What are cockroaches?

Cockroaches, also known as roaches, are a group of insects that have existed since ancient times, with thousands of species. Their order is Blattodea, which includes roaches and termites, who are grouped under this scientific order due to similarities in communication, social behaviors, kin recognition, etc. Roaches are an exterminator’s number one nemesis.

German roach
German roach

What is the German cockroach?

The German roach, scientifically known as Blattellica germanica, is a very common species of cockroach that is found throughout the world. It is the type of cockroach that people find themselves the most concerned over. These pesky pests are very good at hiding in all sorts of nooks and crannies and creating a large population in a very short period of time in your home. So it’s important to have a lot of information about them, how to take preventative measures, and know how to deal with them should they come into your house. 

Where are German cockroaches found?

They are creatures that can not live away from human dwellings. They need warmth to be able to live. according to research conducted by scientists wherein the cockroaches could not colonize ships that were in cooler temperatures and without human beings living there.

So that being said, German cockroaches are found in human-inhabited areas that are able to provide warmth to them. They might be called German cockroaches, but they are not exclusive to Germany and can in fact be found throughout most of the world. If theres food, moisture, and warmth available, you may find yourself encountering these pests from time to time.

How did German cockroaches get their names?

The scientist, Linnaeus, who gave them their Latin name, Blittalleca germanica, named them so. He might have thought they originated from Germany, though they were found in other European countries too. He was someone who used the binomial nomenclature to name things scientifically. 

What do German cockroaches look like?

German cockroaches are smaller in size than other types of cockroaches. They are about half an inch to five-eighths of an inch large. They are a brown color and have two parallel lines that are found on the lower back section of their thorax. The stripes are horizontal, colored black,  and located at the back of the head at the pronotum. They also have wings, but they don’t usually use them for flying. 

The younger German cockroaches also have stripes, however, they are a darker color, which is almost black. They are called nymphs. While the adults might grow up to about 

13 to 16 mm, the younger ones are even smaller. The males and females of this species of cockroach are slightly different in appearance. While the female’s bodies are rounder at the bottom and more stout, the males’  bodies are comparatively thinner and more tapered. 

What is the difference between a German cockroach and other types of cockroaches?

There are actually thousands of types of cockroaches in the world today, however, German cockroaches are the most common ones, followed by American cockroaches, brown-banded cockroaches, and Oriental cockroaches.  There are some significant differences in physical appearance amongst different types of cockroaches. It is important to know what kind of cockroach has made a home in your home because their eating and living preferences are different, so they all have to be dealt with differently. A small, thumb-sized cockroach in a dark mahogany color would be a smokey brown roach, while one that is not thumb-sized and that has a coloring that is darker, reddish, or black, is a female wood roach. If the cockroach is larger in size, up to about 1.5 inches, and has wings, that means that it’s an American cockroach. For the German cockroach, the main thing that helps you to differentiate them from others is their stripes, lighter brown to tan color, and small wings. 

How do they live, feed, and reproduce?

German cockroaches like to eat starchy, sugary foods as well as meats and fatty foods. If they don’t have food, they can eat soap and toothpaste, and when in starvation, they turn on each other. 

They are usually found in the kitchen as there is likely to be food there or scraps that are leftover after cooking.

They reproduce and thus multiply very quickly. The female, once fertilized, develops an ootheca in her abdomen which grows in size as the eggs inside it grow. The ootheca becomes translucent and then it becomes dark, almost like a chestnut shell. The ootheca contains the eggs which have now matured and are almost ready to hatch.

The female lays the egg sack that contains anywhere from between thirty-six to forty-eight eggs, that will then hatch. This happens once about every sixteen to twenty-four days and the maturation age for a cockroach–i.e. the time it takes for them to be able to grow from a baby to being able to reproduce, is fifty to sixty days. A single German roach can bring about more than 300 roaches! That’s why it is so important to get rid of them, fast.

Do German cockroaches bite?

This pest is capable of biting you but it is neither a poisonous bite nor a painful one. The only case where it might try to bite a human would be if it were unable to find alternative sources of food, so they might try to nibble on food crumbs on you. But the bites don’t do anything too bad unless they get infected. 

Do German cockroaches fly?

While they are capable of flying, they usually prefer not to. If they do fly, it isn’t in high altitudes like near your ceiling or walls. They’d just glide a little bit when trying to escape.

