How to Recognize Roaches in Illinois

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Illinois is home to four species of cockroach that commonly infest homes and buildings: the American, German, Oriental, and Brown-banded cockroach. Removing points of entry and keeping your home clean are two of the most important steps in preventing an infestation—but if that doesn’t work, there are natural and chemical insecticides that can do the job.
Living with cockroaches isn’t something anyone wants to do: they’re creepy little insects who’ll eat just about anything they can reach, but can also aid in the spread of microorganisms, bacteria, and pathogens that cause E. coli, Salmonella, and food poisoning.
That said, recognizing a cockroach—let alone identifying the species—isn’t always an easy task, especially for new homeowners who have never had to deal with infestations before. That’s why licensed home and auto insurance super app Jerry has put together this guide on recognizing roaches in Illinois.
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Illinois cockroaches 101: How to recognize a roach

The first step to dealing with roaches is to actually be able to recognize a roach when you see it, as well as the specific type of roach you’re seeing—this can give insight into the nature and severity of the infestation you may have to address.
Overall, Illinois has four species of cockroaches you should learn to recognize: the American, German, Oriental, and Brown-banded roach.

American cockroaches

Chances are, if you were asked to picture a cockroach, the American cockroach is probably what you’d think of—reddish-brown, two-to-three inches long with wings and a pale neck. These roaches are one of the largest species found in Illinois and are active the whole year round, especially in warm, moist locations (e.g. bakeries, commercial restaurants, and your home).
American cockroaches feed on just about anything they can find, including decaying food, hair, paper, dead animals, and even other cockroaches.

German cockroaches

As the inverse to their American cousins, German cockroaches are quite small, usually only growing to be half an inch in length—but don’t let their diminutive size fool you: they’ll still eat any food they can get their legs on, preferring sugar, starches, meat, and fatty foods.
Males are tan or light brown in color, with darker streaks near their heads, whereas females are a dark brown and have a wider abdomen—both have wings but only the males can fly. German cockroaches are active year-round, but mainly come out at night—if you see one during the day, you probably have an infestation.

Oriental cockroaches

Also referred to as a waterbug, Oriental cockroaches are reddish- or blackish-brown and generally grow to around 1-inch long. As their nickname suggests, Oriental roaches prefer moist, dark places—and while they do have wings, they cannot fly, nor do they climb very well.
You’ll most often find them outside in drains, sewers, under mulch and leaf litter, and under porches, but they have been known to infest basements as well. Oriental roaches typically feed on animal matter, decaying plant matter, and starchy foods.

Brown-banded cockroaches

As the smallest species of roach in Illinois, Brown-banded cockroaches rarely grow to even a full half-inch in length, making it that much easier for them to enter your home. You’ll be able to identify these roaches—and distinguish them from their German counterparts—by distinct, alternating bands of dark and light brown markings. 
Brown-banded cockroaches will eat just about anything and require less moisture than most other roaches, meaning they can inhabit practically any space in your home, including cabinets, appliances, and even bedrooms. 

A guide to cockroach identification

Knowing which species of roach you’re dealing with is incredibly important—use the table below to identify Illinois’ most common cockroaches.
Type of roachAverage lengthColorCan it fly?Where to spot them
American2-3 inchesReddish-brownYesDrains, crawl spaces, basements
German0.5 inchesLight brownYesBathrooms, garages, kitchens, basements
Oriental1 inchReddish- or blackish-brownNoDrains, basements, under porches, under mulch
Brown-banded0.5 inchesBrown w/ light brown bandsOnly malesEverywhere but the kitchen
Pennsylvania Wood1 inchDark brownOnly malesDead trees, stumps, logs, firewood
Smoky Brown1 inchDark brownYesGutters, attics, eaves, under mulch
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How to get rid of roaches in Illinois

Seeing one or two roaches isn’t always cause for alarm, and may not indicate that a larger colony has moved in—but if you start seeing them more frequently or notice droppings around your house, it may be time to deal with an infestation.
Your first step in dealing with a cockroach infestation, before even bringing out the roach spray, is making sure your home is kept clean and sanitized—regularly take out the trash, wash dirty dishes, sweep and mop the floors, clean up spills and other food debris, and make sure all food is stored properly. 
Removing a roach’s source of food makes your home that much less attractive to them.
Your second step is to try and identify and seal off as many roach entryways as possible—make sure there are no cracks, gaps, or small holes for them to breach. If you catch an infestation in its early stages, you may be able to beat it simply by cleaning up and sealing entry points.
If you aren’t so lucky, there are several methods—both natural and chemical—that can help kill or deter cockroaches from encroaching on your home.

Natural roach killers

If you have pets, small children, or just don’t want to expose your home to toxic pesticides, try out these natural roach killers.
  • Borax: Though most commonly used in detergents, borax can kill cockroaches by inducing dehydration—mix some with sugar and leave it near high-traffic roach areas
  • Boric acid: A natural pesticide, boric acid isn’t toxic to humans in small amounts, but it’s quite deadly to cockroaches—sprinkle some around areas roaches are known to traverse
  • Baking soda: When ingested by roaches, baking soda initiates a chemical reaction, generating gasses that essentially cause them to explode from the inside—mix with sugar and leave where you’ve spotted roaches
  • Diatomaceous earth: Formed from ancient fossilized algae, diatomaceous earth is a crumbly, white powder that kills roaches by damaging their exoskeletons—sprinkle it over key points of entry
All of these natural options are relatively cheap and won’t expose your home to toxic substances, but they are slower and much more time-consuming than conventional chemical pesticides.

Chemical roach killers—and when to hire an exterminator

If you don’t have to worry about small children or pets and don’t mind the use of chemical pesticides, the methods outlined below are for you—they’ll make quick work of any minor infestation.
  • Insecticide gel: squirting this roach-killing gel into any gaps, cracks, or small entryways can help destroy the infestation at its source
  • Roach spray: As a specialized insecticide, roach spray can be sprayed around high-traffic areas and any roaches that venture into it will carry the residue back to their dens, culling the infestation from the inside
  • Bait stations: as one of the quickest methods of dealing with large infestations, bait traps rely on roaches eating poison-saturated bait and returning to their dens—where they’ll die and be eaten by their fellow roaches
If these don’t do the trick and you still find roaches skulking about, you may have to call in a professional exterminator or pest removal company to do the job—they can better identify points of entry and choose the best method for getting rid of the infestation for good.

How to prevent cockroaches from coming back

After you’ve dealt with the roaches you have, you’ll want to make sure they don’t come back by following these tips:
  • Keep moisture to a minimum: this can be achieved by setting up a dehumidifier, regularly cleaning your gutters, and making sure basements are kept dry
  • Seal cracks and leaky plumbing: one of the best ways to avoid cockroaches is to remove as many entry points as possible
  • Keep mulch and woodpiles away from your home: roaches like the Oriental, Smoky Brown, and Pennsylvania Wood all gravitate towards dark, moist, woody places
  • Regularly clean your home: routinely sweep or vacuum floors to get rid of crumbs, wash dirty dishes, take out the trash, and make sure all food is properly stored and sealed

How to save money on home and auto insurance in Illinois

Dealing with a roach infestation can be a real headache, but finding affordable home and auto insurance doesn’t have to be.
Licensed home and auto insurance super app Jerry makes saving money on car and home insurance in Illinois easier than ever, saving the average user $887 a year on their car insurance alone!
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