Cockroach Control & Appearance
How to Protect Your House from Roaches
American and German cockroaches are common in the more populated areas of New England. While the American cockroach, or Periplaneta americana L., is bigger and more recognizable, New Englanders more often find German cockroach home infestations. Despite its name, the American variety most likely made its way here on ships from Africa, but has also become a prominent pest in many nations around the world. The German cockroach, or Blattella germanica L., has origins in Southern Asia and can infest almost any human living space worldwide. Both species rely on warmth and moisture to stay alive, with winter temperatures serving as their primary nemesis.
What do cockroaches look like? In general, both American and German species are oval shaped with flat bodies equipped with long antennae and wings; however, the pests are rarely seen in flight. The adult German cockroach can grow to 1/2-5/8 of an inch long, is light brown in color, and has two parallel black stripes on the back of its neck shield (pronotum). Males tend to have skinnier bodies with more defined abdominal and terminal segments, while females boast thicker frames, rounder abdomens, and an extra set of wings. During developmental or nymph stages, German varieties appear darker brown or even black in color. The reddish-brown American cockroach is similar to its German relative in shape and general features. However, American specimens grow to one to two inches in length and have yellowish or brown rings around their backs. Male American cockroaches possess longer wings than females.
German cockroaches thrive in warm and moist climates and typically find shelter in darker areas of households where there is less foot traffic. Kitchens, bathrooms, or basements prove popular habitats for German varieties, which generally live in grouped next to eachother. A less-likely home intruder, the American cockroach may venture into other areas of the house providing convenient water sources. Cockroaches spend most of their time hiding in small crevices near potential feeding sites such as unsealed garbage cans or unsanitary eating areas. The pests usually explore at night, leaving fecal and salivary excretions that cause foul odors.
Cockroaches are especially drawn to rotting food. However, American cockroaches eat virtually any natural material from bark to meat, or even its own kind. German varieties are attracted to sweet and greasy human foods, but also consume a wide array of matter from dead animals to bar soap.
Female cockroaches give off chemicals (pheromones) to attract males during mating. A cockroach may immediately fertilize her eggs or can also store sperm and utilize it for incremental fertilization. American varieties attach egg cases to a surface in a warm and humid environment, near a food source if possible. German cockroach egg cases remain fastened to the female until the eggs begin to hatch. Once eggs hatch, nymphs do not require any care from females to progress through subsequent stages of growth. A continuously breeding German specimen can produce tens of thousands of offspring during its short 20- to 25-week adult lifetime.
Problems Caused by Cockroaches
Cockroaches themselves act as hosts for disease-causing bacteria because of the unclean environments they dwell in and the germ-ridden food they often consume. Humans who eat food covered with cockroach excrement may experience food poisoning or allergic reactions. Children commonly incur asthmatic symptoms in heavily infested homes. German varieties have even been known to bite humans, which may cause skin irritation and spread disease.
How to Control Cockroaches
An effective cockroach management program depends on good sanitation to eliminate the food, water, and harborage they need for survival. Cleanup efforts to reduce roaches in the home and office environment focus on food residue in and around coffee machines, microwave ovens, stoves, refrigerators, trash cans, furniture, and areas where exposed food is stored. It is also critical to get rid of clutter as roaches like to hide in stacked boxes, cartons, and stored paper and cardboard materials, especially in dark, damp locations, near food. Vacuum cleaning can be used to physically remove exposed cockroaches. Permanent reduction of cockroach populations can be achieved by caulking to eliminate harborage. The most important cracks to eliminate include those at which sinks and fixtures are mounted to the wall and/or floor, around all types of plumbing, baseboard molding, and corner guards where shelves and cabinets meet walls and door frames, and cracks on or near food preparation surfaces. Sticky traps are available to help pinpoint and monitor sources of cockroach infestation. They are not intended for control, but rather to guide and evaluate control efforts as part of the inspection and control process.