Discover everything you need to know about cockroaches in our guide below.
What Are Cockroaches?
Cockroaches are among the most common insects on Earth. They’re also some of the oldest – based on fossil evidence, cockroaches (scientific name Blattaria) have lived on Earth for nearly 350 million years.
Currently, there are about 4,500 species of cockroaches in the world, and 30 are considered pests.
Cockroaches routinely infest homes, businesses, and other inhabited buildings and can be challenging pests to control.
The Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Cockroaches
Cockroaches are oval, flat-bodied insects ¾”-3” in length. Most species are reddish-brown but may look white in the days after they molt. Their bodies are oily to the touch, and the insects have prominent antennae and six legs.
Cockroaches come from tropical and subtropical regions and are known for living in moist, warm environments. Cockroaches are particularly fond of unsanitary areas like garbage cans, sewage systems, and septic tanks. Like other pests, cockroaches often move to new areas by “hitchhiking” in hidden crevices in furniture, clothing, and other goods coming into or going from homes or other structures.
These insects are most active at night when they breed and forage individually for food and water. When cockroaches are out during the day, it’s usually because the infestation is severe or because the cockroaches are facing a stressor, such as lack of food or water or exposure to predators or pesticides.
While some cockroaches consume only vegetation, their chewing mouthpieces allow them to eat various foods, including starches, sweets, grease, and meat products. Cockroaches are also known to eat non-food items like leather, starch in book bindings, glues, and more.
While the average lifespan of a cockroach is about a year, the time required for the insects to hatch from eggs and develop into nymphs and then adults will vary depending on their environmental conditions.
What Damage Do Cockroaches Cause?
One of the first signs of cockroach infestation is the fecal matter they leave behind, known as frass. Some cockroach droppings are so large that they resemble mouse droppings, while others look like tiny coffee grounds or specks of dark pepper.
When accidentally consumed or inhaled, roach frass can cause health conditions like asthma (which can be life-threatening, in some cases) or lead to diseases like salmonella or E. coli. In some instances, roach infestation has been linked to digestive diseases like gastroenteritis.
Roaches are voracious eaters, and their feeding behavior can damage books, stamps, envelopes, wallpaper, and other materials.
When cockroaches live in unsanitary areas like sewers or garbage disposals, they can spread germs and filth from these areas into bedrooms, bathrooms, food storage areas, and more.
Finally, cockroaches produce strong-smelling secretions in various points of their bodies, which can contaminate foods or cause a house to smell like roaches.
How to Get Rid of Cockroaches
Getting rid of cockroaches can take weeks or months, depending on the severity of the infestation.
To eliminate cockroaches, it’s essential to use a combination of baiting, pesticides, sanitation, and exclusion.
The first aspect of any successful roach treatment plan is sanitation. All food and harborage areas should be removed, and rigid sanitation standards must be maintained throughout the course of roach treatment. Non-chemical control methods, like sticky traps to prevent roaches from crawling up the legs of furniture, should also be used.
In addition to sanitation and non-chemical control, we recommend treating roaches with insecticides containing abamectin, acetamiprid, fipronil, or boric acid. Granular bait formulations are also excellent at controlling indoor roach populations, as are crack and crevice insecticide sprays.
For a complete guide on how to get rid of cockroaches, click here.
Unlike ants and other insects, roaches aren’t social creatures. Because of this, the presence of one roach doesn’t always indicate a full-blown infestation. However, it does suggest that your home offers the food and shelter roaches need to survive. If you don’t remove food and harborage areas quickly, you could face a severe infestation in days or weeks.
If you see a cockroach and want to kill it on sight, use a contact insecticide specifically formulated to work on roaches. These insecticides usually come in aerosol formulations and are easily applied to individual roaches.
While cockroaches don’t typically bite humans, they are capable of doing so. When cockroach bites occur, they’re usually related to the roach’s foraging behavior, and the bite may look like a small, red, inflamed bump.