Common Household Cockroaches
Cockroaches have existed in their current form since approximately the Carboniferous Period in the Paleozoic Era, roughly 320 million years ago. So, they have had plenty of time to adapt to modern times. Cockroaches are the best example of the fact that we can never have total control over what other organisms live with us. Our disdain for roaches stems from how they exploit every weakness in our lifestyle to advance their own success. Most “domestic” cockroach species probably originated in tropical Africa and came to our shores on ships long ago. Here is more about them and their control.
“Croton bug,” “palmetto bug,” “water bug,” and “Bombay canary” are all colloquial names for some pest cockroach species. The major pests in the U.S. are German, American, Oriental, Brown-banded, Smoky Brown, and Australian Cockroaches, most of which, again, are actually native to tropical Africa.
Are cockroaches really harmful?
Cockroaches are occasional mechanical carriers of bacteria that cause food poisoning. Also, heavy roach infestations, and prolonged exposure to roaches and their shed exoskeletons (“skins”), often trigger asthma, especially in urban areas.
Do I need an exterminator?
Unless roaches reach high numbers, you probably do not need professional help; food processing plants, restaurants, and multi-family dwellings are exceptions which must meet strict health and sanitation codes. Pest control services often require a contract for ongoing treatments. Follow their instructions for safely storing food, dishware, cookware, and silverware during treatments.
Are all roaches pests?
No, we have many native species that are important to the healthy functioning of outdoor ecosystems. Male wood cockroaches, genus Parcoblatta, may fly to your porch light at night, but they live strictly outdoors. Keep firewood piled well away from homes.
What works to control them? What does not?
Baits are the most effective means of cockroach control. They take more time to kill roaches, but the effects are long-lasting. Sprays are less effective and require repeated treatments. Glue boards can trap innocent victims other than roaches.
Can I prevent a cockroach infestation?
Yes. Clean your home, especially the kitchen and bath, thoroughly and regularly. Be mindful you do not accidentally carry a roach home from work, the grocery store, or other location. Seal cracks and crevices to stop roaches from entering your home. Stuff steel wool around pipes and electrical conduits where they enter or leave the premises. Comply with landlord pest control rules, but encourage them to use baits, not sprays.
Find more articles on how to deal with bugs and pest around the home in our Common Household Pest Series.