Where is a German cockroach infestation most likely to occur?

It is most likely to occur in the kitchen or the bathroom, in a place with access to water and food that also allows for a hiding spot. This includes kitchen cabinets, near electrical appliances due to their warmth, garbage bins, and near the kitchen sink which might have leftover food. 

How can a German cockroach infestation be prevented?

Proper sanitation is the best way to prevent these pests from invading your home. One has to make sure to clear all the food from the kitchen, wash dirty dishes on time, make sure there are no leaking pipes or sinks, and throw their garbage away on time in order to prevent German roach infestations. 

How to tell if there is a German cockroach infestation somewhere?

You can try all you want, but sometimes you’ll have an infestation on your hands despite cleaning up well. This can happen because they can enter your home when moving, through the grocery or other shopping bags, or even make their way over from your neighbor’s place. 

So if you are suspicious about there being a roach infestation in your house, you need to be on the lookout for some telltale signs. These include an unpleasant smell that is oily or musty and small, dark droppings that look like coffee grounds or black pepper. There could be stains of the cockroaches’ fecal matter around the corners of rooms as well, along with pieces of roach skin that they have shed or dead roaches.

What to do next? How to treat the German roach infestation?

 There are many different ways to deal with a roach infestation. There are natural home remedies that one can try as well as professional pesticides or bug extermination services. 

Natural and/or DIY remedies to treat the roach infestation

Calling in an extermination service can sometimes be costly, so you can opt to try and deal with the problem yourself too. In that case, the first thing you need to do is figure out the exact spots or hotspots that the roaches have taken over. It is important to be very thorough in your checking, as they can fit into all sorts of nooks and crannies. So use a flashlight, and check ( in every single room) under electrical appliances, inside of cabinets, in between cupboards, near the garbage bin, around the areas where food is handled, especially meat, and behind and under sinks. The best room to start with, in the case of German cockroaches is the kitchen, and then the bathroom, because of their love for food and moisture. 

Note all the areas that have the telltale signs of an infestation down. Now you can properly come up with an effective plan. If you find that the entire area is absolutely filled up with German roaches, then it is best to call in professional exterminators. 

If the infestation is only limited to certain spots, then it is possible for you to deal with it yourself. 

Natural  ways to remove a German roach infestation

Scientists have found that roaches are becoming more and more resistant to the chemical pesticides that people often use to try and get rid of them. This means that there is a change that they can come back, with a vengeance, if you try to just use chemical methods. You can combine natural methods with chemical methods, or just use natural methods to get rid of them. This would be slow, but ultimately worth it as it would discourage future roach infestations.

  1. Clean everything, always.

This is fairly obvious. Just taking fifteen or so minutes to wipe your kitchen countertop and cleaning your dishes regularly can be the difference between a roach-infested home and one that is free of them. Since roaches are attracted to the food in the kitchen, if there isn’t any for them to find on the shelves, countertops, or sink, then they won’t be as likely to come. You’ll reduce their food supply.

2) Seal up cracks and crevices. 

This is very important, especially considering the small size of German roaches. They can slip through practically any crack! So to prevent any more of them from coming into your place, just seal up all the cracks you can find using some caulk. 

3) DIY cockroach bait

This is a DIY recipe that can help to first lure the cockroaches out and then kill them. Simply mix together boric acid and sugar in a ratio of 3 to 1, respectively, and then sprinkle it around the entrances of these roaches’ hiding spots. While boric aid is not lethal to humans or pets, it can be a bit irritating so it’s better to keep it away from children. Once the roaches have come out and died over some time or overnight, you can get rid of their bodies by sweeping them into the trash bin. 

4) Fix Water leaks

This is very important as it can help cut off the cockroaches’ supply of water. They can survive a long time without food, but not so much without water. So make sure to fix any leaky faucets quickly!

5) Spray roaches with soapy water 

This will coat them in such a way that they will suffocate and die. This happens because roaches, like many other insects, breath through their skin.

6) Essential Oils

A combination of some essential oils to turn into a spray can make a good repellent for German roaches. Some scents that they hate and that you can thus use are tea tree oil, lavender oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil. You can take a spray bottle and fill it with one part vinegar, four parts water, and 10-12 drops of tea tree oil and spray it on the areas that you often see these pests scurrying about on. It will help in deterring them while giving your home a pleasant smell. 

