Cockroaches belong to the Blattodea order, under the superfamily ‘Dictyoptera’. The superfamily consists of two insect suborders- Blattodea and Montodea. The order Blattodea order comprises of cockroaches and termites whereas the montodea order consists of mantises. A common attribute amongst the two suborders is that these insects are hemimetabolous, meaning they have incomplete metamorphosis (this is a biological process of physical development. This process involves an abrupt change in the body through cell growth etc, which means they don’t have gradual changes in different stages of life and a nymph (baby cockroach) is much like an adult apart from its size and color). These creatures didn’t always belong to the previously mentioned suborder, in fact, they once belonged to the same subfamily as grasshoppers and crickets, called ‘orthoptera’ before being given a separate subfamily. The name ‘Blattodea’ was previously ‘Blattaria’. This was when cockroaches and termites weren’t considered to be of the same order, however, when a handful of similarities were found between the two, the name was changed so that it could inclusive to both. The word ‘Blattoptera’ is also often used when referring to the ancient species of cockroaches. The name ‘cockroach’ was derived from the word Cucaracha, which is Spanish for the insects. The name means ‘an insect that shuns the light’.

Adult German Roach
Adult German Roach

History Of The Cockroach

Cockroaches are probably one of the oldest insects. Evidence suggests that they may even date as far back as the carboniferous period, which was about 300-350 million years back. These creatures while being some of the oldest insects alive are also some of the most commonly known and often despised insects. 

There are over 4500 different species of cockroaches in 500 genera, however, only a fraction of them, say about 25 species, are known as pests. Pests are insects that are usually commonly seen in human habitats and are usually a threat towards crops and livestock and an overall nuisance for humans. 

There are several different biological families among cockroaches, some of which are listed below.

  1. Diplopterinae
  2. Blaberinae
  3. Zetoborinae
  4. Perisphaeriinae
  5. Oxyhaloinae
  6. Pycnoscelinae
  7. Blattellinae
  8. Nyctiborinae
  9. Gyninae
  10. Blattinae
  11. Pseudophyllodromiinae
  12. Polyphaginae
  13. Panchlorinae
  14. Polyzosteriinae
  15. Geoscapheinae
  16. Anaplectinae
  17. Archiblattinae
  18. Ectobiinae
  19. Epilamprinae
  20. Panesthiinae

Physical Appearance

The size of a cockroach varies from species to species, generally, most cockroaches are the size of a thumbnail, but there are quite a few bigger ones too.  Some examples include the ‘giant Australian burrowing cockroach’ which holds the record to be the world’s heaviest cockroach, at 1.1 oz in weight and up to 9cms (3.5 in) in length. Another example is the Megaloblatta longipennis, which can reach a staggering number of 97 mm (3.8 in) in length and 45 mm (1.8 in) across. Females are generally larger than male cockroaches.

A cockroach has a broad but flat oval-shaped, hairless body. It is divided into a 10 segment abdomen and a 3 segment thorax. The body has a tough external exoskeleton to protect the organs inside. This outer shell-like layer of the body is coated in wax to help protect them against water to some extend. 

Their head is generally pretty small and protected by a protonum (a hard structure over the thorax playing the role of a shield). The mouth of a cockroach is directed down and backward and is on the underside of the head. Their mouths include different touch and taste receptors. Along with chewing mandibles and salivary glands. like many other insects, they have 4 eyes. 2 big compound eyes that wrap around the head, allowing them a wide view of all sides, helping them during attacks and 2 simple eyes called the ocelli, that are small and helps them detect darkness and light. Other than that, cockroaches also have 2 long, segmented, slender and flexible antennas. 

Cockroaches have large coxae and 3 pairs od long sturdy legs along with five claws on each leg.  Each pair is attached to the different thorax segments. since their hind legs are much longer than their front legs, they provide the main support and power while running.  A fun fact about a cockroaches legs is that their leg structure is used as inspiration for developing robot legs 

Not all cockroaches have wings, but there are some who do. Within those species, both genders have wings, however, only the male can take flight. They have 2 pairs of wings. The frontal wings are bigger and thicker than the hind wings and act as a protective shield for the much thinner and membranous hind wings as they lay on top of them when they are closed in around the body. 

Generally, most cockroaches are reddish-brown. nymphs (young cockroaches) are also similar in color however, they are much paler than an adult cockroach. 

Types Of Cockroaches, How To Identify Them And Their Life Span

There are thousands of different species of cockroaches all across the globe. All these different kinds have more or less the same characteristics but have evolved and adapted to different environments.

The life span of a roach varies from species to species as well, however, the general average adult life span of a male roach is of about 160 days while females can live up to 180.

