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General Facts

Found in abundance throughout the world, cockroaches rank among the oldest and most resilient of insects on the planet. The ubiquitous and hardy creatures first appeared on the earth roughly 400 million years ago and have evolved minimally over time. Modern cockroaches therefore look very similar to the cockroaches that lived during the prehistoric geological era when the insects originally emerged. Cockroaches have adapted to survive wherever people can live and have become closely associated with humans and manmade structures. The remarkable survival abilities of the cockroach enable the formerly tropical insect to thrive in a variety of climate zones, including temperate regions of Canada. Most likely introduced through international commerce, Canadian cockroaches are found as far north as Nunavut. The indoor presence of cockroaches often creates an unsanitary situation and can pose various health threats to humans.

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.

Appearance / Identification

What Do Roaches Look Like?
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.


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.


What Do Roaches Eat?
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.

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 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. Read more about cockroach eggs


Image of cockroach nymph
Cockroach nymph pictured for identification

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 a 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 develop from egg to adult.

Photo of a cockroach nymph
Image of a cockroach nymph

Problems Caused by Cockroaches

While only a small fraction of all known cockroach species are regarded as pests, they are capable of causing serious problems in a variety of indoor environments. These unsanitary insects regularly crawl through garbage and sewers before coming into contact with food and food preparation surfaces in kitchen environments, thereby spreading bacteria like coliform, salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. Consuming edible items contaminated by cockroaches may cause humans to develop cases of food poisoning. Cockroach faeces can also negatively affect the health of humans, particularly for people with asthma.

Do-It-Yourself Ineffectiveness
As one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet, cockroaches are experts at survival. Once the pests have entered and established themselves in a home, eliminating the infestation can be a serious challenge. Cockroaches are better at hiding than you are at finding them, and their eggs are naturally protected from insecticides by the egg capsules. Without special equipment, products, and technical know-how, cockroach control can be a losing battle.

Prevention Tips

Why Do They 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.

More Information
Australian Cockroach

Baby Cockroaches

Cockroach Allergy

Cockroach Eggs

Cockroach Droppings

Cockroaches in Winter

Cockroach Lifespan

Cockroach Repellents

Do Cockroaches Make Noise?

Do Roaches Bite?

Do Roaches Fly?

Traps & Sprays

Wood Cockroaches