When To Call an Exterminator for Roaches: 10 Cockroach Infestation Signs

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | March 28, 2024

Person with roaches in the house wonders when to call an exterminator for roaches and signs of cockroach infestation, and when to call pest control for roach treatments, and the costs of roach extermination.

Though they’re not much larger than a human fingernail, the humble cockroach manages to install an enormous amount of fear in the hearts of homeowners and renters alike, making them immediately search for other signs when to call pest control for roaches or when to call an exterminator for roaches.

But, there are signs that are often missed early on, which if immediately dealt with, can reduce the infestation problem.

Even the sight of a solitary roach scurrying across the kitchen counter or cockroach in apartment can be enough to leave many people running straight to the hardware store for bug spray.

While roaches certainly are a nuisance, and can even cause health problems in humans, there are plenty of ways to eliminate these pests, including both DIY and professional methods.

This guide outlines when to call an exterminator for roaches and when to call pest control for roaches based on early warning signs that can limit the cost of the treatment.

When To Call an Exterminator for Roaches: 10 Cockroach Infestation Signs

When to call an exterminator for roaches, you may ask? Seeing a lot of the signs listed below in your home is the best time to do so.

  1. Seeing a live roach: While a roach or two isn’t necessarily a big deal, roaches are nocturnal, so if you’re seeing them during the day you are probably dealing with a heavy infestation.13
  2. New allergy symptoms: Unexplained allergy symptoms that have recently developed could point to roaches.
  3. Unusual odor: An oily or musty odor is associated with cockroaches.
  4. Streaks or smears: Reddish-brown streaks or smears could be signs that roaches have been in your home.
  5. Dark specks: Roach excrement looks like dark specks or clusters.
  6. Shed skin: As roaches grow, they shed their exoskeletons. If you see these crunchy translucent shapes, you probably have roaches in the home.
  7. Egg cases: Roach eggs come in cases a bit wider than a grain of rice. They may be filled with tiny black eggs or empty if the eggs have already hatched.
  8. Dead roaches: Roaches don’t have the longest lifespan, so even a dead roach can be a sign of an infestation.
  9. Holes in food packaging: Roaches can tear through a bread bag and some other types of food packaging. If you see holes and signs of feeding, you may have a roach problem.
  10. Damage to property: Roaches will eat many organic items beyond food. Holes in clothing, leather, books, and wallpaper can all be caused by these insects.

German Cockroach

(Blattella germanica)

Photo of a German Cockroach in an oval frame surrounded by green background.
  • Description: Narrow and tan, ½ inch long
  • Natural Habitat: Across the globe, except in the coldest of places
  • Locations: Most common cockroach in U.S. homes

Image Credit: Erik Karits (Erik_Karits)21

In this article, you’ll learn the signs of cockroach infestation, best practices for DIY cockroach control, and when to call an exterminator for roaches instead of trying to tackle the problem on your own.

If the mere idea of these creepy crawlers has you feeling embarrassed or grossed out, remember that cockroaches have been around for at least 300 million years.4 You’re not the first to deal with them and you certainly won’t be the last. In fact, an estimated 14 million out of 124 million occupied housing units in the U.S. experience cockroach problems each year.11

Whatever your budget or pest control experience may be, there’s a cockroach control solution that will help you reclaim your home from these annoying insects.

How To Identify Cockroaches

Believe it or not, there are more than 3,500 species of roaches in the world, and 55 of them have appeared in the U.S. at one point or another.1 Despite all these roach species, the vast majority of home roach infestations come from just four species.

What Are the Four Main Types of Roaches in the United States?

Here are the common types of roaches that are found in the U.S.

1. German

German cockroaches are by far the most common roaches found in American kitchens.4 These creepy crawlers are bronze in color, around one-half an inch long and usually found within 10 feet of their favorite food source.4

A close-up of a cockroach perched on a crystal against a soft green background, highlighting its brown exoskeleton and long antennae.

(Image: Erik_Karits17)

An Asian cockroach on a textured wooden surface, displaying its banded brown and tan body and long antennae.

(Image: glmory18)

2. Asian

A relative newcomer to the U.S., the Asian cockroach has only been in the country since the mid-’80s.10 It’s virtually identical to the German roach but is slightly longer and narrower.

3. American

American cockroaches are up to 2 inches long and reddish-brown in color.4 In addition to their size, you can distinguish them from other types of roaches by their wings. These bugs can even fly when the temperature is above 85 degrees F.

A close-up of a dark brown American cockroach with a shiny carapace and long antennae, positioned on a gray textured surface.

(Image: susana1519)

A glossy black cockroach with long antennae crawling on a concrete surface.

