Cockroach infestations on the rise in Edmonton, exterminator says

Infestations of infamously hard-to-kill cockroaches are on the rise in Edmonton, says a local exterminator.

'They've actually become, number-wise, probably as problematic as bedbugs these days'

Some say cockroach infestations are becoming more common in Edmonton. (Joel Sartore/Getty Images )

Infestations of infamously hard-to-kill cockroaches are on the rise in Edmonton, says a local exterminator. 

In his 40 years on the job, Tom Schultz, owner of Edmonton Exterminators Ltd., has never seen it this bad.

"They've actually become, number-wise, probably as problematic as bedbugs these days," Schultz said in an interview Wednesday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"All it takes is one pregnant female cockroach to make a whole bunch of little ones."  

It's always been that way and that's why they joke that after a nuclear war, the cockroaches would adapt and survive.-Tom Schultz, owner Edmonton Exterminators Ltd.

The old belief that these pests can live through just about anything is proving true in Edmonton, Schultz said.

The despised insects have become immune to the poisons most commonly used to exterminate them.

For years, Schultz used the same chemical cocktail to poison cockroaches hidden in the cracks and crevices of infested buildings, but about two years ago, it stopped working.

"They start to get adapted or tolerant to a lot of the products and they become ineffective. I think that's part of the big problem," Schultz said.

"It's always been that way and that's why they joke that after a nuclear war, the cockroaches would adapt and survive.

"It's not far from the truth unless the nuclear war makes it colder. They still can't survive in the cold."

Unwanted dinner guests

There has been a string of recent infestations at Edmonton businesses.

Peruse the Alberta Health Services inspection reports and you will find a handful of restaurants that have been ordered to call an exterminator in the last six months. 

Alberta Health Services would not provide statistics on cockroach infestations in local restaurants. Spokesperson Kirsten Goruk did acknowledge, however, the pests appear to be more numerous.

"Anecdotally, over the last few years AHS public health inspectors have noticed an increase in cockroaches as a pest-control issue when it comes to restaurant inspections," Goruk said in an emailed statement.

"However, we are unable to speculate on what might be causing that."

The most common cockroach found in Alberta is the German cockroach, which can carry bacteria that causes salmonella, typhoid and gastroenteritis.

Its feces also creates a horrible stench, contaminating food and the air with harmful bacteria. They can survive for days after being decapitated, and for weeks without food or water. 

And no one is immune.

"​​Cockroaches are insects that can be found in any building. It's not true that cockroaches are only found in dirty and poorly-kept buildings," reads an online pamphlet from AHS.

"Cockroaches are often brought into a non-infested building by food, by furniture, or clothing that's infested with live cockroaches and their eggs."

Schultz blames Edmontonians' growing appetite for foreign foods as the biggest culprit.

The roaches invade the country aboard imported food from warmer climates. 

"A lot of this stuff ends up in the warehouses and from there, they're distributed to restaurants, to specialty food stores and the like, and just make their way on down the chain," he said.

"You don't want to point a finger at anybody, but it's how the food import system works."