This is the nightmare of every kitchen, home and office—the ever-present cockroach. It is an unpleasant topic for a conversation. Yet we believe it is important to understand the basic aspects of a cockroach infestation.
Species of Cockroaches in The UK
The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
One of the biggest exports of the USA. Its wings allow it to fly over only short distances. This cockroach is one of the largest cockroaches in the UK, reaching up to 30mm.It is a dark-brown, mahogany-coloured insect.
Image by: D. Sikes
The German cockroach (Blattella germanica)
The only specie found in the UK (or in Europe) which can fly. It is by far the most common type found on Great Britain. They are pale insects which reach 12mm-15mm in length.
Image by: D. Sikes
The Brown banded cockroach (Supella longipalpa)
A light-brown insect with a body that reaches 10mm-15mm. Although its small size, the sheer population of its colonies make it impossible not to detect.
Image by: Vernon Tang
The Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis)
Quite large specimen. It is a dark-brown insects which prefers to stay outside.
Image by: Matt Reinbold
All cockroaches are omnivorous scavengers. They consume any organic matter they come across. This includes food only specific bacteria can dissolve. Cockroaches can eat leather, wallpaper paste, soap, glue, eyelashes, toenails, eyebrows and even hair. If this doesn’t disgust you enough, they will also devour fingerprints, sugar, dry leaves and rotten wood. They feed on the content of your sewage and even the greasy impression of any food you have left on your kitchen counter.
Cockroaches are quick to locate such food sources, and can survive without food for one month. It is still an unlikely occurrence for a cockroach to die due to starvation—unless you sever its head off, that is. And if they indeed can’t find a food source, they can always resolve to bite humans. Bites are always an indicator their population has been long out of control. If you are bitten by one, you should seek professional pest control help immediately.
Though considered to be “dirty” or “filthy”, roaches, like cats, groom themselves all the time. They spread fewer bacteria than we do with our hands. Still, the bacteria they spread are dangerous enough on their own. They also emit a powerful scent most people are allergic to. Strong allergic reactions can result in swelling, rashes and breathing difficulties.
Roaches are also a well-known cause of asthma, especially to kids exposed to their organic and faecal matter. Detritus from death cockroaches is lifted by weak air currents and inhaled by people. Roaches are also a disease vector, and can spread staphylococcus, streptococcus and salmonella. Last but not least cockroach bites can cause swelling, irritation and even minor infections.
Here are the most common places where cockroaches lay eggs:
- Dark places – roaches love the darkness. It’s safe and it feels hard to reach, so it’s naturally a good place to lay eggs. Check behind or under or even in your cupboards;
- Furniture – just like humans, roaches love comfy furniture. And what better place to hide your precious oothecae than in a comfy, warm and secure sofa;
- Warm appliances – a safe and cosy spot is just right under your fridge. Under the oven or washing machine is also a possibility;
- Cabinets – the same reasons – darkness, safety, and there is access to food.
Not all cockroaches leave their eggs. Some species carry the oothecae with them until they hatch. Others will carry them for a few hours or days and leave the eggs in a safe spot. German, Oriental and American leave their eggs, and they are all quite common in different UK areas.
Cockroaches posses unmatched survival skills and breed in huge numbers. They can also flatten their bodies to the extreme. This allows them to get inside your property through any cracks and holes in the structure. Walls, pipes, gutters, roof, doors, or even through air conditioning tubes often serve as an entrance.
Still, there is a higher chance of an infestation in premises with bad hygiene conditions. Wet, warm places offer a perfect breeding ground for those insects. They occupy areas such as laundry rooms, boxes, shelves, books and cupboards. Cockroaches can even hide in your laundry to protect themselves in case of danger. Cockroaches are nocturnal animals and hide if they feel the presence of humans.
Severe infestation can force the insects to look for new habitats anywhere in your property. They are even known to infest electrical appliances such as fridges, toasters and dishwashers.
Cockroaches are resistant to many types of insecticides. Different strains of cockroaches are unaffected by different chemicals. This means it is not possible to tell what chemical your specific bunch is immune to. Consumer-end bug sprays are not particularly effective, and as we said earlier, are also toxic to humans.
Roaches are also well-known for their radiation resistance. This is due to the fact their cells don’t divide as fast as the cells of other living creatures. While this is of interest to scientists, we dearly hope your infestation problem does not require uranium or plutonium to treat.
While it is rare to witness a cockroach in broad daylight, there are other signs of their presence:
- Obtrusive almond scent
- Their egg sacks – they look like dark-brown seeds or dead worms.
- Newly-hatched nymphs – they are pale white in colour.
- Droppings – their excrements are brown/black in colour, around 2mm long and cyllindrical in shape.
- Irregular-shaped brown smear marks
- Shed skin
Few people would want cockroaches as their pets of choice. Even then, it is best to keep them in special terrarium containers and not in your kitchen or bathroom. To prevent such situations, you can do the following things:
- Store your food in the fridge and not on the kitchen counter top.
- Do not wait for rubbish to accumulate—throw it away every two or three days at most.
- Clean all surfaces after cooking as grease marks can attract those gruesome insects.
- Ensure there are no cracks on your pipes and seal your windows and doors.
Roaches are extremely resilient and run for cover at the slightest sign of danger. They are better at hiding than you are at finding them. They can survive without food for up to one month (some agile species can survive up to three months). They also can feed on any type of organic matter. Roaches reproduce rapidly. Today there are many consumer-level resilient products that ward them off. Still they can escape fumes and toxic chemicals with no effort. Alas, if you are not keen of playing a hide-and-seek game with those pests, it is best advised to seek professional help.
If you do wish to engage in such operations, be advised that most pesticides and baits contain dangerous chemicals. Baits must also be placed correctly, and out-of-the-reach of pets and kids. The proper use of boric acid has also proved to be efficient. The best solution is to use a combination of all those methods. Most experienced specialists have this down to a science.
What to do in case of a cockroach infestation
First, throw away any food that has been left unattended outside your fridge. Check your wet rooms—toilet, bathroom and laundry room—for signs of possible infestation. You may proceed with inefficient DIY-methods but we advise you against it.
The chemicals contained in most insecticides are more toxic to humans and pets than to cockroaches. It is always better to call reliable professionals than to risk it. Often people believe they’ve gotten rid of the problem while the only thing removed are the signs of the infestation.