Which is more dangerous; cockroach or repellent? Here are a few natural methods to control these pests…
Piperonyl butoxide, which we have spoken about earlier, is used as a synergistic compound in all pyrethroids based formulations to ensure that the insect’s natural excretory mechanism does not allow it to remove the toxin. Piperonyl butoxide is labelled as a Class C carcinogen or a possible human carcinogen. Studies suggest that by interfering with hormone metabolism, it may damage organs like the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands and may weaken the immune system too.
Piperonyl butoxide is a synergistic compound in over 1,500 different products that qw use from head lice killers, to mosquito repellents to veterinary pesticides to sprays that are used on our bedding and clothes. Both pyrethroids and Piperonyl butoxide are licensed to be used as insecticides as well, so the bag of rice you buy could contain a product similar to what you use to keep cockroaches away.
I’ve said this before, and will do so again – we need to learn to manage the organisms in our home. Using virulent aggressive methods against them without understanding and managing the root cause simply costs us and the environment harm. Instead, a strategic home management plan that serves to repel rather than kill, is the safest way of co-existing with insects.
This column, though, is not about repelling all insects but a few which can cause human harm and spread virulent diseases. While spiders and ants may be painful to deal with and appear un-aesthetic in our homes, they exist for a reason, and should not be banished along with mosquitoes and cockroaches. Removing them from our homes creates a dangerous imbalance which can then trigger the appearance of other, less beneficial insects.
The cockroach that most invades urban Indian homes is the American cockroach, Periplaneta Americana.
The secretions produced by the American cockroach can alter the flavour of food. They can also pick up disease causing bacterial like Salmonella on their legs and deposit them on food or other places. Dust containing cockroach faeces and eggs can be an asthma and allergy trigger.They are not particular about what they eat and can eat anything from rotting food to soap scraps and even glue from postage stamps.
The first line of defence is, therefore, to simply examine cockroach routes in your home and seal them. This would include cracks near the door, the windows, and your plumbing lines in the kitchen.
Dripping faucets and leaking plumbing lines create a warm, moist atmosphere that cockroaches love, especially in our humid, muggy weather. Keep surfaces under kitchen-top appliances clean and move them around to limit ‘nesting’ spots. Spots under mixers and grinders should be cleaned and checked. Re-seal cracks greater than 1.6 mm.
Consider using low wattage lighting in your kitchen or bathroom to deter cockroaches from making an appearance.
Several natural plant based materials used at low doses work very well. Many of them are household waste or hopefully compost. Crushed cucumber peels have been tested in Kansas State University to effectively repel cockroaches. These need to be replaced periodically. Dried lemon peels and cloves are also excellent cockroach repellents. A combination of these can be put into pouches and stored in several corners.
Our very own vasambu, Acorus calamus, is also a good broad-spectrum insect repellent. It can not only be used to repeal cockroaches but can also be used to repeal weevils and insects commonly found in rice and dried lentils.
Certain essential oils, like peppermint oil, tea tree oil, and Neem oil also have demonstrable insect repellent properties. Regular cleaning of all places where cockroaches frequent. using a solution of six to ten drops of these essential oils in half a litre of water is not only fragrant but is also a strong repellent. The remaining liquid can be poured around drains and sinks at night.
What I’ve outlined may seem hard to follow and you might be tempted to reach for a handy aerosol can. Do read the ingredients and safety precautions listed on the back of these cans, and choose a safer method instead.