Cockroaches are common urban pests that are found in many parts of the world. The American cockroach, Periplaneta americana is a large species widely spread through North America. This species is found in the United States and is considered as a major home pest. It prefers to live outdoor primarily but often invades home in the search of food and water. Cockroaches are usually associated with filthy and decaying organic matters. They can spread microorganisms through their body parts and they are suggestions that they may also vector some diseases but the evidence is flimsy. Cockroaches are disgusting to most people because of their close association with lavatories and fecal matter. For these reasons, they can contaminate food and spread germs. Some people may even develop some allergic reactions to these insects. You can read more about cockroach allergy here.
- American cockroach (ESA recommended common name)
- Water bug
- Flying water bug
- Palmetto bugs (United States); this name is also used in reference to Florida wood cockroach.
Morphology of the American Cockroach
P. americana can be easily distinguished from other species by the presence of yellow marking on the pronotum (back of the head). The color of the body can vary depending on environmental condition but in general, it is reddish brown.
The length of adults can also vary depending on the environmental conditions and ranges from 34 to 53 mm. It is the largest species of cockroach found in the United States. Adults of both sexes have fully developed wings that cover the entire abdomen. The wings of the female have about the same length as the abdomen while those of the male slightly exceed it. The nymphs, which can occur in large population do not have wings.
Behavior and Diet of the American Cockroach
The American cockroach is a peridomestic species that prefers to live outdoors. Adults of both sexes are winged and capable of flying. They also run very fast especially if they are startled. They are usually found in sewer systems, near flowerbeds, under mulch, in commercial buildings and occasionally in sanitary landfills.
These roaches are referred to as palmetto bugs in some parts of the United States because they are usually found on palm trees. The American cockroach can feed on a variety of food sources, preferably decaying organic matter. They do not rely solely on humans for food. In fact, when they are living outside they can feed on other insects, plants leaves, fungi and bacteria. They only move into buildings to find food and water when they cannot find them elsewhere. Once inside houses, they can easily be spotted in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms or in food storage areas. Adults can survive up to a months without food.
Life Cycle of the Periplaneta americana
The American cockroach undergo 3 different life stages including eggs, nymphs and adults. The reproduction of this species is similar to that of other cockroach species. About a week after mating, a female produce a dark brown ootheca (egg case) which contains embryos. Each female can produce about 6 to 14 ootheca during her lifetime and each ootheca contains approximately 12 to 16 embryos. They carry their ootheca for about 6 days before affixing them to a suitable substrate which is usually near a food source or a protective area. These oothecae are usually found in a warm and humid area. The development of embryos into nymphs can take some times and often varies from 13 to 14 months. These nymphs undergo 6 to 14 molts before reaching the adult stage. The total development time from eggs to adults is about 600 days. The life span of this species ranges from 15 months to 2 years in average. When conditions are favorable a single female can produce up to 800 cockroaches in a single year.
Distribution and Habitat of Periplaneta americana
It is believed that Periplaneta americana originates from the tropical regions of Africa and may have been carried to the Americas and the Caribbean during the slave trade of the fifteen century (Bell and Adiyodi, 1982).
Nowadays this species can be found all over the world in both hemispheres. This roach can be found in a wide variety of habitats both indoors and outdoors. It is one of the most cosmopolitan and peridomestic cockroach species. They are usually found in dumpsters, sewage and drainage systems, commercial building, septic tanks and restrooms.
They may also be found in ships, palm trees and electronic equipment. In homes, they can be found on roofs at night or in laundry rooms. The American cockroach can be seen in hospitals and is suspected of disseminating microbes. In general, they prefer warm and humid environments. American cockroaches are also found in animal-rearing facilities.
Signs of American Cockroach Infestation
The obvious sign of American cockroach infestation is seeing them. If you suspect an infestation, you might want to look in the kitchen or sink. It is common to see them see them in those spots. Another sign of infestation is the sight of their droppings. They may be found in basement, pantries or behind appliances.
Another clue for the presence of P. americana in your home is the presence of their ootheca or egg capsule. They usually affix them to furniture or behind storage areas. When the population of cockroach grow to a certain level, they realize an odorous chemical, known as aggregation pheromone. It smells bad ad is often a clear sign of infestation.
Prevention of the American Cockroach
Prevention of P. americana infestation is fairly simple since the species does not live inside houses. They just enter at night in the search of food and water. Sealing the route of entry is the main strategy to prevent the development of large scale infestation. The usual routes are crack and crevices, open windows or loose roofing.
A good practice is to tightly seal any of those routes as soon as possible. One can also vacuum the house to make sure these pests or theirs eggs capsules are not hiding somewhere in the house. It is important to note that keeping these pests out of your home can often be difficult if the port of entry are not closed. Prevention is something that need to be done regularly. You have to regularly monitor for their presence to prevent establishment of large population.
Control and Management of American Cockroach
The successful management of American cockroach depends on proper identification and a thorough inspection of the affected facility to establish the extent of the infestation. So it is highly important to make sure that have indeed the American cockroach in your home. This is because not all species are managed in the same way.
Pest Management generally demands a deep understanding of the biology and behavior of the pest in its environment. A long term solution to cockroach problems will require logical and rational thinking. Professional pest control agents will start with the proper identification of the species and the thorough inspection to make sure that they accomplish their job appropriately. In this regard cockroach traps can be used to assess the level of infestation before applying any treatment. If the infestation is not high it is often easy to exterminate these insects. However, when a large population is found in a building it is preferable and wise to seek the help of professional cockroach exterminators.
Most cockroach pests are controlled through the use of bait that lure and kill them. The most common product used in cockroach baits is boric acid. This chemical has been used against cockroaches for many years and is considered as a tactical weapon against killer. The insect must come into contact with the chemical and ingest it in order to be killed. Although bait is the common formulation, boric acid can also be used as residual treatment in areas where the insect aggregate.
The control of American cockroach can also be achieved using bait containing other chemicals such as hydramethylnon, abamectin, fipronil and sulfluramid. Other chemicals such as silica aerogel and diatomaceous earth can also be applied for the control of American cockroach. It is important to make sure that any chemical is kept out of the reach of children and pets. It is also highly advised to follow the guidelines of each pesticide to minimize the risk of hazard.