“Focus” Apartments Can Spread Cockroaches

By Chris Williams on November 1, 2013.
German cockroach in apartment


I manage an apartment property. We have regular quarterly pest control service for cockroaches but we have one building that always seems to have a cockroach problem.  Some residents end up calling in for extra service almost every month. Some of the other residents in this building we never hear from, but I’m sure they have roaches. What are we doing wrong that we can’t get rid of cockroaches in this building?


The answer is probably not simple but I would bet that you have one or two units in that building that are feeding cockroaches to the other apartments. We often call these heavily infested apartments “focus” units. You’ll never get control of cockroaches in a building without first controlling them in these units.

These focus apartments have conditions ideal for German cockroaches…abundant food, water, and especially shelter. They rarely receive pest control service. Overflow populations from focus units keep reinfesting the apartments next door, above, and below. If you have apartments that are regularly treated, are clean and uncluttered, but remain infested, it’s a good bet that they are neighbors to a focus unit. When managers don’t make pest control mandatory, when uncooperative units are skipped and never entered, focus units may go undetected for years.

Profile of a Classic Focus Apartment

Poor Cooperation

The tenants refuse to allow pest control service, or don’t provide a key for access.


Stacks of boxes, bags, food, clothing, and other items will be jammed into corners or scattered on the floor throughout the apartment, all providing hiding places for cockroaches.

Poor Sanitation

The stove will be covered with caked-on grease, there will be food scraps on the floor, the trash will be overflowing, and dirty dishes will be piled in the sink and on countertops, all providing food and water for cockroaches.

High Temperatures

The average room temperature will be 80 F or higher, providing a cockroach incubator. (In 30 days, twice as many German cockroaches will hatch out at 83 than at 73.)

The bottom line is that focus units have to be identified and treated, and retreated, until the cockroach infestation is under control. Sanitation has to be addressed and improved. Uncooperative tenants have to be convinced or evicted. One apartment cannot be allowed to create a cockroach problem and health concern for the entire building. Pest control companies know how to handle focus or problem units but they can’t succeed without the help of the property manager.

Photo credit: stevenw12339 / / CC BY-NC



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