(Image: benjaminslade20)

4. Oriental

The Oriental roach is commonly called a waterbug – though it’s not a true waterbug, as that’s an insect species all its own. Measuring about 1 and ¼ inches long, these bugs start off brown and grow blacker in color as they reach adulthood, which takes around 18 months.4

What Other Bugs Look Like Roaches But Aren’t?

When it comes to any pest infestation, the first step in a successful battle is to know your enemy. Some bugs look similar to roaches and are found in U.S. homes, but are not actually roaches and may require a different pest control plan.

  • Crickets: Small crickets look a lot like roaches, but are different in two key ways. They are black instead of brown and are known for their loud chirping, while roaches are completely quiet.9
  • Water bugs: While some roaches are commonly referred to as water bugs, true water bugs are a different type of insect entirely. They are easy to distinguish from roaches in that they are much larger, measuring up to an inch across.9
  • June bugs: Measuring as long as an inch and ranging from red to brown in color, June bugs can fly, and are rounder in shape and sturdier in structure than cockroaches.9
  • Bed bugs: At first glance, bed bugs may resemble roaches. Look closer and you’ll notice that these fearsome critters are much rounder in shape, smaller, and flatter than cockroaches.

When To Call an Exterminator for Roaches: What Problems Do Roaches Cause?

A roach infestation can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to take steps to address this problem as soon as you suspect these insects have invaded your home.

That’s because roaches can impact everything from your property to the health of your family.

How Do Roaches Affect Health?

Roaches have no problem racing across your kitchen counters or table to nibble on forgotten crumbs. As they travel, the bacteria and viruses found on their legs and bodies can transfer to the surfaces in your home. These bacteria and viruses can contribute to a host of health problems, including food poisoning, diarrhea, dysentery and other stomach issues.1

In addition to causing gastrointestinal distress, roaches shed fecal matter and exoskeletons that can further impact human health. Some people are allergic to these substances and will experience rashes, sneezing, coughing or other symptoms. Those with asthma may find that roach infestations trigger attacks.1

How Do Roaches Damage Property?

Though they may be small, roaches can cause a surprising amount of damage to your home. These indiscriminate eaters will chew on plenty of non-food items, including paper, cardboard, books, some types of plastic and even your wallpaper. They also don’t mind making a meal of fabric, which includes clothing, drapery, and upholstery.

What they don’t eat, they stain when they shed fecal matter, leaving red and brown streaks wherever they go. Worst of all, roaches can damage electrical devices and wiring, leading to ruined electronics and even increased fire risk.2

How Long Do Roaches Live?

A typical female German cockroach may only live 20 to 30 weeks.15 That might not seem long, but you may be surprised just how many offspring she can produce in that short time. Each egg capsule, or oothecae, that a female roach produces contains around 48 eggs.4

She can produce four to eight of these oothecae in her lifetime, or one every six weeks.15 The eggs take just under a month to hatch. In just a single year, that one female cockroach can have as many as 10,000 descendants.15

Cockroach Removal: DIY vs Professional Cockroach Exterminator

Once you’ve determined that you have a cockroach problem, it’s time to decide on a plan of attack for ridding your home of these pests. While some homeowners will figure out how to get rid of roaches on their own, others will turn to a cockroach exterminator for guidance.

Is DIY Roach Removal the Right Choice for Me?

DIY pest control for cockroaches is the perfect solution for those short on funds. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars to hire a professional, homeowners can eliminate roaches on their own for a fraction of the cost.

This plan is perfect for those who are willing to invest time and hard work into getting rid of roaches.

Close up image of a dead cockroach due to pest control for cockroaches.

(Image: Picas Joe16)

You must be prepared to apply your own pesticides and bait traps and do plenty of cleaning to remove dead roaches and all the mess they’ve left behind. In addition, you should be able to read and understand all of the safety instructions on any chemical insecticides or other products you plan to use.

Finally, make sure you aren’t suffering from asthma or allergies that are triggered by roaches. If you are, let the pros handle the infestation to protect your health.

When To Call an Exterminator for Roaches

You should always leave cockroach removal to the pros if you are dealing with a severe or repeated infestation, or if the roaches are causing significant health problems for anyone in your family. An exterminator has the tools and knowledge to get rid of roaches quickly, while DIY solutions tend to take longer. You will also need professional advice if you have neighbors with roaches, such as in an adjoining townhouse or apartment, as they can guide you toward how to get rid of the roaches and keep them from coming right back.

