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11 Facts About Cockroaches that Will Help You Defeat This Menace

Reading facts about cockroaches may not be your idea of a fun night in. But you can at least take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.

Tons of people have or have had cockroach problems. After all, not many bugs are famous enough to have songs written about them. But cockroaches are part of this exclusive group.

Cockroaches have been a significant pest of humans ever since we started farming thousands of years ago. And thanks to us, cockroaches have become one of the most widespread insects on the planet.

Because cockroaches have been living with humans for so long, a lot of myths have grown up around them.

But while these insects are extremely adaptable and very good at surviving, their reputation for being un-killable is a little exaggerated. Still, they are remarkable creatures.

Once you can set aside their inherent grossness, that is.

The first step in a successful campaign is to know your enemy. With that goal in mind, here are some facts about cockroaches to gross you out and educate you.

What are cockroaches?

Cockroaches are insects of a very ancient order, dating back at least 320 million years.

So it’s entirely possible that dinosaurs were having to carefully package foods to keep cockroaches away. Not probable, but possible.

There are over 4000 species of cockroach currently in existence, but only a tiny fraction of these are pest species.

What do cockroaches do?

Anything a cockroach can. Cockroaches are generalized insects, lacking the intense specialization of, say, bed bugs.

Cockroaches are omnivores and will feed on a huge variety of different foods, and it’s this that makes them a pest in human homes. They enter our dwellings for the food, and very little is off the menu.

They will eat anything that humans eat, and a lot of things we won’t, including other insects, hair, books, sewage – basically, anything organic. So if it’s not metal or plastic, chances are cockroaches will eat it.

Because cockroaches often live in dirty environments, they pose a huge risk of food contamination. But that’s not the only problem.

Cockroaches are a significant vector of disease-causing pathogens and can cause allergic reactions in people with asthma. So cockroaches are definitely not ideal houseguests.

What do cockroaches look like?

All cockroaches have six legs and have heads that are relatively small compared to their broad and slightly flattened bodies. Most species are dull brown to black in color.

They have large eyes and two long, flexible antenna. Cockroaches have a waxy exoskeleton. 

That’s a general description of roaches but there are a few defining characteristics depending on the cockroach type in question. Here are a few of the most popular types of roaches…

German cockroaches

Worldwide, this is the most common species of cockroach found in people’s homes. Don’t expect these cockroaches to be wearing lederhosen and brandishing mugs of beer.

German cockroaches don’t actually come from Germany at all. Sensitive to cold, it is most likely that this insect originates from Southeast Asia.

German cockroaches are quite small by cockroach standards, generally around 0.4 to 0.6 inches in length. Their color varies from a light tan to a very dark brown that can appear almost black.

They are nocturnal, but can be seen during the day once an infestation reaches a significant size. Although these roaches have wings, they cannot fly.

American cockroach

USA! USA! In true American style, this is the largest species of cockroach commonly encountered by people. Despite the name, these cockroaches are not especially patriotic, and it is believed that they only came to the New World in the 17th century from Africa and the Middle East.

American cockroaches generally measure around 1.6 inches in length. They are reddish-brown with a yellow margin around the pronotum, the shield-like appendage that covers the back of the head.

Despite their large size, these cockroaches are good at hiding in small spaces and can move as quickly as their smaller cousins. In fact, these cockroaches can move at 50 body lengths per second. That’s the equivalent of a human running at 210 mph.

Like their German cousins, American cockroaches have wings. But unlike the German variety, American cockroaches can use these wings to fly. They prefer not to if they can avoid it, though. The juveniles are wingless.

Brown-banded cockroach

Found throughout the US, these cockroaches get their name from the noticeable brown bands across their wings. At 0.4 to 0.6 inches in length, they are close in size to the German cockroach, for which they are often mistaken.

While the wings of the male cover the abdomen completely, the wings of the female are shorter. As a result, only the males of the species are capable of flight.

Brown-banded cockroaches prefer to aggregate in drier areas than German cockroaches, and as a result, can be more widespread in a home.

While the Germans will usually stay close to kitchens and bathrooms for the high humidity, brown-banded cockroaches are just as likely to be found in living rooms and bedrooms.

Oriental cockroach

Oriental cockroaches are large, around 0.7 to 1.1 inches in length, and almost black in color. Not as widespread as other species, they can be found in the Northwest, Midwest and southern parts of the United States.

