Top facts about cockroaches
- There are more than 4,600 species of cockroaches in the world and about 70 in the U.S.
- Most are not considered pests; they make their homes outside and feed on decomposing plant materials.
- A typical cockroach population is made up of 20% adults and 80% immatures.
- Cockroaches lay their eggs in a case called an ootheca.
- Pest species of cockroach are known to spread food-borne pathogens like Salmonella.
- While they prefer human foods, cockroaches have been known to eat paper and book bindings, soap and toothpaste, as well as dead insects and feces.
- The saliva, droppings and shed “skins” of cockroaches can trigger asthma and allergies.
- The earliest fossils of cockroach relatives date back 320 million years ago.
- Cockroaches are found on every continent except Antarctica.
Ahp's Bug Pro Chelle Hartzer says:
Cockroaches are mostly nocturnal and prefer warm, dark areas to hide in during the day.
Where do cockroaches live and eat?
Cockroaches are present across the U.S., but more species are found in warm, tropical areas of the southern U.S. Many live in damp areas outdoors and can be found in rotting logs, under stones and under heavy ground cover. They feed on decomposing organic material like leaves, fallen fruit and rotting trees.
Cockroaches are mostly nocturnal and like to hide in small, dark areas. Cockroaches are actually closely related to termites. While not truly social, many cockroach species live close to each other, sharing food, water and shelter.
These are a few of the species that can get into homes and become pests. Some of those pest cockroaches include:
- German cockroaches: This species is one of the most common found indoors. In fact, they are rarely found outdoors. They prefer warm, humid areas that are close to their food — areas like kitchens, pantries, bathrooms and anywhere else that provides food. They are omnivorous and will eat anything people leave for them. They can even infest electronics. German cockroaches have quick development cycle compared to other species of cockroaches. It can take as little as two months for them to go from the egg to adult; each egg case can contain up to 40 eggs.
- American cockroaches: These cockroaches are large and have many regional common names, like water bugs and ship cockroaches. While these ty[es are more common in commercial sites, they are found in homes as well, particularly in sewers and drains. Like German cockroaches, American cockroaches will feed on whatever foods are available. Outside populations may move into homes when there are extreme weather conditions outdoors. This is a long-lived species, and it can take two years to develop from egg to adult. Adults can live over a year.
- Oriental cockroach: This large species has a distinctive shiny, black coloring and even as adults, they will not have full wings. People often confuse them with large beetles. They prefer cool, damp areas like basements and crawlspaces. Like the German and American species, these will eat garbage and scraps, but do have a preference for foods high in starch.
- Smoky brown cockroach: These cockroaches are similar in size to the oriental cockroaches and have dark brown to black coloration, but smoky brown cockroaches have full wings as adults. They do not tolerate the cold, so they are often found in the southern portion of the U.S. They will live outdoors in warmer months under mulch and heavy ground cover. Then, when temperatures start to cool, they will move indoors into homes.
- Turkestan cockroach: These look very similar to oriental cockroaches, but are a relatively new invasive species, first found in the U.S. in the late 1970s. They were originally found in California and Texas, and have spread to the southwestern U.S.. Similar to American cockroaches, this species is often found in storm drains and sewers.
- Asian cockroach: This species is very similar to the German cockroach. It is another invasive type of cockroach, this time originally found in Florida in the mid-1980s. Unlike the German cockroach, the Asian cockroach can fly. These are sometimes mistaken for moths because of the way they fly and their attraction to lights at night.
How to prevent cockroaches
The best prevention method for cockroaches is keeping them out in the first place. For German cockroaches, that means checking incoming groceries and packages to make sure there are no hitchhikers. These cockroaches especially like corrugated cardboard because they can squeeze into all the little openings.
For the other species of cockroaches that have outside populations, perform regular inspections of your home to check for gaps around doors and windows, water and gas lines, or any other cracks or possible entry points. Seal those up as well as possible to keep the cockroaches on the outside.
All living things need food, water and shelter to survive, so good sanitation is another good tactic to prevent cockroaches from becoming established in the home. Since they like all the foods we eat, cleaning regularly can significantly reduce those food sources. Kitchens and food storage areas are the obvious areas to keep clean — but don’t forget areas where people frequently eat, such as home offices and TV rooms. Also think of other items you may not consider “food,” like birdseed and pet foods. Keeping these items in sealed containers prevents cockroaches from gaining entry and eating them.
Since moisture is an important factor in cockroach development and survival, checking damp areas is another good idea. Indoors, look for and fix water leaks and any other damp areas. Clean out drains so that water flows through without obstruction. Check appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers to ensure they are not leaking water.
Outdoors, dump out any standing water and fill in low areas that accumulate standing water. Make sure there are no leaks on outdoor faucets or water irrigation systems. Directly around the home, trim back foliage and heavy ground cover that create damp environments underneath. Even better, if you can create a vegetation-free border about a foot or two around your whole home, that helps to keep the cockroaches back. Make sure water drains away from the home.
Ahp's Bug Pro Chelle Hartzer says:
While cockroaches are not social insects, they do form aggregations with many of them living in the same space.
Treatments for cockroaches
There are multiple DIY options for cockroach control. Liquids, dusts, aerosols and baits are easily available. Before using any pesticide, make sure to read and follow all label instructions.
Liquids and dusts are often applied to cracks and crevices along baseboards, into cracks, and behind equipment. These options are typically used at ground level, using a small tip to accurately spray or place them. Most will have a residue that is left behind to impact the cockroaches that come out at night. It’s important to consider children, pets and other non-targets that could come in contact with these materials.
Aerosols can be used the same way, but are also used as a contact treatment. You can use them to spray the cockroaches you see out and running around. These will also be used in slightly larger applications such as behind appliances.
Baits are probably the most versatile and effective treatment method. They are often packaged in tubes or in contained bait stations. They are thicker than liquids, so can be placed almost anywhere, particularly close to where the cockroaches are hiding. Baits in pre-loaded stations can often be secured on the backs and sides of appliances, shelves and other equipment. Since they are contained, there is less risk of contact with non-targets
It is inadvisable to use the “bug bombs” found in many stores. Research has shown these to be ineffective at killing cockroaches and potentially dangerous to people and structures.
When treating, it helps to get the treatment as close as possible to where the cockroaches are hiding. No matter what treatment is being used, make sure to stay away from exposed food and food contact surfaces. People and pets should not come in contact with the treated areas. Always read and follow the label of the treatment product you are using.
Finding a specialist to control cockroaches
The prospect of finding cockroaches in your home can be daunting and scary. The good news is that cockroaches can be easily controlled with help from a trained pest professional. If you are concerned about cockroach control for your home, please give us a call. Let At Home Pros be your personal team of experts, highly qualified to provide the best recommendations for you and your home, no matter where you live in the United States.