Other methods to get rid of a German  roach infestation

 If natural methods just aren’t working, then that means the problem is even more serious than you thought. In this case, it is better to opt for research and review based insecticide/pesticide. There are several types of chemical pesticides that can be used. Make sure to handle them carefully, and if you feel like you are out of your depth, call in professionals!

  1. Bait 

Essentially, baiting is to attract the cockroaches using some scent that they find irresistible, and killing them via the poison that the bait is laced with. This is a very effective method, if not one of the best. It can be done in a DIY method by purchasing the bait. It is also a method that professional bug exterminators use.

One of the baits that are highly effective and popular when it comes to German roaches is Alpine Cockroach Gel Bait. The active ingredient in Alpine is called Dinotefuran. It is an ingredient that has been granted by the EPA as having a Reduced Risk Status to public health, so the Alpine gel is safer for humans than other counterparts might be. not only that, it is also safer for use in households that have pets. 

Alpine comes in a tube in the form of a gel. You essentially remove the lid, then apply small dots of the gel to various areas that are in a ‘void’ rather than a hotspot, and the cockroaches go wild over it, practically swarming towards the poisonous gel. If the cockroaches come into contact with it, they get poisoned. Then if they get in contact with other cockroaches, they also get poisoned. This is a major plus point of using Alpine as compared to other baits or poisons: the cockroaches getting in contact with each other help spread the poison. You can use it indoors and outdoors. Inside it can be used in attics, on pet beds, upholstered furniture, carpets and rugs, wooden flooring, and all sorts of nooks, crannies, holes, and cracks. Outdoors you can use it on the exterior of a building, the sidewalks, driveways, and porches too. The other thing is that it is not expensive, the product itself costs only a little more than thirty dollars. It is water-soluble and leaves no stains or particularly strong odors, so it’s a good choice if you want an easy cleanup. Alpine is also easily available online at reasonable prices. Some people consider it to be a little on the expensive side, especially as compared to gel bait or other insecticides that might be found in a grocery store, but most reviewers claim that it is well worth the price, as it gets the job done. Another con is that cats are also very attracted to the scent and might try to eat it, so it needs to be used only in places that they can’t reach. 

It is a product used by professionals and DIY-ers alike, so rest assured, gel baits can get the job done! 

2) Foggers 

These are essentially going to create an insecticide fog that helps kill cockroaches. The insecticide itself can be effective in the termination of cockroaches. However, it is not the best method by a long shot. This is because the fog can have trouble getting into all the places and being able to reach all the roaches that are hidden in deep cracks and crevices. Added to that, it can also be harmful to human health. If using this method, one would need to wear proper protective equipment.

3) Sprays 

There are two types of sprays that can be used to get rid of German cockroaches.

First comes the contact spray, which has to be directly sprayed onto the roaches to be able to kill them. It is very quick and effective, however, if there are too many roaches, you might have difficulty getting it to ‘contact’ all of them. 

The other type of spray is known as a residual spray. It is supposed to be sprayed on various surfaces, as well as kitchen cabinets. It leaves its effects for a long time-up to three months. At this point, it needs to be re-applied. 

4) Bombs

These are not literal bombs. They’re like a more intense, quicker, and effective version of the previously mentioned foggers. In fact, roach killing ‘bombs’ are also called ‘total release foggers’. They release the insecticide into the air in gaseous form at high pressure and speed, reaching all the nooks and crannies. If it’s a really good quality one, this ‘bomb’ can be an excellent method to get rid of a German roach infestation.

Ultimately, whatever option you choose, base it off of your experience and knowledge of the kind of infestation you might be experiencing. Tread wisely, but act quickly, because the more time you spend thinking about what to do, the more the roaches are multiplying!

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Dusty Showers has been in the urban nuisance wildlife and pest control field since 1993. Taught by Garon Fyffe, a pioneer in humane nuisance wildlife management, Dusty has a passion for finding humane solutions to human & wildlife conflicts. Dusty was the only individual invited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in the lat 1990's to help write legislation for legal protection of Florida bats. With an instinct for solving wildlife, Dusty found pest control to be an easy "add-on interest". Dusty started his first business "Animal Instincts Wildlife & Pest Management" in the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1995. Eventually selling Animal Instincts in 2002, Dusty went on to start Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest Control in 2009, which he still owns and operates today in Palm Harbor, Florida.

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