American Cockroach

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The American cockroach is one of the largest cockroaches to invade homes and commercial properties. Interesting to note, it is not a native of North America, but originally from Africa. Other names are water bug and palmetto bug.

Fast Facts

Color Reddish-brown in color with a yellow pattern that marks the back of the head helping to distinguish the insect from other species of cockroaches.
Size Adults are 1.5-2″ long.
Appearance They are flattened and oval in shape with fully developed wings that differ in length according to sex. The veiny and leathery appendages are as long as the abdomen on females and slightly longer on males. Despite possessing wings, American cockroaches are poor to moderate fliers and prefer to run instead. Nymphs resemble smaller, wingless versions of adults.
Ootheca egg casing.
Ootheca egg casing.
Contains approximately 15 embryos.
Contains approximately 15 embryos.
Adult American cockroach.
Adult American cockroach.
Adult American cockroach.
Adult American cockroach.

Diet

Many different food sources make up the American cockroach diet. They feed on things like baked goods, beer, cosmetics, flakes of dead skin, glue, hair, paper, pet food, soap, and wallpaper paste. They tend to prefer fermenting food and other decaying organic matter. Outdoors, they will eat leaves, tiny wood particles, fungi and algae. They also eat small insects.

Habitat

The American cockroach prefers dark, humid and undisturbed areas and can be found in subfloors, basements, kitchens, roof voids and bathrooms of homes. They forage under appliances, in drains, in kitchen cabinets and on the floor. They are primarily outdoors; however it is not uncommon to find them indoors as they search for water or food.

Life Cycle

Eggs
The eggs hatch from a capsule that the female carries for a day or two before she drops it or uses her saliva to attach it to a protected surface. Each capsule contains an average of 14 to 16 eggs, which take a month or two to hatch.

Nymphs
The insect goes through a nymph stage of development characterized by the completion of 10 to 13 molts.

Maturation
After completing the necessary number of molts, American cockroach nymphs become adults and live as long as 15 months in the right conditions.

Signs of Infestation

  • May notice a foul odor given off by large infestations. In fact, experienced pest control professionals can frequently smell an infestation before seeing any physical evidence of one.
  • Look for excrement, skin casts and empty egg capsules in crevices close to the ground.
  • Examine basements, crawlspaces, sinks, and bathtubs for leaky pipes and fecal smears.
  • Check electrical areas, boiler rooms, and kitchens for live cockroaches, skin casts and feces.
  • Dark spaces with plenty of moisture and warmth.

Threats

Food Contamination

The odorous secretions given off by the insects contaminate any food supply from which the insect feeds.

Carry Bacteria

Cockroaches are known carriers of over 33 kinds of bacteria, parasitic worms and additional human pathogens. Germs are picked up as they travel through sewage and rotting matter.

Asthmatic

The insect’s excrement and skin casings contain allergens which may cause affected individuals to contract skin rashes, experience congestion and become watery-eyed and sneezy. Children remain most susceptible to the asthmatic effects of cockroach allergens.

Odor

The distinct foul odor given off by large infestations can be noticed by experienced pest control personnel before seeing any physical evidence of one.

Prevention & Control

American Cockroach Prevention

To prevent an American cockroach infestation, home and business owners must eliminate sources of food and moisture. Simply practicing good sanitation habits can reduce or eliminate some of the most common food sources for cockroaches such as:

  • Cleaning up spills
  • Sweeping up crumbs and storing food in airtight containers
  • Washing dirty dishes. Do not leave dishes overnight
  • Emptying the trash daily

Other prevention tips involve:

  • Elimination of potential access points by caulking cracks and crevices
  • Sealing the openings around pipes
  • Keep these areas properly ventilated to remove moisture
  • Inspecting incoming packages for cockroaches prior to bringing the items inside
American Cockroach Control

While sprays and foggers are readily available at many retailers, they may actually make the infestation worse by causing the insects to scatter rather than die. Implementing baits often requires specialized equipment along with knowledge of cockroach behavior and tendencies. Licensed pest control professionals have access to the quickest and most effective methods of cockroach removal.