Cockroaches

Identification, images, and how to prevent infestation

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Identification

  • Colour Black to reddish-brown
  • Size From 1 cm to 5 cm long
  • Description All cockroaches have a pair of long antennae and six long, spiny legs. The body is flattened back to front and oval-shaped. Most cockroaches in Canada have wings, but cannot fly long distances.
Cockroach illustration

How to identify Cockroaches

Depending on the particular species, adult cockroaches measure between 1 and 5 centimetres in length and range in colour from black to reddish-brown. Most species of cockroaches in Canada have wings but are not capable of sustained, powered flight. Some species may use their wings to glide for short distances. Each cockroach has pair of long antennae and six legs, which are typically long and spiny. The body is flattened back to front and oval-shaped, as a result, they are perfectly equipped for hiding in small cracks or crevices that touch both the topside and the underside of the body. Immature cockroaches, known as nymphs, look like smaller wingless versions of fully grown adults.

Types of Cockroaches in Canada

Although roughly 4,500 different cockroach species exist worldwide, less than 1% of them are regarded as pests which regularly invade homes and other buildings. Cockroaches in Canada frequently enter heated structures to escape the colder weather, as the tropical natives prefer warmer environments. The German cockroach is the species most often found throughout Canada and the rest of North America. Other structure-infesting cockroach species commonly encountered in Canada include the American cockroach, oriental cockroach, brown-banded cockroach, and wood cockroaches.

Signs of an infestation

What do cockroach droppings look like?

Cockroach faeces differs in appearance and size according to the species responsible for producing the fecal matter. The faeces of the cockroaches most commonly found in Canada generally varies depending on the size of the offending species. Smaller cockroach species, including the widespread German cockroach, produce faeces resembling coffee grounds or specks of pepper. The cockroach faeces of smaller species often shows up as tiny smears on the wall or habourage sites and frequently indicates the presence of a nearby nest. Larger species of Canadian cockroaches, on the other hand, excrete faeces similar in appearance to mouse droppings but slightly smaller than mouse droppings. When magnified, the faeces of American cockroaches appears blunt and ridged, while the excrement produced by the oriental cockroach is rounded at one end and tapered at the other.

In addition to serving as an identifier of cockroach species and as a potential indicator of a nesting site, cockroach faeces poses health threats to humans. When cockroaches infest an indoor area or home, the fecal matter excreted by the pest insects can compromise the quality of the air when it becomes air-borne. Cockroach faeces contain certain proteins that act as allergens with the potential for becoming airborne. The allergens contained in cockroach faeces have particularly adverse effects on people with asthma. When airborne and inhaled, the allergens can trigger asthmatic symptoms like coughing and wheezing. More troublingly, research indicates that healthy children exposed to cockroach faeces allergens at a young age may actually begin to develop asthma, a chronic respiratory disease for which there is no cure.

Do cockroaches make noise?

Common cockroaches, such as the American and German species, are not known for making noise. While these pests are sometimes reported to make a clicking sound, this is likely a case of the observer misidentifying click beetles as cockroaches. However, if populations of cockroaches are large enough, the noise of their fluttering wings is audible. The noise typically associated with cockroaches is the crunch sound they make when smashed.

The Madagascar hissing cockroach, one of the largest species of the pest, is an exception to the rule. They get their name from the hissing noise made through small openings in their sides, called spiracles. Hissing cockroaches make these sounds when threatened, fighting, or attracting mates. Some Australian cockroaches also produce sounds, creating acoustic vibrations to attract mates by rubbing their legs or wings together. Otherwise, there is no evidence of vocalization between cockroaches. Instead, much like other insects, they communicate with each other by means of pheromones.

Allergies caused by cockroaches

In every human population, there is a segment of people with immune systems that respond to innocuous substances like pollens or dust. Cockroaches are known to trigger allergic responses in about 12% of individuals with no other allergies. Additionally, an estimated one-third of individuals sensitive to other allergens are also allergic to cockroaches.

Allergens
Cockroach faeces, saliva, bodies, and casts contain allergens which can trigger allergic responses in susceptible individuals. Particles of these allergens can become airborne inside a home. People who live in or visit chronically infested dwellings may breathe the dust in. Individuals with cockroach allergies may experience sinus congestion, rash, sore throat, and irritation of the eyes. Most allergies are seasonal, and experiencing symptoms year-round may indicate a cockroach infestation. Cockroach allergies may aggravate asthma conditions in some asthmatic individuals.

Asthma
In addition to troubling those with asthma already, cockroaches can also cause individuals to develop the condition. Approximately three million Canadians have asthma, and cockroaches are a significant cause of the respiratory condition. Children have greater susceptibility to cockroach allergens and more allergen exposure, which puts them at the greatest risk for developing asthma from these pests. Individuals living in inner city areas are at increased risk of developing asthma. It is unclear whether cockroaches are the cause, but it is theorized to be the reason for higher asthma rates in cities since cockroach infestations are more prevalent in urban environments.

