German Cockroach: The Small Roach That’s a Big Problem
By: Phil Larsen
Everybody hates roaches. In the pest control industry, they rank as one of the most common household bugs. While we don’t like any roach in our homes, there is one particular species that we really don’t want around – the German cockroach.
In the US, the German cockroach is the most common type of cockroach found in indoor structures like homes and restaurants. A key distinguishing characteristic of the German roach is the two dark, parallel stripes going down it’s back. This bug is about 1/2 – 1/3 the length of the larger roach species such as the American or Oriental cockroach and adults measure 1/2 – 5/8-inch long. Although the German roach is smaller, it is a far bigger problem than its larger cousins. Why?
The Rabbits of the Roach World
These bugs reproduce much faster than other roaches. While an American roach’s egg capsule (the ootheca, for all you entomology nerds) contains about 14-16 eggs and hatches every 50-55 days; the German roach’s egg capsule contains between 30-48 eggs and hatches every about every 28 days. Thus, a female German roach and her progeny can produce up to 30,000 offspring in a year – much more than the 800 or so a female American roach may produce.
Their proclivity for reproduction and the fact that these are primarily indoor pests contributes to why this is the roach that will most frequently infest homes and businesses. Not only are these roaches super creepy, these nasty little buggers also carry diseases and allergens that can cause health problems – so infestation needs be taken seriously.
The ounce of Prevention
To help combat an infestation (and to prevent future infestations), it’s helpful to know the cause. While many bugs come in from the outside, the German roach is almost always carried in from another place with an infestation. This is usually done through bags, boxes, clothing, or other items. Therefore, it’s important to check everything you bring into your house – particularly things like that box of hand-me-down clothes your neighbor’s giving away or an old piece of furniture you bought off Craig’s List. I recommend washing used items immediately and checking any old boxes for bugs, droppings, skins, or eggs. When in doubt, toss it out.
Sometimes you can be as careful as possible and still get roaches. You can check for signs of an infestation by checking inside kitchen cabinets, under and around ovens, dishwashers, refrigerators, sinks and other cracks and crevices. Roaches mostly congregate around kitchens and bathrooms because of the water and (in the kitchen) food sources. Even if you don’t see a roach, signs of an infestation include feces and skins (from molting). German roach droppings will look like flecks of black pepper. It’s a good idea to use a flashlight and be as thorough as possible since roaches like to hide out in darker, secluded areas. Keep in mind that these roaches are nocturnal creatures so there’s a good chance they won’t be active during the day (if you are seeing them in daylight hours that’s a sign there may be a heavier infestation since overcrowding can lead to some roaches having to forage for food during the day).
The Pound of Cure
So, your worst fears are confirmed and now you have a German roach infestation. What do you do? In this situation, the solution we recommend is to get professional treatment as German roaches are especially difficult to get rid of. There are options on the market to treat the roaches yourself, but our experience has shown this usually just contains the problem rather than eliminate it. We highly recommend getting a thorough, professional treatment.
One thing that will be very helpful, if not critical, is to clean the affected areas. This can’t be overstated. It is very important to clean everywhere you’ve seen the roaches and/or evidence of roaches. If the infestation is in the kitchen (the most likely scenario), I recommend removing everything – dishes, toaster, blender, everything. Also, be sure to clean everywhere, especially where there is any kind of grease (which roaches love) or food residue. If you can, pull out appliances like your oven and refrigerator and clean “back there” as well. This is important to do so you can remove residue from food spills that get in places that aren’t regularly cleaned.
Why is cleaning so important? You want to remove as many food sources as possible for the roaches. One reason to remove food sources is that any effective treatment will most likely include bait – and you want to have that bait to be the roaches best or only option.
Treating for roaches (or any bug) is never fun so it’s best to avoid the problem in the first place. Just remember:
R – Reproduction. These guys breed very quickly – like rabbits.
O – Other places. German roaches don’t generally crawl in from the yard but hitchhike in from other locations.
A – Actively inspect. Check any used or other suspect items that may be coming into your house.
C – Clean. Don’t make your house too comfortable for these guys.
H – Home. It’s your living space, not theirs – protect it!
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