It has long been known that insect pests like cockroaches and house flies harbor numerous disease-causing microorganisms due to their habit of breeding in microbe-rich environments and feeding on numerous forms of organic waste. For example, massive numbers of American cockroaches inhabit sewer systems, and house flies breed on excrement, rotting food and other pathogen-rich sources of organic waste. Since these insect pests also live in close association with humans, they can mechanically transmit disease pathogens to indoor food sources. In addition to posing a disease-threat within homes, it is now understood that cockroaches and several other common arthropod pests of homes serve as indoor allergens.

American, German, Oriental and brown-banded cockroaches are the four primary cockroach pests of homes throughout the country, and each one has been found to contribute to the development of allergic conditions. The body fragments, feces, eggs, and shed skins of cockroach pests accumulate within homes where they dry up and break down to mix with household dust. Inhaling dust that contains cockroach materials triggers an immune response that sensitizes humans, particularly children, to allergic conditions, most notably asthma. Other common arthropod pests of homes that have recently been found to serve as indoor allergens include silverfish, house flies, common house spiders, cellar spiders, Indian meal moths, cat fleas, booklice and bed bugs.

One study found that 22 percent of 185 asthmatic individuals tested positive for booklouse-specific allergens, and 51 percent of indoor asthma sufferers tested positive for allergens associated with Indian meal moths, which is the most common pantry pest species in the US. Allergenic compounds produced by common house and cellar spiders have been identified, but only one isolated case of asthma has been shown to be associated with house spider allergens. One study found that 30 percent of individuals who suffered from dust mite allergies experienced an allergic reaction to silverfish. Cockroach allergens are suspected of being a primary factor in the development of most asthma cases throughout the US, but all other arthropod pests listed above serve as indoor allergens only in certain geographic areas and climatic conditions.

Have you ever found a substantial number of dead insect pests within your home?