Pest Library



November 22, 2013

Cockroaches are insects belonging to the order Blattodea. There are some 3,490 species of cockroaches in six families and they exist worldwide, with the exception of the polar regions.

Cockroaches are most common in tropical and subtropical climates. Some species are in close association with human dwellings and widely found around garbage or in the kitchen. Among the most well-known species are the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, which is about 3cm long, and the German cockroach, Blattella germanica which is about 1½ cm long.


Cockroaches have a three-stage life cycle: egg, nymph, and adult. Mature female cockroaches carry egg cases on the end of their abdomens. A female German cockroach carries an egg capsule known as an ootheca that contains around 40 eggs. A female cockroach may produce up to eight egg cases in a lifetime. In favourable conditions, it can produce 300 to 400 offspring. A female cockroach drops the capsule prior to hatching. The eggs hatch from the combined pressure of the hatchlings gulping air and are initially bright white nymphs that continue inflating themselves with air and their bodies harden and darken within four hours. Development from eggs to adults takes 3 to 4 month and they can live for up to a year.

The cockroach is one of the hardiest insects around; capable of living for a month without food. It can hold its breath for 45 minutes and has the ability to slow down its heart rate. Cockroaches are nocturnal where active at night and tend to hide in cracks and crevices during the day. When you see cockroaches during the day, it usually means there are a lot of them around. They tend to congregate near sources of heat and moisture, which speeds up their growth and reproduction. They eat almost everything, including food crumbs and animal droppings / feces.

Cockroaches have been shown to exhibit emergent behaviour; with some able to leave chemical trails in their faeces. Other cockroaches will follow these trails to discover sources of food and water, and also discover where other cockroaches are hiding.

Cockroaches can live in a wide range of environments around the world and readily adapt to a variety of environments, but prefer warm conditions.

Cockroach Life Cycle

Comparison Between German and American Cockroaches

German Cockroach

American Cockroach

Habitat Found in restaurants, hotels and urban apartments. Usually found in dark, secluded harbourage areas such as under cupboards, behind refrigerators, etc. Prefers warm, moist environments like drains and sewers. Most predominant species in Malaysia.
Length 10 – 15mm 35 – 44mm
Adult lifespan More than 100 days 100 days – 3 years
Ootheca produced per female 4 – 9 10 – 90
Eggs per ootheca 37 – 48 14 – 28
Incubation period 14 – 28 days 30 – 45 days
Nymphal development period 30 – 60 days 150 days

Problems Associated with Cockroaches

Cockroaches may become pests in homes, restaurants, hospitals, warehouses, offices, and virtually any structure that has food preparation or storage areas. They contaminate food and eating utensils, destroy fabric and paper products, and impart stains and unpleasant odours on surfaces they come into contact with.

Cockroaches (especially the American cockroach, which comes into contact with human excrement in sewers or with pet droppings) may transmit bacteria that cause food poisoning (Salmonella spp. and Shigella spp.). German cockroaches are believed to be capable of transmitting disease-causing organisms such as Staphylococcus spp., Streptococcus spp., the hepatitis virus, and coliform bacteria. They also have been implicated in the spread of typhoid and dysentery. Some people, especially those with asthma, are sensitive to the allergens produced by cockroaches. A major concern with cockroaches is that people are repulsed when they find them in their homes and kitchens.

Evidence of Cockroach Infestation

  • Live cockroach
  • Faecal pellets
  • Empty egg cases
  • Dead cockroaches
  • Cast skins
  • Cockroach smell

Tips on Managing Cockroaches

Cockroaches thrive where food and water are available to them. Even tiny amounts of crumbs or liquids caught between cracks are a food source for these insects. Important sanitation measures such as the following are key to preventing cockroach infestations:

  • Store food in insect-proof containers
  • Keep garbage and trash in containers with tight-fitting lids. Remove trash, newspapers, magazines, boxes and other items that provide hiding places and harbourage. Eliminate plumbing leaks and correct other sources of free moisture.
  • Vacuum cracks and crevices to remove food and debris. Be sure surfaces where food or beverages have been spilled are cleaned up immediately. Vacuuming also removes cockroaches, shed skins, and egg capsules.
  • Trim shrubbery around buildings to increase light and air circulation, especially near vents, and eliminate ivy or other dense ground covers near the house, as these may harbour cockroaches.
  • Remove trash and stored items that provide hiding places for cockroaches from around the outside of buildings.


Preventing the Migration of Cockroaches from Outdoors

Take the following measures if cockroaches are migrating into a building from outdoors or other areas of the building:

  • Seal cracks and other openings to the outside.
  • Look for other methods of entry, such as from items being brought into the building, especially appliances, furniture, and items that were recently in storage.
  • Look for ootheca glued to undersides of furniture, in the refrigerator and other appliance motors, boxes, and other items. Remove and destroy any that are located.
  • Locate and seal cracks inside the treatment area where cockroaches can hide.

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