Pesky cockroaches can spread disease in your herd. Elimination isn’t easy, but a   control program helps, says Mike Stringham.

   He has teamed up with North Carolina State University research entomologists, Coby Schal and Wes Watson, to work with pork producers who want to stamp cockroaches out of their operations.

Stringham emphasizes that cockroach control takes diligence. “On-and-off efforts won’t get the job done. Cockroaches are hardy and prolific. Once established in a hog building, it is impossible to eradicate them completely,” he says. “With today’s insecticides and application techniques, the best you can do with a severe infestation is to manage it.”

While cockroaches are most active in hog buildings from spring to fall, they remain a problem in farrowing and nursery rooms throughout the winter.

There’s little correlation between facility age and cockroach numbers, Stringham notes.

“You. might think that they’re worse in old buildings, but they can be just as big a problem in new facilities without a control program.”

It starts with housekeeping, and Stringham urges you to create that understanding among everyone in the operation.

When cockroach infestation is severe, he recommends reducing numbers quickly then follow with maintenance treatments to suppress the population for at least 6 months.

You should start by identifying where cockroaches live, breed and multiply. “It takes time to find and plug hiding places and access points,” he notes, “but it pays in the long run.”

  • Use caulk or aerosol insulation foam to close off conduits where they enter junction boxes, light switches and controllers.
  • Caulk gaps around conduits and water pipes where they come through walls or ceilings. 
  • Nail down any loose interior siding. Patch cracks in concrete or block walls as well as around doorframes.

In terms of housekeeping, make the following items part of the routine:

  • Remove clutter: Store buckets, herding boards and other equipment not used daily away from farrowing and nursery rooms. Remove clutter, then clean storage rooms.
  • Breakroom, kitchen: Keep food in sealed containers. Don’t let food crumbs or scraps remain on floor. Remove trash and garbage daily.
  • Office, showers, laundry room: Clean daily.
  • Incoming purchases: Check for cockroaches on or in sacks, boxes, cartons and so forth. Return infested items and explain the problem to the vendor so he can address cockroach infestations his warehouse may have.
  • Footwear: Shake out work boots or shoes before putting them on. Do the same for street shoes before going home.
  • Inside walkways: Sweep daily.
  • Portable equipment: Before bringing into the building, make sure it is clean. This includes powerwashers, buckets, heat lamps or pads, herding boards, carts and other equipment.
  • Feed waste, mortalities, afterbirth: Clean up and remove from facilities by the end of each work day.

Virtually every hog facility has some amount of cockroaches, so you also need a plan to kill them.

  • Spray: Most effective insecticides for rapid knockdown of infestations are cyfluthrin or chlorpyrifos. They are effective for 40 to 50 days and are available in wettable powder, emulsified concentrate or micro-encapsulated formulations. Permethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin may also perform well. For a porous surface, wettable powder is the most effective.
  • To improve control, any of those formulations may be tank-mixed with the insect-growth regulator pyriproxyfen. In clean-out treatments, rotate insecticides to reduce the chance of developing resistance. Label directions will tell you whether the product can be used when animals are present.
  • Dust: Boric acid (orthoboric acid) is effective as a clean-out treatment where rapid knockdown is not important. It’s more often used as a maintenance treatment. It’s not effective if applied at too high a rate or if it becomes wet.
  • Bait: Gels containing abamectin, hydramethylnon or boric acid provide excellent control in offices, breakrooms, laundries, shower rooms – also in farrowing and nursery rooms in conjunction with other controls. (No gel is specifically labeled for use in a hog facility.) Once you’ve knocked down the cockroach load, you can then follow with a clean-out treatment. After animals are removed: (1) Power wash the entire room as usual and let it dry long enough to remove excess moisture. (2) Spray insecticide. Treat storage rooms in the same way as farrowing or nursery rooms. It is not necessary to treat all surfaces. Targeted spraying, takes about the same amount of time but reduces the amount and cost of insecticide per room.
  • Treat hiding places such as cracks, crevices, around door frames, doors and corners from floor to ceiling.
  • Spray conduit and water pipes, behind switch boxes and controllers. Open switch boxes and controllers to treat the inside surface of access or switch covers.
  • Treat walkways in farrowing and nursery rooms, as well as the main passages in each farrowing and nursery building. Walkways between buildings do not need to be treated, says Stringham.
  • Treat the voids between uninsulated partition walls that separate farrowing or nursery rooms. Pull metal siding up to spray or dust voids where siding meets a concrete or block wall.
  • Another way to treat wall voids is to drill a 1/2-inch or 3/8-inch hole between each stud, and insert the insecticide applicator nozzle.
  • The best solution is to permanently remove a 12-inch to 18-inch wide portion of interior siding to allow easy treatment of wall voids and make them less attractive hiding places. This also makes the space less attractive to rodents.
  • Treat the outside of buckets, herding boards, the bottom of heating pads, heat lamps, feed and transport carts.

Once the clean-out treatment is applied, do not power-wash the entire farrowing or nursery room for the next cycle or two in order to leave as much of the insecticide undisturbed as possible. Wash farrowing crates, nursery pens and room walkways between groups to keep a clean zone around sows and pigs. Less critical are areas outside this zone, such as walls, doors, conduits and pipes.

After cleanup, walkways can be retreated as needed with boric acid. Dry sweep only to keep the newly applied boric acid around as long as possible.

Maintenance treatment is part of the long-term commitment. After the room has completed several farrowing cycles, give cockroaches a second shot. With a low-volume power duster   apply boric acid powder at rate of 3/4 pound per 1,000 square feet to the same places treated during the clean-out phase.

The powder is effective, long-lasting, easy to use and inexpensive. More important, it prevents or greatly reduces the likelihood that cockroaches will develop resistance to insecticides used in clean-out treatments.

One application lasts 72 days after a clean-out has been shown to keep cockroach numbers below an acceptable threshold for 6 months. Only if an infestation is extremely bad should you need to treat more often.

Remember that boric acid is not effective if applied too heavily – a common problem with inexpensive and poorly designed applicators. Low-volume dusters liked those used in the pest-control industry are expensive and difficult to find.   If you do not have a low-volume, power-dust applicator, check with an Extension specialist for advice.

Is a repeat treatment needed? You can determine this easily and quickly at the end of each farrowing or nursery cycle. Take 10 to 15 minutes to survey the farrowing or nursery room.   If you count more than 500 cockroaches, do another cleanout treatment. If you count fewer than 500, you should not need to use insecticide again for at least 6 months. However, if there has been a steady and dramatic increase in cockroach numbers during the previous two cycles, do another maintenance treatment.