Cost of DIY Roach Control vs Exterminator Prices

DIY roach removal is relatively affordable. You’ll need to splurge on basic cleaning supplies, bait traps and perhaps some type of insecticide and cockroach fumigation. If you decide to hire an exterminator, the exterminator prices are between $100 and $300 to treat a 1,000 SF house, and between $400 and $900 to treat a 3,000 SF house.15

You may also have to sign a routine maintenance contract, which should start at around $180, with monthly or quarterly payments to follow.3

How To Get Rid of Roaches on Your Own

While getting rid of roaches isn’t easy, it is surprisingly simple. The secret is to get rid of the things that roaches like so they won’t have any reason to come to your house.

The Anti-Roach Home

The three most important things to cockroaches are food, water and shelter. If you work to prevent roaches from getting these things, they won’t find your home very appealing. Start your cockroach control journey by eliminating all of the spaces where roaches like to hide.

This means eliminating clutter and using silicone caulk to seal any cracks or crevices where roaches are either hiding out or coming into your home. Don’t forget to seal around any plumbing or electrical lines entering the home, as these can provide larger openings for insect entry.

Next, cut off the food supply. Vacuum and wipe everything down to remove any crumbs. Seal found in thick plastic containers so roaches can’t get to it.

Put away pet food and water at night. Take out the trash each night and commit to washing dishes right away to avoid leaving a feast for roaches in your sink. Finally, fix any leaking plumbing fixtures, as even a slow trickle provides that wet atmosphere where roaches thrive.1

Chemical Warfare

While roach sprays have their place, you may be surprised to learn that pesticide spray and foggers aren’t the best tools for fighting German cockroaches.5 Start with safer boric acid powder sprinkled anywhere roaches might be hiding, and place gel bait stations in dark spaces where roaches may hang out.5

If you must use chemical pesticides, read all instructions on the package before starting application. Remember that these sprays only kill adult bugs, so you’ll need a separate growth regulator product to prevent future infestations.5

The Cockroach and Home Maintenance Connection

There is a direct connection between poorly maintained structures and roach infestations. One of the biggest things to consider is your roof. Sagging roofs, holes or missing roof materials are some of the biggest indicators that a house is likely to be infested with roaches.11

Roaches are also more likely in homes with broken windows or with any cracks in the exterior. Indoor or outdoor leaks are also associated with roaches. How does that apply to you?

Preventative maintenance can greatly reduce your risk of ending up with a roach problem.

When To Call an Exterminator for Roaches: Choosing a Professional Cockroach Exterminator

You might still be wondering when to call an exterminator for roaches. If you want to make sure the job is done right or don’t have the time and energy to devote to DIY cockroach removal, hiring an exterminator is the best way to rid your home of these creepy crawlies.

How To Choose an Exterminator

Choosing an exterminator for cockroaches requires much of the same due diligence required when hiring anyone to perform services in your home. Start by setting appointments with three to five companies.7 Plan to only work with exterminators who will visit your home before delivering a quote, as they won’t be able to accurately gauge the level of infestation without a home visit.

When the service professional shows up at your home, they should be in uniform and be able to show you an ID to confirm their identity. Ask about any applicable licenses and insurance, and don’t hire companies who can’t provide proof of both.

Above all, choose an exterminator who is focused on integrated pest management, which involves a full plan for getting rid of roaches, including monitoring and followup after treatment.6

How Do Exterminators Get Rid of Roaches

Exterminators are experts in knowing which chemicals work best on various types of roaches and in various types of situations. They will be able to correctly identify what type of insect has invaded your home and will be able to safely treat the home with minimal risk to your family.

Professional roach exterminators will typically use a multi-faceted approach, which can start with cleaning and decluttering, eliminating spots where roaches hide, and helping you properly store food in your kitchen and pantry. Depending on the level of infestation, exterminators can use gel baits, or apply insecticides indoors and out in a way that will effectively eliminate roaches without spreading them further throughout your home.

For major infestations, exterminators may advise whole-house fumigation or fogging, which could involve tenting the home and having occupants stay somewhere else for some period of time.

How To Prepare Your Home for a Cockroach Exterminator

So you’ve chosen an exterminator and signed a contract, now it’s time to prepare your home for cockroach treatment. Start by decluttering as much as possible. Remember – roaches love clutter, so take this time to throw away any trash or items you’re no longer using.

Next, clear your countertops and cabinets in the kitchen, and remove all personal items from the bathroom. If your infestation has spread beyond these rooms, move as many items away from baseboards as you can to give exterminators room to work.14

Keeping your home free from clutter and knowing when to call pest control for roaches or when to call an exterminator for roaches can keep these roaches away from your home.

Frequently Asked Questions About When To Call An Exterminator for Roaches

Does Bleach Kill Roaches?

Technically, yes, bleach kills roaches, but it’s not an ideal method for eliminating these insects. Bleach only kills roaches if you douse the live bug in the bleach, which isn’t very practical.12 Instead, use bleach to clean and sanitize countertops and cabinets as part of your overall pest control plan.

