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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Testing cockroach baits

Combating Cockroaches and Their Scum

By Tara Weaver
June 15, 1998

Curbing cockroaches and the allergens they leave behind just became easier, thanks to new strategies and tools developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists.

Cockroach body parts, feces, saliva and eggs left behind on surfaces contain allergenic substances that are particularly dangerous to people with asthma or other respiratory conditions, according to Richard J. Brenner, an entomologist who heads the ARS Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Unit in Gainesville, Fla.

ARS is working on various research projects to develop strategies to reduce cockroach infestations and related human health risks. Cooperators include the Departments of Defense and Energy, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute in Little Rock, Ark.

Brenner's team has confirmed the staying power of cockroach allergens. In 1990, the scientists infested an experimental kitchen with German cockroaches. They removed the roaches in February 1991. Tests showed the cockroach allergens were still present 5 years later.

The researchers have come up with innovative tools for combating this infamous critter. One new device is a highly sensitive cockroach antigen detection kit. The technique measures as little as 150 "cockroach hour" units--that's the equivalent amount of antigens left behind from six German cockroaches spending 25 hours on a four inch by four inch surface.

The scientists have also developed a computerized precision targeting system that helps determine the location and distribution of cockroaches based on current trap counts and trap locations. Once trap data are entered into the computer, spatial analysis is used to construct "contour maps" showing the population centers needing treatment. This technology helps reduce pesticides by allowing pest control operators to ignore pest-free areas and treat only pest-infested areas, instead of spraying or fumigating an entire building.

An in-depth story on this research appears in the June issue of Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contact: Richard J. Brenner, Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Unit, Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Fla., phone (352) 374-5855, fax (352) 374-5818,

Last Modified: 5/15/2017
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