kill cockroaches.
If you can't get up the courage to use enough force to successfully squash the cockroach or you just want to make sure the job gets done, you may want to use another method. Barrett says boric acid is one of the most effective cockroach killers.
Smith suggests making a concoction of three parts boric acid and one part sugar, then putting it in a spray bottle to kill cockroaches and ants alike. Smith also notes that there are plenty of insecticide sprays available that instantly kill cockroaches. For more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
There are also things you can do to deter cockroaches from entering your home.
Keeping your home clean can mitigate the likelihood of cockroaches invading your home. But if you notice the beginnings of a cockroach problem, you could take some steps to deter them by trying natural approaches "such as using home sprays in scents that they hate (e.g., citrus and lavender)," according to Smith.
However, if it's clear you have an infestation, it's best to contact a professional to ensure the problem doesn't grow. To see which bugs might be making a comeback, check out These Awful Bugs You Forgot About May Soon Come Back, Exterminators Warn.