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Predating the dawn of civilization, cockroaches have been roaming the earth for millions of years, making them the oldest known insects in modern-day existence. Throughout multiple millennia, roaches’ anatomy hasn’t changed all that much, either—as the oldest fossils found look nearly identical to the cockroaches that creep us out today. Talk about being more resilient than dinosaurs!
For prehistoric pests, cockroaches—German cockroaches (Blattella germanica), in particular—have been notoriously great at propagating their species all over the world, utilizing the shelter of man-made structures to survive all types of inclement weather. These cockroaches have been found in human dwellings on every continent aside from Antarctica.
Although German cockroaches are inherently hearty insects that have survived ice ages, rogue meteors, and mass extinctions, they’re also beginning to survive present-day pest control treatment methods—making them even more difficult to contain than most other pests.
So, how do we go about finding German cockroach kryptonite if they’re becoming immune to even the most advanced treatments? To better understand how to get rid of German cockroaches, let’s take a closer look at their life cycle, reproductive process, and eating habits in the modern world.
The German Cockroach Life Cycle
With three distinct life stages—egg, nymph, and adult—German cockroaches go through incomplete metamorphosis (where early stages of development look like tiny versions of an adult) and complete their entire life cycle in about 100 days. However, the exact timeline of the German cockroach life cycle depends on environmental factors such as climate, access to food, and various strain differences.
German cockroaches are excellent breeders, continuously producing offspring into their multi-generational, isolated groups if no intervention takes place. When populations are actively growing, the group consists of nearly 80 percent nymphs (newborn roaches) and 20 percent adults.
After a male and female German cockroach mate, the female will carry her eggs in an egg case on her lower abdomen (scientifically known as the ootheca, these egg sacs can hold 30 to 48 eggs) right up until hatch occurs—helping to optimize offspring birth location while keeping larvae and nymphs away from danger.
During the transition of a nymph becoming an adult, roaches will molt—meaning they will shed their exoskeleton (exuviae) roughly six times. After each molt, the roach will appear bright white and be particularly susceptible to injury until a hormone called bursicon causes the exoskeleton to darken and harden. The period between each molt is called an instar.
Physical Characteristics of the German Cockroach
Adult German cockroaches measure 10 to 15 mm long, are brown to dark brown, and feature two distinct parallel bands running the length of the pronotum (the plate-like structure that covers their thorax).
Male German cockroaches feature:
Thin, slender body shapes
Tapered posterior abdomen
Visible terminal segments in the abdomen
Not covered by tegmina (leathery outer wings)
Female German cockroaches feature:
Stout body shapes
Rounded posterior abdomen
Entire abdomen covered by tegmina
German cockroaches draw in air through holes in their sides called spiracles, have colorless blood due to not using hemoglobin to carry oxygen and store their fat in one centralized location called the fat body.
What Do German Cockroaches Eat?
Roaches have a very unique digestive system that allows them to eat practically anything. From bread and meat to furniture glue and book bindings, roaches are omnivores with specialized internal modifications that allow them to eat cellulose and other tough materials along with human food.
In their digestive tract, they have a section called a crop that holds swallowed food until the proventriculus—a toothy section of the tract—can break down the food. After the initial breakdown, gastric caeca sacs digest food even further with the use of enzymes and microbes—making it easier for German cockroaches to consume dense material like cellulose.
Where Do German Cockroaches Live?
Residential Homes & Multi-Family Communities
You might think roaches only infest dirty homes, but that myth has been debunked! While it’s true that a lack of readily available food will prevent extreme breeding from happening, German roaches can infest even the cleanest homes that feature moist, warm areas.
The safe, predictable indoors is much more hospitable to German roaches than the harsh outdoors. If there’s a way in, a roach population will be more than happy to make themselves welcome.
Two rooms are particularly susceptible to roaches in residentialareas: kitchens and bathrooms. Kitchens are great sources of food and home to plenty of warm, dark corners (like behind the fridge condenser and underneath the stove). Bathrooms are usually the wettest rooms in the house, so roaches are perfectly fine hanging out there, too.
Restaurants, hotels, and rental properties are the three businesses most often infested by roaches, as they are easy targets for nutritious meals and ample warm nooks. Service businesses that don’t practice satisfactory sanitation are most prone, but roaches are tough creatures that can make their way to clean businesses, as well.
