Managing Your Vacation Rental

Eek! A cockroach! Or is it?

Written by Joan Talmadge
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In a recent post, Elizabeth gave advice about mitigating problems with bugs.  One bug that causes vacationers great concern is the wood roach.  This is what the Barnstable County Agricultural Extension Service has to say about this innocuous insect:

Strangely, the bug that draws the most attention and complaints is one of the most innocent insects on Cape Cod.  It does not bite or sting.  It does not damage property like a termite, or clothing like a wool moth.  It is not interested in human food and does not carry any diseases or contaminants.  It lives outdoors, especially in woods or garden areas.

There are two ways this bug gets into a cottage.  First, it might ride in on laundry from the clothes line, or in veggies or flowers from a garden.  Second, it slides in under loosely fitting screens at open windows or doors that are backlit by lights inside the cottage at night.  They are attracted to light, and they fly short distances, although they prefer to skitter.  They resemble an immature cockroach quite closely when they are not moving, being tan and flat with wings that appear to be shell-like when closed.

They are NOT cockroaches (German roaches) and, in fact, have more in common with moths than their distant German cousin.  The chances of their hitch-hiking home with someone are pretty slim, and they would not survive the trip or multiply.  In fact, coming into the cottage is essentially suicidal; they cannot live in that setting.

There is no chemical method of removing (exterminating) wood roaches because of their outdoor habitat.  The best defense is to tighten openings around window and door screens and to move lights, if possible, away from the immediate window or door area.  A vacuum cleaner is also pretty effective, but possibly self-defeating.  The old adage, “Where there’s one, there’s more.” is not true indoors for these outdoor bugs, and you could be chasing shadows all week instead of enjoying the sun.

For this and many other animal, vegetable, or mineral questions about the Cape,  call the Barnstable County Agricultural Extension Service,  1-508 362-2511 (connects all departments).

About the author

Joan Talmadge

Joan Talmadge - My husband Jeff and I created in 1997, shortly after buying our Cape home. My background includes teaching fifth grade for 8 years and writing and editing educational publications for 15. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends. Email Joan

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