Anyone familiar with insects or pests can probably recognize a cockroach on sight. They have a well-deserved reputation of being resilient and adaptable, and they’re also probably one of the most disliked insects in the world. Many people associate cockroaches with dirty environments and disease – generally a correct assumption.
If you believe you have a cockroach infestation, take a minute to learn a little more about these insect invaders. Understanding the biology and behavior of these pests will help you understand how to get rid of them and how to prevent them from coming back.
There are more than 4,600 distinct species of cockroaches, and 50 of these species are native to North America. However, very few of these species enter dwellings and pose a threat to humans.
The cockroaches you need to worry about in the Chicagoland area are the German cockroach, Oriental cockroach, and American cockroach. Each will invade your home and cause problems, although they do have some fairly significant differences:
- German cockroaches are the most common home invader, and they’re likely the pest you’re dealing with if you have a cockroach problem. They’re about half an inch long, making them smaller than most cockroaches, and are light brown in color. They prefer to remain in the dark, and though they have wings, they can’t fly.
- Oriental cockroaches are also known as “waterbugs” because they prefer moist environments. They can grow to be slightly over an inch long and are black in color. Males have wings that cover most of the abdomen, while females only have tiny wing stubs. Neither sex can fly very well, however.
- American cockroaches are the largest of the three, growing up to two inches in length. They are light brown in color with long wings and can fly in warm temperatures. They prefer to live in environments above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Each cockroach is attracted to the walls, basements, and foundations of human dwellings because these areas tend to be darker, warmer, and moister than the Illinois outdoors, and cockroaches require these conditions to thrive.
Life Cycle and Biology
Cockroaches earn their reputation as consummate survivors because of several factors. The first cockroaches lived around 300 million years ago, and their modern descendants are still biologically quite similar.
Cockroaches are resilient and hard to kill. Most species can live for a week without water, a month without food, and 45 minutes without air. In fact, if a cockroach loses its head, it will continue to live until dying from dehydration. Furthermore, cockroaches-though mostly unable to fly-can run at speeds of up to three miles an hour, the equivalent of a human running 210 miles per hour.
Each cockroach matures rapidly, with German cockroaches reaching adulthood after 2 months, American cockroaches after 15 months, and Oriental cockroaches after 18 months. Cockroaches lay their eggs in a single capsule, which can contain anywhere from 14 to 48 eggs, depending on the species. Since German cockroaches age quickly and lay the most eggs, their populations expand the most rapidly in a safe environment, which is why they are the most common cockroach pest.
Although cockroaches only live for about a year, a female cockroach can lay up to eight egg cases during her lifetime, which can result in several hundred new members being added to the population in a short time span.
Unlike many harmful pests, cockroaches don’t bite or sting. They pose no physical threat to humans, but their behavior and habits make them dangerous.
Cockroaches are drawn to human food, particularly food that’s kept in dark, quiet, or damp areas. Since cockroaches are social creatures, they usually live in large groups. If you see a few cockroaches in the open, you can safely assume infestation-level numbers are hiding just out of sight.
The reason cockroaches pose a threat to humans is because they are carriers of disease. They move from the sewers to homes and from eating feces to eating the food in your cupboards. They carry the bacteria with them, depositing the germs on the food you eventually consume. This can be especially problematic in areas such as hospitals, where sanitation and germ control are paramount.
Cockroaches are known to transmit bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, which can result in food poisoning and worse gastrointestinal diseases. Certain proteins on cockroaches’ skin and in their feces can cause humans to develop allergic reactions and even asthma. They also have been known to carry parasitic worm eggs in or on their bodies, which they then transfer to food.
If you see cockroaches scuttling around your home, take action immediately. Start by sealing any exposed food in sturdy containers and fixing cracks or holes around your home. Although many people claim natural methods can deter cockroaches, the best way to eradicate your infestation is to call in a pest control professional.
Call Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management as soon as you notice cockroaches in your home. We can get rid of the pests and provide some additional information to prevent future infestations.