Everything You Need to Know About Cockroaches
Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattodea, consisting of about 4,600 different species, of which around 30 are commonly associated with the human habitat. Out of these 30 species, four are widely known and considered notorious pests. These four species of cockroaches are the ones that we are going to talk about in this article – the German cockroach (Blattella germanica), the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), the Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis) and the Australian cockroach (Periplaneta australasiae). Their name “cockroach” comes from the Spanish word for cockroach "cucaracha". Some of these insects, like the Oriental & American cockroaches, are also known as waterbugs, but they are not true water bugs since they are not aquatic.
What Do Cockroaches Look Like?
Cockroaches have broad, oval and flattened bodies with relatively tiny heads. They are generally larger than most house pests but vary in sizes according to their species. The same goes for their colour, varying from lighter, yellowish brown to black. They possess wings, but not all of them can fly, as the first layer of wings is tough, serving as a protective shield. They have big compound eyes and long antennae. Here are some cockroach facts about their appearance, according to species, to aid you in the cockroach identification process:
German cockroaches are species smaller in size, usually about 1.1 to 1.6 cm (0.43 to 0.63 in). In colour, they vary from tan to almost black. They have wings but are unable to fly, although they might attempt to glide when facing danger. They are the most usual domestic disturber and highly pursued by exterminators everywhere.
American cockroaches are the largest species of common cockroach, which are also considered a pest. They grow up to an average of 4 cm (1.6 in) in length and about 7mm (0.28 in) tall. Reddish brown in colour with a yellowish margin behind their head. Young cockroaches look like adults with the lack of wings. Adults can fly short distances or mostly glide, but they don't have the habit of flying.
Australian cockroaches are 23–35 millimetres (0.91–1.38 in) in length, brown in colour. They can easily be mistaken for the American cockroach, with the only differences of being slightly smaller and with a yellow margin on the thorax, plus yellow streaks on its sides near the base of the wings.
Oriental cockroaches are another large species of cockroach pest. Adult males get as big as 18-29 mm (0.71 – 1.14 in) and adult females about 20-27 mm (0.79 – 1.06 in). They are dark brown to black in colour with a glossy body. The female looks different than the male. For instance, it appears to be wingless, but is really not - it has two very short wings just below her head – virtually useless wings. The male is capable of short flights of about 2 to 3 meters, because of its long brown wings, which cover most of his abdomen.
What Do Cockroaches Eat?
Virtually anything. Cockroaches are omnivore scavengers, thus they consume any organic food source available. They prefer sweets, meats and starches, but gladly feast on other random items such as hair, books, glue, toothpaste, soap, cigarette butts or decaying matter. The scary part is that they don't really need big quantities to survive (if at all), it's been said that a cockroach can survive for months on a single kiblet of dog food. In conditions of extreme lack of food, they turn cannibalistic and chew on each other's wings and legs. It is also normal for cockroaches to eat the corpses of other dead roaches.
Where Do Cockroaches Live?
Don't be fooled even by the large species of cockroach, they can too fit into small cracks and crevices. These insects prefer to inhabit warm, humid and dark areas. Ideally close to a water source, which is more vital to them than food sources. This is why a popular cockroach infested spots are:
- kitchens - a lot of food and a quick route to the sewer, through your sink
- bathrooms - high humidity and warm, once again a quick route to the sewer
- near sewer pipes - you already got the idea
- basements - dark and with high humidity and activity of other pests which means food
- gardens - a lot of things to gnaw on plus lots of hiding places near by
- greenhouses - a dark peaceful place, near to the garden with other pests around as roommates
You might have noticed these pests coming out or going into your drains. Most species are light sensitive, like the American cockroach, so they are mostly active at night and avoid light.
Do Cockroaches Carry Diseases?
Cockroaches may carry or spread a range of bacteria and diseases such as salmonella, staphylococcus and streptococcus. Cockroaches can also carry viruses such as polio virus. Also cockroaches can trigger asthma or induce allergic reactions. Many people suffer from allergies towards both cockroach faeces and body parts. For this reason, pest control companies use specially designed vacuum cleaners to eliminate both live and dead insects and their body parts.
Can Cockroaches Fly?
Depending on the species. Nevertheless, most cockroaches can glide the least. Household pest cockroaches can fly 2-3 meters at best, most species are only able to glide. However, cockroaches generally tend not to use their flying abilities.
What are the Signs of a Cockroach Infestation?
From live sightings of these bugs to cockroach droppings, there are many ways to check if your property is infested. The main indicator is their live presence. Other indicators include faeces, shell casings - from immature cockroaches who have outgrown their shells (which happens at least four times throughout their lives) and finally, the smell. Cockroaches give off a strong, oily odour, which becomes extremely dense if there's a large infestation. German cockroaches let off an unpleasant odour when excited or frightened.
How Do You Get Rid of Cockroaches?
The internet is a huge resource of materials on natural or do-it-yourself treatments and you can find a wide range of commercial poisons and baits in local stores. These treatments might work if you're looking for a non-agressive, partial eradication leaving an acceptable population of cockroaches still living deep in your property, only to re-populate. However, if your intent is to completely eradicate cockroaches or especially in situations of bad infestations, professional cockroach treatment, carried out by a licensed pest controller, is the only path to choose.