They require high humidity and heat, so are more likely to be found in sewers, basements, commercial greenhouses, and other areas.

They can also live outside in warm climates. Although they have wings, this species is not capable of flight.

How do cockroaches reproduce?

This is definitely one of the more disgusting facts about cockroaches – and that’s saying a lot. So do you really want to know? Really? Okay, suit yourself.

Cockroaches display sexual dimorphism, meaning that they have two distinct sexes. They reproduce sexually. When a male and female cockroach love each other very much, they get together for a special night of passion.

That is the full extent of a male cockroach’s involvement in the life of his offspring.

After mating, a female will develop an egg sac inside her abdomen. As the eggs grow, the egg sac begins to protrude from the rear of the female cockroach.

When the eggs are ready to hatch, the female will deposit the egg sac somewhere out of sight. Twenty-four hours later, the eggs hatch.

Yup, just twenty-four hours is all it takes.

The tiny, newborn cockroaches, or nymphs, are every bit as fast as their parents. Cockroaches are not social animals in the way that ants are, but they do tend to hang out together in what are called aggregations.

Cockroaches will tend to hide in the same areas where the adults aggregate and will feed on the droppings that the adults produce. I warned you this was going to be gross.

Once the nymphs have completed their first couple of molts, they are ready to feed on the same broad range of food as adult cockroaches.

German cockroaches are not only the most common species found in homes, but also the fastest to reproduce.

From an egg, they can become a reproductive adult in as little as 50 to 60 days. It’s this rapid reproductive rate, combined with their broad range of dietary preferences, that makes roaches so difficult to get rid of.

Do cockroaches jump?

Not really. Although cockroaches have very well developed hind legs, they are not designed to launch the animal into the air.

However, some species can use their wings to flip themselves out of danger if startled. While this behavior can look like a jump, the cockroaches don’t have a great deal of control over it.

They certainly can’t use it jump onto you.

Do cockroaches fly?

Some do. German cockroaches, the species most commonly found in homes, have wings but are incapable of flight.

American cockroaches can use their wings to glide. This enables them to drop from a high surface to a lower one, but can’t be called true flight. Some less common species of cockroach, such as Asian and Australian cockroaches, can fly.

And Pennsylvania woods cockroaches are strong flyers. However, they don’t live in human homes. At least there’s that silver lining.

Can cockroaches climb?

Cockroaches are excellent climbers. Their legs end in sharp claws, called tarsi, that enable them to grip onto many different kinds of surfaces.

Roaches can run up drywall as easily as they can run along the floor. They can even crawl upside down along the ceiling without falling.

Only very smooth surfaces, such as porcelain and glass, can’t be climbed by cockroaches. That’s why you’ll sometimes find them stuck in the bathtub.

How long do cockroaches live?

German cockroaches have a lifespan of around 200 days. While this may seem short, it’s enough time to produce as many as 200 offspring. American cockroaches breed slower, but they also live longer, around 1 to 1.5 years.

Oriental cockroaches have much the same lifespan as an American cockroach, while the average lifespan of a brown-banded cockroach is similar to that of the German cockroach.

Do cockroaches sleep?

Cockroaches generally sleep during the day. Most species are scared of light, and come out to feed once it gets dark.

However, if an infestation is large enough, cockroaches can be seen at all times of the day and night.

Do cockroaches poop?

Everybody poops. Cockroaches are no exception. German cockroach droppings look a little like black pepper or ground coffee. They tend to stick to surfaces and can be challenging to clean off.

Cockroaches are not picky about where they will go to the bathroom, and areas where cockroaches like to hide out will quickly become covered in large amounts of these droppings.

Larger cockroaches, such as the American cockroach, take bigger poops. These dark, cylindrical droppings can look a little like mouse droppings to the untrained eye.

And in case you were wondering, cockroaches will most definitely poop in your food.

Do cockroaches smell bad?

It’s probably not a good idea to go around sniffing cockroaches. For one, they may find it quite rude.

But the truth is, cockroaches do have a smell to them. German roaches, in particular, produce a musty, oily odor that is difficult to describe but instantly recognizable. The bigger the infestation, the stronger the smell.

Obviously, you’ll want to do something to combat the cockroach infestation well before it gets to this. Here’s how to get rid of cockroaches asap!

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