 Some of the most commonly heard of and popular ones include:

  1. Brown-banded cockroach
  2. Oriental cockroach
  3. American cockroach
  4. German cockroach

The brown-banded cockroaches have 2 yellow stripes/bands across their bodies (both male and female), they both have wings however, only the male can fly. This specie can grow up to 13mm in length and are, as the name suggests brown and can live anywhere from 3 to 11 months. the oriental cockroaches can size up to 35mm .none of the genders have wings. They are dark brown or black in color and have a super glossy exoskeleton. Females have an adult life span of 180 days and males of 160 on average.  American cockroaches are very commonly found in homes and are one of the largest pest cockroaches that can measure up to 53 mm in length. They are reddish-brown in color and have a yellow band around the protonum behind the head. This species is equipped with wings and can live for an average of 2 years. Lastly, the German cockroaches are pale brown and can be 13-16 mm in size. They have 2 dark brown stripes behind their head and can live for as long as a year. 

Some Fascinating Facts About Roaches

  1. Cockroaches can survive for 1-2 weeks without their heads
  2. A day-old nymph can run as fast as an adult roach
  3. They can survive underwater for half an hour
  4. They can hold their breaths for up to 40 mins
  5. Thye can survive without food for a month and without water for a week
  6. They are extremely resilient to radiation
  7. They use chemical cues, called ‘pheromones’ to communicate with one another, find mates, food and hiding places.
  8. They are nocturnal, meaning they are mainly active during the night.

Among these, the American roach is the most commonly found cockroach in Florida. These along with a couple of other species such as the smoky brown roach, Cuban roach and Florida wood roach to name a few, are age-old residents of the state.  

Nesting and Feeding Habits

The unsettling site of a Cockroach nest might leave some scarred for life, this nest is usually located somewhere warm and tight, which would explain why you always find them behind refrigerators, stoves and many other household appliances. Furthermore, other possible nesting sites may include cracks and crevices in walls and tiles. Cockroaches never venture far from their food source, and just find the nearest warm, damp and protected place they can call a nest. Making matters worse, Cockroaches release odors that attract further of their kind, leading to a nesting frenzy in a very cramped up space, causing an infestation. A cockroach nest is basically a place where one cockroach feels safe enough to release pheromones to attract others, as cockroaches don’t make proper nests.

 Cockroaches being omnivorous nocturnal scavengers are one of the least picky eaters when it comes to their diet. Cockroaches are opportunistic consumers and will feed on anything as long as it’s organic (non-metal or plastic), they’ll go for anything from rotting broccoli to a beefy steak to decaying matter, hair and books, Hence forming a nest virtually anywhere. however, sweet-tasting and protein-rich foods are their favorite. Cockroaches are known to consider items such as paper, fingernails, decaying wood and even hair as sources of nutrition. bizarre feeding habits may include eating their young and biting people if food becomes that scarce, leading to desperate measures. Cockroaches can survive a week without water but without food, these critters can go for months on end! 

Reproduction

Some species are parthenogenetic, which means that they don’t need sperm for reproduction, which ultimately means no mating process. However, most species do need fertilization. To attract nearby males, females elevate their wings revealing their genitals and release a strong odor called pheromones. An attracted male would then approach her and flap his wings so seek consent. Once the female allows, the male he would then later inject her with his sperm for fertilization. After fertilization the female body develops an egg case called the Ootheca, which she then carries inside of her abdomen for just 2 days before she places it in warm, damp and concealed place, using special oral secretions to glue the case onto surfaces. Their eggs are filled with nutritional water that sustains the young till they hatch and locate food for themselves, the mother aids them by placing the Ootheca near an already occurring food source. At a peak the female cockroach has the ability to produce two egg cases a week with 16 eggs each, A cockroach female brings more than a hundred and fifty new babies into existence in her lifetime. Some species only need to be impregnated once and can then keep on laying legs for the remainder of its life without mating.  

Dealing With An Infestation- Prevention Methods, Home Remedies, and When to Call an Exterminator?

Cockroaches being one of the most despised of all pests, can cause a severe nuisance to those suffering from Katsaridaphobia (the fear of safety being compromised due to cockroaches). a cockroach is also a carrier of serious illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella, so a cockroach infestation isn’t something one should take lightly. to prevent or suppress an already in motion infestation one can resort to home remedies such as keeping the house clean, basic yes but perhaps the most important, leaving no dishes or food lying about as a possible source of nutrition for these pesky critters, clean behind all house appliances and cabinets likely to house roaches, taking out trash daily and covering all trashcans will further cut off food supply lines for the roaches and minimize the threat of an infestation and reduce an already in motion infestation.  Cockroaches love water so covering all drains properly and blocking all suspected entry points with silicone sealants, steel wool and screen repairing tape would also help to further reduce the chances of a cockroach infestation. Eliminating all hiding places should immediately be followed by extermination procedures, such as using poisonous baits, gels that catch roaches and the critically acclaimed boric acid mixed with equal parts of sugar and water to be sprayed in hiding places/nest to kill these pests as soon as possible. However for a lot of you out there, these home remedies would take a lot of time and might not work how you would expect it to, so in that case, the best solution is to seek professional help. Call your local pest control and ask for roach exterminators. Since they specialize in eliminating cockroaches to the very last one, it wouldn’t be long before you’re rid of your pest problem.                         

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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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