MONTREAL -- Most people are probably used to working and studying from home after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. But while many are antsy to get back in the office, some unintended guests have been flourishing while we’ve been stuck inside: cockroaches.

Since the pandemic began, Montreal's cockroach infestations have increased “anywhere between 10 to 15 per cent” according to Steve Bilodeau, coordinating director of ABC Pest Control and Extermination. 

Why the spike? Bilodeau says that, with offices and restaurants closed for indoor attendance, people are creating a lot more food waste at home.

“It's an open buffet for them,” said Bilodeau, who said large apartment buildings are most at-risk of becoming infested, especially those with common garbage chutes.

“A typical Quebecer,” said Bilodeau, “Who used to work in an office was probably having … breakfast in the car, lunch in the office, and maybe dinner at a restaurant or something.”

“All of these three meals you eat at home now, and you're going to fill the garbage chute (with food).”

While it's difficult to say exactly how common the bugs are in Montreal, Bilodeau estimates that, in densly populated apartment buildings, cockroaches are being found in roughy five per cent of homes, or one in twenty units. 

The most common guests, according to Bilodeau, are German cockroaches. They’re brown, with long, twig-like hind legs, and long antennae.

Bilodeau says that, while we might not want them in our houses, we’ve made them feel quite at home.

“German cockroaches are fully adapted to a human behavior and human structures,” he said. “They don't live outside,”

“They love the way we build. There are always cracks and crevices. We heat (our homes) 24/7. We heat during the winter.”

But where are they coming from? Bilodeau says it’s common for roaches to spread from apartment to apartment. But for new infestations, roaches are usually brought in by tenants from shops or restaurants.

“It always starts with a depanneur, a restaurant, somebody going to the store downtown,” said Bilodeau. “Somewhere with a cockroach problem.”

Cockroaches can easily hide in merchandise and packaging, like boxes, says Bilodeau, putting the customer at risk of bringing those roaches with them after they checkout.

“[The shopkeeper] is not going to charge extra, but the cost will be high.”

Once they’re in the home, they don’t need much to get established. A few crumbs on the floor, some water, and a crack in the wall is enough, says Bilodeau.

“They reproduce very fast, and each egg will contain up to 50 babies,” he said.

“Every six weeks, it's again and again and again: more babies,” he said. “It's easy to have a few cockroaches in one year, but after that, you're going to have thousands of cockroaches.”

On the bright side, according to Bilodeau, the situation is getting better. He says that adjustments have been made to garbage chutes in apartment buildings to limit the risk of infestation there. 

What should you do if you see a roach in your home? If you’re a renter, tell your landlord or building administrator. If you own the property, you’re responsible for contacting an exterminator. Details on how to deal with roaches can be found on Quebec’s website