Cockroaches 101

A Guide to Identifying Common Types of Cockroaches

Long despised by homeowners, the cockroach is more than just a creepy nuisance pest that can survive freezing temperatures and a week without its head. This creature can pose serious health risks to humans if it finds a way indoors. In fact, all types of cockroaches pick up germs on the spines of their legs as they crawl through decaying matter, which may be transferred to humans through food contamination. Cockroaches are known to spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella, as well as six kinds of parasitic worms and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens.

In addition, cockroaches can trigger asthma and allergy attacks as their droppings, saliva and shed skin contain potent allergens and can exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially in children.

To keep your family and home safe from a cockroach infestation, pest control and prevention is key. However, with approximately 4,000 living species of cockroaches in the world, and about 70 species found in the United States, it's inevitable that some cockroaches will find a way inside homes. As a result, it's important to pay close attention for signs of an infestation and take action if this pest is found. You should contact a licensed pest control professional to properly identify an intruder and recommend a course of treatment. However, you can also use this guide to help determine which type of cockroach has become an unwelcome houseguest if you suspect or discover an infestation:

Types of Cockroaches

American Cockroach

  • Appearance: American cockroaches are reddish brown with a yellowish figure 8 pattern on the back of their head. This species is the largest of the house-infesting roaches.
  • Region: This species is located throughout United States and worldwide.
  • Habitat: American cockroaches are often found in sewers and basements, particularly around pipes and drains. They will also congregate in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms in search of water and food.
  • Unique Facts: They are active when the temperature is 70 degrees or higher, but they can survive lower temperatures with the right conditions.

Brown-banded Cockroach

  • Appearance: Brown-banded cockroaches are brown with pronounced banding across their wings.
  • Region: This species first entered the U.S. in 1903 and is now found throughout the United States.
  • Habitat: Within a room, brown-banded cockroaches tend to prefer warmer, drier, and higher locations than any of the other urban pest roaches. They can be found in kitchen cabinets and bathrooms, as well as behind picture frames. This species often hides its egg cases in or underneath furniture.
  • Unique Facts: This species gets its name from the two light brown bands that appear across their dark brownish bodies.The male's wings are larger than the female's wings.

German Cockroach

  • Appearance: German cockroaches are light brown to tan with two dark stripes located on their backs. They are oval shaped with six legs and antennae.
  • Region: This species can be found across the United States.
  • Habitat: German cockroaches prefer warm and humid places. They can be found in damp or humid areas such as bathrooms or basements, but they are typically found in rooms where people eat such as kitchens.
  • Unique Facts: The German cockroach is the most common cockroach species found worldwide. Additionally, although they have wings, this species rarely flies and prefers to run instead.

Oriental Cockroach

  • Appearance: Oriental Cockroaches are large and exhibit a shiny black to dark reddish-brown color.
  • Region: This species is found in the northern regions of the United States.
  • Habitat: Oriental cockroaches are often found in sewers and will enter structures through drains or through door thresholds, typically during the summer. Once inside, this species will seek out damp and cool places such as basements and crawl spaces. Outdoors, they can be found in leaf piles and firewood.
  • Unique Facts: Oriental cockroaches are sometimes called "water bugs" because they come out of drains, and "black beetle cockroaches" because of their smooth, dark bodies. This species creates a strong smell and is considered one of the dirtiest of all the cockroaches.

Wondering how to get rid of cockroaches? The best advice for cockroach control is to practice good sanitation. Homeowners should also seal any cracks or crevices on the outside of the home and eliminate moisture buildup in basements, attics and crawlspaces. When inspecting for types of cockroaches, pay extra attention to kitchens and bathrooms - especially under appliances and sinks - as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations. If you suspect or discover an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional.

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