Cockroaches

Cockroaches

The cockroach is without a doubt one of the most persistent of all insects, with a reputation for being able to survive in extremely inhospitable environments. Whether we consider the cockroach’s anatomy, breeding habits or diet, it is evident that this is a creature that was designed for survival. Coming in many varieties and thriving in rural or urban environments, the cockroach is a perennial nuisance to humans. Invading and infesting structures with a capability to multiply that is astonishing and frightening. Exterminating them requires diligence and attention to detail.

Biology of the Cockroach

Cockroaches are found all over the world and are divided up into roughly 4500 species. Some, like the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, are extremely large and fat, while others are quite small such as the Micro Heli Roach which averages only 3 millimeters in length. Some roaches, like the Woods Cockroach are winged and capable of flying, while others like the common American Palmetto Cockroach and the German Roach are not.

In Michigan only four types of cockroaches are common: the German Cockroach, Brownbanded Roach, American Cockroach and the Oriental Roach, though for the most part the four species are treated in a similar manner as far as extermination is concerned.

German Cockroaches

German Cockroaches are the most common in Michigan. They are small, usually only 1/2 inch long or slightly longer. Males are brown to dark brown with two black stripes on the pronotum (the area just behind the insect’s head) and have a tapering abdomen. German roaches are capable of large scale infestations of whole apartment complexes and high-rise buildings.

Brownbanded Roaches are much more uncommon than German Roaches but are also capable of large scale infestations. Adult Brownbanded Roaches are the size of German Roaches-about 1/2 inch long. The female is a little longer than the male. Her wings are reddish brown to dark brown, and a little shorter than her broad, rounded abdomen. The male, slightly less than 1/2 inch long, has wings that are dark brown at the base but light brown at the tips, which are slightly longer than the tapered abdomen. Both sexes have a light band behind the pronotum at the base of the wings, and another full or partial band about one-third of the way back from the pronotum.

American Cockroaches, also called Palmetto Cockroaches are the most common cockroach in North America, though relatively uncommon in Michigan. They are larger than the German Roaches, usually about 1 1/2 inches and reddish brown in color. The pronotum of the American Roach is ringed by an irregular light color that is almost yellow. Often this margin is bright and wide, darkening toward the center of the pronotum.

Oriental Cockroaches, (often referred to as “Waterbugs” in the south) are very dark brown or shiny black. The female is slightly longer than the male- 1 1/4 inch compared with 1 inch. Unlike other domestic cockroaches, the female does not develop wing, but produces only short triangular wing pads. The male has wings, but they are short and broad, leaving about one quarter of the abdomen exposed.

Reproduction

Cockroaches are the rabbits of the insect world, as far as reproduction is concerned. German Cockroach infestations are particularly serious because the German Cockroach breed continually. In her brief lifetime of 100 days, a female German Cockroach is capable of producing up to one million eggs. Populations can grow extremely quickly in optimal conditions. Female roaches carry their eggs about with them attached to their abdomen until they hatch, after which the nymphs will go through seven intermediate stages before they become adults ready to reproduce. Because cockroaches can breed so quickly, effective treatment must center on reducing and removing entire populations, not just spot treating individual roaches.

Food Source

Cockroaches are omnivorous and will scavenge for any available organic food source. They do have a preference for foods such as starches, sweets, grease and meat products, but they will also eat cheese, decaying organic matter (plant or animal). Basically, anything organic is edible to a roach. Because of this, most cockroach infestations start in the kitchen. Coffee grounds left on the counter, unwiped grease on the back or sides of a stove or sticky stains left behind from spilled juice or beer are especially attractive to cockroaches. Roaches scavenge continually, but they do not require a lot to live off of; if no other food source is present, a cockroach can survive off of a single crumb for six months. They also tend to prefer kitchens because of the availability of water, which they will drink from the condensation on pipes under the sink or in the wall or from droplets of water left in the sink. Cockroaches are nocturnal, feeding primarily at night. They tend to scatter if exposed to light. If you see cockroaches active during the day, it is a sign of a large infestation.

Cockroach Infestations

How do you know if you have a cockroach infestation? Because of the cockroach’s ability to reproduce itself extremely quickly, even sighting a single cockroach in the home should raise enough concern to contact a pest control professional. Cockroaches tend to live under refrigerators, stoves, under or behind kitchen cabinets and in crevices between baseboards and floors or cabinets and walls. Sometimes they are found behind pictures or even inside electronic equipment, such as light fixtures and behind light-switch panels. They prefer these locations because they open into wall voids that allow them access to various parts of the house, foraging for food and water by night.
There are several signs of a cockroach infestation. Since cockroaches are nocturnal, if you see roach activity during the day, it means that the nests are so large that some roaches are being thrust out. German Cockroaches also tend to emit a certain odor that, when concentrated due to a large population, may give the area near the infestation an oily, musty smell. Another sign is the presence of cockroach feces, which are best described as resembling coffee grounds. These droppings will typically be left behind on counter tops, under sinks or anywhere else the roaches are scavenging. Typically, you will also find dead roaches around the house if there is an infestation.

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