The American Cockroach: 300 Million Years Strong

American Cockroach CorrectThe American cockroach originated in tropical Africa. What a misnomer! Carolus Linnaeus- “The Father of Taxonomy”- named it after America because that is how it came to him. Despite having written and published more than 180 books, way back in the 1700’s, Linnaeus proved his fallibility with choosing a name.

The American cockroach stowed away on wooden ships and made its way around the globe. A gritty survivor, the pesky roach has predated man by millions of years.

The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) is one of the four species of cockroaches considered as common pests. The other three species are the German, Brown Banded and Oriental cockroach. Though there are roughly 3,500 species of cockroaches found worldwide, only 55 species are found in the United States.

The American cockroach is approximately one to one and a half inches in length and reddish brown in color, with fully developed wings that cover the entire length of the abdomen. The wings of the male cockroach extend slightly beyond the tip of the abdomen whereas the the wings of the female are approximately the same length as the abdomen.


American cockroaches are capable of flying but rarely do in northern sections of the United States. It can be identified by its large size and reddish brown color with faded yellow on the thorax. When indoors, adults and nymphs are typically found in dark, warm and moist areas of crawl spaces and basements, floor drains, pipe chases, in and around bathtubs, hampers, sewers, around the manholes of sewers and the underside of sump pump covers.

American cockroaches feed on a variety of foods, with an apparent preference for decaying organic matter. The adults can survive two or three months food free but only one month without water.

Unsanitary Invaders

American cockroaches feed upon a myriad of materials such as bakery products, cheese, beer, leather, starch found in bookbindings, hair, glue, manuscripts, dead animals, flakes of dried skin, soiled clothes items, plant materials, glossy paper with starch sizing and much more.

The most paramount aspect of cockroach damage derives from their habit of feeding and harboring in damp and unsanitary places like sewers, garbage disposals, bathrooms, kitchens, and indoor storage containers and facilities. Filth from these sources is spread by cockroaches to food items and supplies, dishes, utensils and food preparation surfaces. They contaminate far more food than they can consume.

Disease Vectors

American cockroaches, and cockroaches in general, produce odorous secretions that can affect the flavor of various foods. Disease-producing organisms such as bacteria, protozoa as well as viruses have been found in cockroach bodies. Various forms of gastroenteritis (food poisoning, dysentery, diarrhea, etc.) appear to be the principal diseases transmitted by the cockroaches.

The disease-causing organisms are carried on the legs and bodies of cockroaches and are deposited on food and utensils as cockroaches forage. Cockroach excrement and cast skins also contain a number of allergens, to which many people exhibit allergic responses such as asthma, sneezing, watery eyes, skin rashes and congestion of nasal passages.

What You Can Do  

Prevention is the best recommendation. Good sanitation is key. Clean up all spilled food and beverage materials, do not leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight, store food items like cereal, cookies, sugar, flour, crackers and bread in airtight containers.

Eliminating cockroach harborages involves caulking in cabinets and closets, under the sink and in any potentially moisture-rich environment that attracts cockroaches. You should also contact Ehrlich  for your free in-home inspection!

Have you had any run-ins with cockroaches? Share your stories below in the comments. 

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