What’s The Best Pest Control for Cars?

The best pest control for cars is to attack the roach problem from multiple angles. Throw away all trash and vacuum to remove every last crumb. Put sticky traps and gel pesticide traps throughout the vehicle, and remember to be careful what you’re transporting in your car so you don’t keep introducing more roaches.

Why Am I Seeing Baby Roaches After Extermination?

Insecticides don’t kill eggs. That means that even if you have sprayed your home, eggs can hatch and release baby roaches weeks later. To kill eggs, you need to apply an insect growth regulator in addition to a pesticide.5


1Bush, E. (2015, October 8). Avoid health risks by keeping cockroaches out of your home. Michigan State University Extension. <https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/avoid_health_risks_by_keeping_cockroaches_out_of_your_home>

2Clark’s Termite & Pest Control. (2023, August 21). Cockroaches might be worse than most think. Greenville News. <https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/sponsor-story/clarks-termite-and-pest-control/2023/08/21/cockroaches-might-be-worse-than-most-think/70610330007/>

3Coblentz, B. A. (2019, June 28). Roach control has a big economic impact. Mississippi State University Extension. <http://extension.msstate.edu/news/feature-story/2019/roach-control-has-big-economic-impact>

4DELETE <https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/structural-pest-control/cockroaches.html>

5Layton Jr., B., & Goddard, J. (2019, April). Control Cockroaches In and Around Your Home. Mississippi State University Extension. <http://extension.msstate.edu/publications/control-cockroaches-and-around-your-home>

6Niedermeier, M., & Lerman, D. (2022, June 30). Got Roaches? Eliminate Roaches with IPM. PennState Extension. <https://extension.psu.edu/got-roaches-eliminate-roaches-with-ipm>

7Oi, F., Davis, J. E., Diaz, J. M., Ellis, S. M., Cantrell, R. A., Nelson, N., & Corbus, J. (n.d.). HOMEOWNER’S GUIDE TO SELECTING A PEST CONTROL SERVICE. University of Florida. <https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN1269>

8Oregon State University. (2016, June 3). Why do I have cockroaches in my home? National Pesticide Information Center. <http://npic.orst.edu/faq/roach.html#:~:text=Finding%20roaches%20is%20not%20a,to%20thrive%20in%20many%20environments.>

9Orkin. (n.d.). HOW TO DISTINGUISH COCKROACHES VS. OTHER PESTS. Orkin. <https://www.orkin.com/pests/cockroaches/how-to-distinguish-cockroaches-vs-other-pests>

10DELETE <https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/asian_cockroach.htm>

11Sellner, M., & Wicht, J. (2021, April 21). Residents of 14 Million Housing Units Reported Seeing Roaches, 14.8 Million Saw Rodents in Last 12 Months. United States Census Bureau. <https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/04/how-many-american-homes-have-pests.html>

12Terminix. (n.d.). What Kills Cockroaches Immediately? Terminix. <https://www.terminix.com/roach-control/removal/what-kills-cockroaches-instantly/#:~:text=Another%20common%20DIY%20solution%20for,for%20it%20to%20actually%20die.>

13Waterworth, K. (2022, November 14). Early Signs Of A Cockroach Infestation. Forbes Home. <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/pest-control/signs-of-a-cockroach-infestation/>

14Witt. (n.d.). HOW TO PREPARE FOR GERMAN COCKROACH TREATMENT. Witt. <https://www.wittpm.com/how-to-prepare-for-german-cockroach-treatment>

15Wolfe, M. (2022, December 2). How Much Does A Cockroach Exterminator Cost? Forbes Home. <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/pest-control/cockroach-exterminator-cost/>

16dead cockroach Photo by Picas Joe. Resized and Changed Format. Pexels. Retrieve January 4, 2024 from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/cockroach-in-macro-photography-11362662/>

17Photo by Erik_Karits. Resized and Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/german-cockroach-insect-5913318/>

18Asian Cockroach Photo by Jesse Rorabaugh / Public Domain (CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal). Resized and Changed Format. Naturalist. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://www.inaturalist.org/photos/6026850>

19American Cockroach Photo by Susana Dorley / Public Domain (CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. Naturalist. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://www.inaturalist.org/photos/204143143>

20Oriental Cockroach Photo by Benjamin Slade / Public Domain (CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal). Cropped, Resized and Changed Format. Naturalist. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/53548341>

21German Cockroach Insect Pest Photo by Erik Karits (Erik_Karits). (2022, February 2) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://pixabay.com/photos/german-cockroach-insect-pest-6982350/>