Cockroaches have become more common in northern B.C.'s biggest city say ecologist, exterminator

·3 min read
German cockroaches in a sticky trap. Pest control expert Chris Milligan says his company is seeing an increase in calls from residents who have found the pest in their homes. (Submitted by Chris Milligan - image credit)
German cockroaches in a sticky trap. Pest control expert Chris Milligan says his company is seeing an increase in calls from residents who have found the pest in their homes. (Submitted by Chris Milligan - image credit)

Creepy, crawly cockroaches haven't historically been a major issue for people living in northern B.C., but a pest control expert says based on the number of calls he's getting, that's changing — fast.

"We've seen a vast increase in the last year-and-half," said Chris Milligan, the Prince George-based branch manager of pest control company Orkin.

When he started on the job three years ago, Milligan said, the company would get one or two calls a year from people dealing with cockroaches. Now, he said, it's up to two per week.

Most cockroaches thrive in tropical or subtropical regions, living in dark areas such as under logs or in caves, but some species also live in human habitations across temperate and even arctic areas like Canada. They often hide in cracks and crevices during the day and feed on foods left out by humans during the night.

Nadia Mansour/CBC
Nadia Mansour/CBC

'People don't generally like them'

University of Northern British Columbia insect ecologist Dezene Huber says cockroaches play a role at keeping ecosystems healthy, but says those living in peoples' homes could pose some issues to humans.

"People don't just generally don't like them," he said. "Their waste products can become dust that people are allergic to. They can sometimes carry some diseases with them as well."

While some people have suggested climate change could be responsible for the growing cockroach population, Huber says it could have just as much to do with the increasing number of people living in the city, particularly multi-unit dwellings.

"Maybe it's just because there's more mobility," he said. "There's a number of routes that could be happening, either through commercial means or through just spreading around people, buying things from each other, moving things between apartments or businesses."

Some apartment residents in London, Ont., and Winnipeg, for instance, reported that they had to move out of their homes after the dwellings had been infested with cockroaches.

'Don't panic'

Milligan says several of his clients hadn't seen a cockroach, until they came to him reporting the pests were getting out of control in their houses.

"Most of them don't even realize it until they actually see the physical bug," he said.

He says your home doesn't have to be dirty to attract the unwelcome six-legged guests and that most of his calls are for apartment buildings.

He recommends if you spot roaches in your home and don't want them to be your roommates, call for help before they take over.

"Don't panic, call professionals, if there is not much you can do," he said.

Nadia Mansour/CBC
Nadia Mansour/CBC

There are thousands of cockroach species globally, but the most common one found across Canada is the German cockroach, which is typically short, about 1.1 to 1.6 centimetres long, and tan in colour.

A German cockroach completes a life cycle in about three months. In that time a female roach can produce as many as two egg cases per week, with 30 to 40 eggs in each case. This can lead to thousands of ready-to-mate roaches every two months.

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