Other areas of businesses that roaches like to infest include:
Food processing plants
Non-service businessesare also vulnerable. Roaches can hitch a ride with employees or in shipments with cardboard boxes or paper sacks, which are favorite hiding places for these insects. And because roaches can multiply quickly, offices and high-rises certainly aren’t immune to an infestation, either.
How Are Cockroaches Harmful to Humans?
It’s commonly known that rodents and mosquitoes carry disease, but cockroaches are equally dangerous in this regard—not to mention they don’t smell great due to using cuticular hydrocarbons to communicate. Roaches can carry bacteria and viruses on their bodies and spread disease via their droppings.
Some of these diseases include:
Although cockroaches won’t directly contaminate you with a disease, a population of roaches—particularly roaches that come in contact with bacteria from sewers, latrines, or drains—can quickly contaminate large swaths of your house or business. This is problematic because they don’t even need to be in sight for their diseases to reach you.
Molting or Decaying Roaches Are Respiratory Nightmares
During molting or death, roaches pose a significant health risk to humans of all ages due to the makeup of their exuviae. Roaches’ exoskeleton is made up of a protein called chitin (a fibrous substance consisting of polysaccharides that form the exoskeleton of arthropods), which eventually breaks down and becomes airborne.
This protein is an allergen for many, causing dermatitis, itching, swelling of the eyelids, a runny nose, rashes, and other severe allergic reactions. Furthermore, exposure to chitin from cockroaches has been linked to the development of asthma in children.
Additionally, roaches emit yet another foul stench when they die: oleic acid. These fatty acids cause a “stench of death” that notifies the entire group to stay far away from the death site—but these smells are also off-putting to humans.
How German Cockroaches Are Inching Toward Invincibility
German cockroaches can survive without their heads for weeks, hold their breath for 5-7 minutes, and withstand 10 times more nuclear radiation than a human—so it comes as no surprise that they’re growing immunity to modern pesticides used to control their tight-knit populations. Scientific reports have recently stated that controlling German cockroaches with traditional treatments alone will be nearly impossible soon.
Since the 1950s, German cockroaches have been developing resistance to every insecticide class introduced. This immunity is developed within cockroaches due to their closed populations facilitating rapid evolution for high-level resistance. While German cockroach baits were once the answer to fight against roach pesticide immunities, these indomitable insects are also developing a physiological resistance to common traps.
Sugar Baits Aren’t So Sweet Anymore
When baits were first introduced to cockroach populations, they were laden with sugar, as roaches are attracted to glucose and need it to promote growth, energy, and reproduction. German cockroaches caught on to these traps and developed an adaptive behavioral aversion to glucose, signaling their taste neurons to react negatively when ingesting sugar baits.
How To Prevent Roaches from Infesting Your Property
While you’re probably looking up flights to the South Pole’s roach-free tundra now, there are plenty of ways to learn how to get rid of German cockroaches—both on your own and with professional help:
Sanitation, Sanitation, Sanitation
The single best thing you can do to combat roaches is sanitation. Yes, roaches can eat lots of things, but if there isn’t ready access to food in your home or business, it will be very difficult or impossible to maintain a strong population.
Cleaning Your Restaurant
If you’re cleaning a restaurant, make sure not to hose down the floors at the end of a shift, as this excessive moisture sitting overnight can attract German cockroaches from all angles. Additionally, ensure your staff is properly discarding leftover food material in sealed containers or bins.
Close Off Outside Entrances to Your Home or Building
Even if your home or business is perfectly clean, roaches could enter if there’s a way in from the outside. Do some investigating—and caulking work—to close any potential entry points around your property while ensuring there are no leaky pipes or areas with excessive moisture.
How To Get Rid of German Cockroaches with Lloyd
If roaches crawling around your Southern California property is driving you up the wall, let the professionals at Lloyd Pest Control step in and help. Lloyd proudly uses sustainable roach control tactics that feature the lowest toxicity levels possible.
In many cases, our low-impact gel baiting—specifically designed to target roaches with behavioral aversions to outdated formulas—works excellently to eradicate German cockroaches. As adult roaches venture out to forage food for their nymphs, they will pick up the bait and bring it back to their aggregation area, which ensures all roaches present consume the material.
To deploy our baits in the correct areas, our team will set up sticky traps (monitors) in notable roach hotspots that contain high heat levels, moisture, and food sources—continuously monitoring traffic to ensure roach populations are dwindling.