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Researchers: Average Low-Income Apartment has 26,000 Roaches

January 13, 1986

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Researchers who surveyed 1,000 low-income apartments in Florida estimate they harbored an average of 26,000 German cockroaches each, and report the insects have grown resistant to most commercial bug killers.

″German roach populations become resistant to a chemical in five or six years, and many of the chemicals available off-the-shelf are 20 to 25 years old,″ said Phil Koehler, a researcher at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

″We eased up on research and the roaches got ahead of us.″

In the two-year study of low-income apartments throughout Florida, Koehler, who also works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that 97.5 percent had unlivable German roach infestations. The researchers set out 10 roach traps in each apartment, and used the numbers of roaches caught to estimate the numbers believed to be in hiding.

But large infestations of roaches are not limited to low-income housing units. The bugs are found in most multiple-family dwellings, apartments and condominiums, Koehler said.

″Once you get German cockroaches, they’re going to multiply,″ he said. ″One female can mean 20,000 cockroaches a year later. So, I think, unless you have an effective pest control program, you’re going to have roaches, and you always have a lot more than you actually see.″

Single-family homes, on the other hand, are not as likely to have large infestations. Koehler said German cockroaches are indoor bugs and spread through walls, along plumbing and wires, not across lawns and open areas.

The USDA-University of Florida study will be used to measure the effectiveness of new methods of roach extermination, Koehler said.

Chemicals exist to effectively control roaches, including a bait called Combat and a substance called hydroprene, but they are available only to pest control services, cost more than other techniques or are not as well known as older methods, Koehler said.

It costs about $1 per apartment per month to exterminate with newer roach controls, or about 10 times as much as older chemicals. But it must be done, Koehler says.

″As horrible as it may sound, the fact is that many families are actually having to fight cockroaches off their food in order to get a meal.″

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