Treatment
Several steps must be taken to alleviate allergies caused by cockroaches. First, residents need to eliminate the pests from the home. The fastest and most dependable option is calling a pest control professional.

After an infestation is eliminated, the home needs to be rid of cockroach casts, dead bodies, and faeces through extensive cleaning. Floors and furniture should be thoroughly swept, linens and other fabrics need to be washed, and kitchen surfaces, shelves, and cabinets should be wiped down. Residents also need to clean the gaps underneath and around large appliances, such as stoves and refrigerators. Once the house is clean, it is important to maintain cleanliness to prevent the crawling pest from returning to the home. Additionally, gaps and cracks in walls should be sealed up to keep cockroaches out.

Cockroach Removal

Cockroaches can be found in both commercial establishments and household settings. The most common domestic cockroach species found in Canada are the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, brownbanded cockroach, Supella longipalpa, and Oriental cockroach, Blatta orientalis L. Roaches may transfer disease-causing germs by crawling over food preparation areas and may also cause homeowners to develop allergies that may lead to asthma. Home remedies for trapping and eliminating roaches have been around for years and may include sticky traps and jar traps. Appropriately labeled and registered products for domestic use are readily available in stores. These products are available in various forms such as aerosol spray, baits, or dusts. Remember to read product labels prior to application and follow the label instructions.

Baiting is the most effective and safest of all the control methods, though to effectively control cockroach infestations, multiple baits must be set out and placed correctly. Baits must be placed in habourage and foraging sites, close to other points of entry. Baits should never be placed in open, exposed, or extremely hot or wet areas. Remember to replace the baits as needed to ensure effectiveness. For quick, direct knock-down, aerosol insecticide spray can be used by a homeowner. Always use an appropriately domestic-labeled spray and follow application instructions on the label. Spray affected areas only after removal of any kitchen or bath items that may become contaminated. Thorough application of cracks, crevices, and areas behind appliances and under sinks with dust forms or spray will kill active cockroach population and prevent future infestation. Of the available solutions, traps are the least effective. Traps generally have openings at each end and are lined with an adhesive used to immobilize the cockroach. Cockroach traps are best used as indicators of infestation in the home.

Homeowners should avoid using foggers, bombs, and commercially registered insecticides for safety and application concerns. Improper insecticide applications can cause cockroaches to develop resistance to the products or cause change in their behavior, making control of the pests difficult, leading to expensive and repeated treatments.

Most store-bought or home remedies may prove useful for short-term solutions, but homeowners wishing to eliminate infestations should seek professional assistance. The most effective way to consistently rid homes of cockroach infestation rests in the hiring of trained pest control professionals.

How to prevent Cockroaches from invading

Clean and vacuum the home regularly, Store food in tightly-sealed containers, Make sure cupboards remain dry, Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture, Clean up crumbs and spills promptly, Take out the trash every day, Don’t let dirty dishes pile up, Seal crevices and openings in walls and floors, fix leaky faucets and cracks in plumbing.

Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle

Habitat

Cockroaches are highly adaptable and can live wherever enough food, moisture, and heat exist to support them. These pests regularly enter buildings inhabited by humans to look for warm, damp environments in close proximity to sources of food and water. Basements, bathrooms, greenhouses, kitchens, and rooms containing sewer pipes or plumbing make ideal habitats for cockroaches. With origins in the tropics, these insects prefer to reside in spaces offering high levels of warmth and humidity. Cockroaches also demonstrate nocturnal tendencies by hiding during the day and becoming active at night. The six-legged creatures flee rapidly when exposed and move easily from one room to another.

Diet

As omnivorous scavengers, cockroaches look for food in a variety of sources. In their natural environment outdoors, they primarily feed on dead or decaying plant material and other organic matter. Cockroaches residing indoors, on the other hand, enjoy access to a wide range of items used by humans. The invading pests will eat virtually anything, including glue, leather and fabric, soap, toothpaste, and common pantry items. Starchy or sugary substances tend to attract cockroaches. These resilient insects can survive for weeks without food or water.

Life Cycle & Reproduction

Cockroaches generally live up to one year; female cockroaches are capable of producing 100 to 200 eggs during that time.

Eggs
Adult females produce eggs within a protective case known as an ootheca. Each ootheca may contain 16 to 50 eggs depending on the cockroach species with the production of as many as 4 to 30 of the cases over the course of their lifetime. Oothecae are typically deposited in discreet and protected locations, but some species carry the egg case until the eggs are ready to hatch.

Nymphs

Nymphs hatch from the eggs after an incubation period lasting up to two or three months. Nymphs are born without wings. They grow and develop in a transformative process called metamorphosis, molting out of their skin when they have outgrown it. The period between each molt is called an instar. Cockroaches typically complete six or seven instars to reach adulthood.

