St. George & Southern Utah Pest Control Experts

Cockroaches: 411 on The American Cockroach

By Eric Palmer February 11, 2022
A successful alien. Few insects evoke the same revulsion as a cockroach sitting on a plate next to your dinner. And for good reason. They are noxious pests, well adapted to exploiting our habits and our homes.

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The American Cockroach is one of five cockroach species found in southern Utah. And it’s a great example of why roaches are such successful and troublesome pests.

Oddly, although now known around the world as American Cockroaches, this species did not originate in the US. They are native to Africa and the Middle East. It is thought that American Cockroaches first arrived in the Americas in the mid-17th century, possibly on commercial traders or slave ships.

Why American Cockroaches are a problem

You have good reason to want roaches out of your home. While an American Cockroach won’t bite, it could be responsible for three major problems in your home: disease, allergies, and/or bad smells.
American Cockroaches prefer to live in warm, damp environments where food can be easily found. Such places might include sewers, kitchen waste, or garbage dump sites full of decay. These unsanitary areas will teem with bacteria, which clings to the cockroaches as they move about.

When the roaches enter your home, inevitably, some of this bacteria ends up on work surfaces and in places you thought were clean.

American cockroaches can carry many types of bacteria, parasitic worms, and a host of microorganisms. They have been blamed for cases of salmonella, diarrhea, and other unpleasant diseases.

An increasing problem, more commonly found in urban areas, is that of allergies. Cockroach droppings and bits of shed roach skin can carry allergens. People vulnerable to allergies may start exhibiting rashes, nasal congestion, and watery eyes.

If these two problems were not enough, American cockroaches can produce an unpleasant smell. The stink is distinctive and when enough cockroaches congregate, it can be so strong it taints food and drink.

How to identify an American Cockroach

The American Cockroach is the largest of the cockroaches found in southern Utah. The average length of the female is about 1.6inches (4cm), with males being slightly shorter. But females can exceed 2 inches in length if the conditions are right.

The adults are reddish-brown, with a yellowish band at the rear of the section behind its head. Both males and females have wings. They can fly when disturbed but only for short distances. But they are more often seen running along the floor trying to hide.

Cockroaches are fast runners – they have been clocked at nearly 3.5 mph, which is comparable to a human running at over 200mph!

Nymphs look similar to adults but lack wings.

The Roach diet

What makes American Cockroaches so successful in southern Utah is their ability to feed on almost any organic material. They have favorite foods, like decaying matter, sweet items, and, unfortunately, most human foods. But they are not fussy eaters. They can survive on dried leather, paper, and old clothes. They will even eat dead cockroaches! They can also live for extended periods without food (but less so without water.)

Habitats

Unlike other species of cockroach found in Utah, American Cockroaches typically live outdoors. They normally favor damp, shady areas such as wood stacks, mulch piles, and hollow trees. They are also fond of sewers and dank drainage systems.

In cold or abnormally wet weather, they often relocate to somewhere warmer and drier – places such as your home or business. There they will tend to stay out of sight in a basement or attic, only venturing into the open when it’s dark.

The Lifecycle of the American Cockroach

American cockroaches have three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

Unlikely as it may seem, American Cockroaches engage in a courtship ritual before mating. Females can store the sperm and lay many eggs without the need to mate again.

Several days after mating, the female will lay an ootheca. This is a hard capsule that may contain from 16 up to, less commonly, around 50 eggs.

The ootheca is about 3/8 inch long and shaped like a clutch purse. It starts dark brown but soon turns black. The ootheca protects the eggs from drying out while they develop. These capsules are normally laid among debris, in cracks or corners for further security. The female may also glue them in position to keep them safe.

A single female may produce between 150 and 300 eggs in her life.

The length of each stage of development is dependent on several factors. Temperature, humidity, and availability of food and water all affect the timing. This can vary considerably, from as little as 90 days from egg to adult to upward of 500 days.

Depending on the environment, nymphs may molt anything from six to 14 times before becoming adults.

The lifespan of an adult is also tied closely to its environment. Females can live as long as 15 months as adults, although this is unusual.

Signs of a Roach Invasion

With so many reasons to avoid sharing your home with roaches, how do you know when you are?

There are four common indicators to look out for:

  • If you see a roach racing into the shadows. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen one, likely there are more, perhaps many more lurking out of sight.
  • If you notice any unpleasant smells. The odor has been variously described as musty, oily, or even sweet. One thing is for sure – it is unpleasant and once smelled, not easily forgotten.
  • If you find ootheca. These may be in corners of unused rooms, behind furniture, in basements, or close to pantries. In fact, anywhere secluded, warm, and, preferably damp.
  • If you see scatterings of small dark-colored pellets. These may be cockroach droppings. The droppings may or may not be hard. Sometimes, they are runny and messy.

What to do with these unwanted visitors

If you think you have cockroaches in the house or business premises, don’t wait to call in the pest assassin. The longer you wait, the more likely the problem will get bigger! What starts as a few roaches can soon become an infestation.

At Southwest Exterminators, we have the experience to rid your home of American Cockroaches and give you the peace of mind you are roach-free.

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