• Cockroaches are one of the oldest groups of insects and are very successful because they are able to adapt so well to their environment. One reason for this is because of their diet. They are scavengers and will eat anything organic.
• Most species are of tropical or subtropical origin and they are not social insects, but will still be found in large numbers.
• The cockroach is of great importance to humans because they are known to carry many disease pathogens and can cause allergic reactions as well. Some disease pathogens they carry are: bacteria, such as Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Coliform, Bacillus, Clostridum, Escherchia coli (diarrhea), Shigella dysenteriae (dysentery), the protozoan-caused parasitic toxoplasmosis and hepatitis B antigen. They also carry diseases no longer a major threat in the U.S., such as cholera, plague and polio.
• The United States has about 50-70 of the approximate 4,000 species living worldwide. Only a few of these will inhabit man’s dwellings. The three most common of these are, first: the German cockroach, second: the American cockroach and third: the brown-banded cockroach.
• The body is oval in outline and usually flattened. The wings are leathery with veins and cover the body. The antenna is long and threadlike. Cockroaches are brownish in color and about ½ in. to 1 ½ in long. Color and size will vary depending on species.
• Identification is important because cockroach species vary in food preference and living habits. For example: the American cockroach prefers living in food storage areas, basements and sewers. They prefer fermenting foods and are usually brought into a home on bags, clothing or other objects and through sewer lines. The Australian cockroach is very similar in appearance, has habits like the American cockroach, except they don’t like sewers and prefer to feed on new plant shoots or starchy foods. They are most likely to be brought in on potted plants from stores and nurseries.
• Cockroaches have a simple metamorphosis: eggs, nymph, and adult. The nymph looks like the adult in appearance, except it is smaller and the adults have wings. All newly hatched cockroaches are white in color, but in a few hours, as their cuticle hardens, they assume their typical color.
• Female cockroaches lay eggs containing single egg cases or capsules, called ootheca. Each capsule has eggs arranged in two parallel rows opposite each other and may contain 4-60 eggs, depending on the species. The ootheca is usually dropped or glued to some sheltered surface near a food source, within a couple days of formation. Some species retain the ootheca, incubate it and this can give the illusion they are giving birth to live nymphs. Developmental time can vary depending on temperature, humidity and species. It can be 53 days for the German cockroach and as long as 2 years for the oriental cockroach. Usually a high temperature and high relative humidity in their harborage will shorten the developmental time.
• Cockroaches are gregarious (stay together in groups) by nature, but tend to separate by size. The size grouping depends on the size of the crack or crevice they are able to squeeze into and use as a harborage. They are nocturnal but can be found during the day when their harborage is filled to the max or overflowing. Cockroaches spend about 75% of their time in cracks and crevices which are small enough to barely squeeze into. The most preferred harborage is that of proper size and which is near a food and water source, as well as being warm with high relative humidity.
• Cockroaches feed on anything organic. They prefer foods that are starchy but will feed on sweets, grease, meat products, cheese, beer, leather, glue, hair, book bindings, flakes of dried skin or any decaying plant and animal matter.