A most unwanted pest

by World Grain Staff
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As temperatures continue to drop in many parts of the world this time of year, grain processing facilities will attract a variety of pests hoping to get out of the cold. Sometimes cockroaches are included in this group of invasive pests, and it’s up to you and your staff to make your facility as inhospitable as possible to deter these pests from entering.

Despite their small size, no pest is more unwanted in a processing facility than cockroaches, and for good reason. Cockroaches’ bodies are coated in bacteria from the decaying organic matter they seek out for feeding and breeding, which means these pests can pose a serious threat to the safety of your product. Roaches can carry up to 25 different disease-producing bacteria that can cause illnesses such as diarrhea, food poisoning and pneumonia. In addition, research from the American Allergy Institute indicates that cockroach excrement and cast skins contain proteins that can aggravate allergies and asthma.

Unfortunately, cockroaches are ubiquitous. There are more than 4,000 species of roaches worldwide, and they can survive in a wide variety of climates, with the only exception being the extremely cold parts of the world. As one of the earth’s oldest insect species, with fossil evidence dating back nearly 350 million years, roaches have an innate ability to survive under almost any condition. In fact, in recent years these pests have developed an aversion to some baits, making it even more difficult to manage an infestation.

Another problem is that roaches reproduce very quickly. For every roach that is seen, there could be hundreds more in hiding. Certain types, such as the German cockroach, can produce up to 48 offspring every 20 to 25 days. That’s why prevention is the key to keeping cockroaches out of your facility.

Understanding why and how cockroaches can enter your facility in the first place is the key to a successful prevention program. The German cockroach prefers to hitch a ride into facilities on personal belongings or deliveries, whereas species such as the American, oriental and smokybrown migrate indoors on their own. Cockroaches can flock to grain processing facilities in search of food, water and shelter — elements that are available on the facility floor and in employee break areas. Since roaches prefer the side or top of their bodies touching other objects, they spend 75% of their lives in cracks and crevices. Grain facilities provide numerous places for the pests to find shelter under and behind equipment and machines.

Preventive action, including stringent sanitation and facility maintenance, make your grain processing facility less appealing to cockroaches by limiting their access to food, water and shelter sources inside. Work with your pest management professional to incorporate the following tips into your cockroach prevention efforts:

• Simple sanitation practices, such as immediately cleaning up product spills underneath or inside equipment and machines, will discourage roaches from hiding in those places.

• Some cockroaches like to reside in sink and floor drains, so use an organic drain cleaner to remove leftover food particles and buildup.

• Roaches thrive in dirty, moist conditions, including dumpsters and trashcans. Monitor these areas for pests and maintain a regular trash pick-up to prevent overflow. Eliminate any debris surrounding trash areas, such as cardboard boxes, which can serve as a home for cockroaches. Seal all trashcans with lids to help eliminate any odors that might attract these pests.

• Cockroaches can fit through an opening as small as one-sixteenth of an inch, so regularly monitor the exterior of your facility for any holes, cracks or gaps where pests could enter. Seal any unnecessary openings with weather-resistant sealant. To protect the entrances to your grain facility, install door sweeps or weather stripping to help prevent the pests from squeezing underneath or between doors.

• Cockroaches will eat almost anything. Use vacuums equipped with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters to remove dust and debris from the floor as well as from the cracks and crevices where cockroaches often hide.

Remember that effective pest management is a team effort between management, staff and pest management professionals. Even the most thorough sanitation plan won’t succeed without the three Cs: communication, cooperation and commitment between all parties involved. Make sure all employees understand their roles in the sanitation program. Some pest management professionals offer on-site training to explain the importance of cleaning to the pest management efforts and encourage employee cooperation from the start. With teamwork and an effective sanitation program, your grain facility will put up a strong defense against cockroaches. WG

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is the director of training at the Orkin Training Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact Dr. Harrison at rharriso@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com for more information.