The entire cockroach life cycle usually comes to completion within four months to a year. Environmental factors like temperature and humidity greatly influence the length of time it takes cockroaches to complete development from egg to adult.

Commonly Asked Questions

How worried should I be about cockroaches?

Cockroaches create an unsanitary situation and can pose various health threats to humans. Eating food contaminated by cockroaches may cause food poisoning, meanwhile cockroach faeces can also negatively affect the health of humans, particularly for people with asthma.

They can also spread harmful bacteria, including coliform, salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus, by crawling through garbage and sewers to kitchen countertops.

But once these pests have entered your home, it can be almost impossible to eliminate them.

Cockroaches can survive for weeks without food and water. Their eggs are also protected from insecticide by the egg case, so even if you kill the adults, they’ll soon be replaced by newborns. The only way to eradicate a cockroach invasion is with a professional pest control service.

Why do cockroaches enter the home?

While cockroaches are not inherently attracted to dirty or unclean environments, unsanitary conditions can aggravate the problem. These scavenging insects enter homes and buildings to look for food, moisture, and warmth.

Restricting access to these basic necessities is the most effective way of preventing a cockroach infestation. Here are some tips for prevention:

Clean and vacuum the home regularly to eliminate crumbs and other food remnants.

Store food and pantry items in tightly sealed containers.
Promptly wiping up spills, getting rid of the trash daily, and keeping dirty dishes from accumulating in the sink will also help prevent cockroach infestations.
To keep the pests from entering the home or locating ideal hiding places, caulk and seal crevices and other tiny openings in the walls and floors, and repair leaky faucets as well as any cracks in the plumbing.

Make sure cupboards remain dry, and use a dehumidifier to reduce the amount of excess moisture around the home in order to create an inhospitable environment for cockroaches.

In cases of severe infestation, contact a pest control professional with experience in dealing with cockroach infestations effectively and successfully.

Do cockroaches fly?

Many of the more than 3,500 cockroach species in the world can fly. The flying capabilities of cockroaches vary according to the particular species, and sometimes sexual category, to which they belong. In Canada, the German cockroach is the most important and prevalent cockroach species in the country. Depending on the region, other significant pest species present are the American, brown-banded, oriental, smoky-brown, and wood varieties of cockroach. Though both males and females of the German cockroach have wings, they do not fly except for short downward gliding. Meanwhile, both sexes of the smoky-brown species of cockroach are strong fliers. Amongst the brown-banded and wood cockroaches, only the males enjoy flying capabilities. Though not regarded as true flyers, both male and female American cockroaches maintain the ability to glide through the air. Both genders of the oriental cockroach lack the capacity to fly. The Canadian cockroach species capable of flying are generally only able to remain in the air for short amounts of time.

Despite possessing four wings, each flying cockroach uses just a single pair for air travel. Thick and protective, the front pair of wings displays the same coloration as the body of the cockroach and rests against the back of the insect when not in use. The back pair of wings remains hidden and protected beneath the front pair until the cockroach takes flight. When preparing to fly, cockroaches lift the front wings to expose the back wings. The insects keep the front wings lifted while flying and move through the air by using the back pair. In contrast to the front pair, the back wings of cockroaches that fly are membranous, thin and clear.

Even though many cockroaches can fly, the insects boast highly effective legs and prove more adept at running than flying. The body of a cockroach features three legs extending from each side of the thorax. Covered with setae and pointy spines, each leg varies in length and fulfills different yet interrelated functions that enable the physical act of running. With a total of six legs working together to propel the insects forward, cockroaches can cover a distance equal to roughly 50 body lengths in a single second. For a human to run the same distance as 50 of his or her own body lengths in one second, he or she would have to reach a speed of about 200 miles per hour.

Do cockroaches bite?

Cockroaches are omnivorous; they feed on anything that is deemed nutritional to them including a variety of plant, animal-based food sources and non-living objects. Their mouth parts are modified for biting and chewing, hence they can bite as a result into meat as well as vegetation. Therefore, in certain conditions, cockroaches can bite humans and pets. They generally only bite humans in cases of extreme infestation, when other food sources become depleted. When infestations grow large enough to exhaust more attractive sources of nourishment, cockroaches will bite people to eat food particles stuck to human skin.

Victims of cockroach bites often do not realise that they are bitten by cockroaches; they may mistake it for other insect bites such as a bedbug bite. The bite may go unnoticed or may produce redness around the bite site, eventually swelling and causing irritation. Like other insect bites, cockroach bites carry the risk of infection. Infected cockroach bites typically grow in size and become inflamed, with pus contained within. In the rare instances when cockroaches bite humans, the insects often target the fingers and skin around the nails.

Types of Cockroaches

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