Cockroaches are one of the oldest and most adaptable creatures to walk the face of the earth. They have been around for more than 300 million years and have evolved into 3500 different varieties. Of these thousands of species, the American cockroach stands out as one that is particularly unnerving. Larger than many other types of cockroaches, the American cockroach has learned to adapt and survive both inside and outside of people’s homes and workplaces. You can effectively deal with the hearty and invasive American cockroach by discovering more about its appearance, behavior, and life cycle.
American cockroaches are noticeably larger than other varieties like the German cockroach. These insects measure about an inch and a half in length and are reddish-brown with a yellow band behind their heads. They are so large that they can be noticed easily when they cling to surfaces like tree trunks or kitchen cabinets. Their size accounts for one easy way that people can differentiate them from other varieties of cockroaches.
These bugs prefer to make their homes in warm and humid climates. They can be found in Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and even all the way down south to Miami. People who live in these states also call these invasive creatures palmetto bugs. Pet owners find them particularly annoying because pets like cats and dog get sick after eating these insects.
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When they are not crawling by the dozens on the ground, hiding in flower beds, or huddling under piles of rotting leaves, American cockroaches are searching for a way inside people’s homes. They do have wings and are just as happy flying as they are crawling. They make their way inside buildings by flying through open windows and also by crawling under doorways that are not protected with intact weather stripping. Once inside, these pests can feed and reproduce rapidly, creating an infestation that may be difficult to eliminate.
As noted, the American cockroach likes to live in places that are warm and humid. When the weather is warm and humid outdoors, these bugs will make their homes in your yard, flower bed, garden, and other places outside rather than seek refuge in your cold, air-conditioned home. Some of the substances that these cockroaches will munch on outdoors include:
- Tree bark
- Smaller insects
However, it will only stay outside while it has access to food and water and while the weather conditions are ideal. When its food and water sources run low or the weather turns colder and drier, it will then search for a way inside your home to explore for sustenance like:
- Food crumbs
- Glue used to bind books
- Dog and cat food
It particularly likes to take refuge in rooms where water, humidity, food, and warmth are readily on hand. It will take up residence in your kitchen and bathroom before it heads to your bedroom or living room.
Finding a way inside your home can be quite easy if you fail to take preventative measures to keep out these pests. They will come in through open windows and doors that are not protected with weather stripping. They also will come in through crawl spaces, basements, and attics that have not been maintained or repaired for leaks and holes. American cockroaches have likewise been known to crawl into homes through sewer systems and plumbing.
Once they are inside, they go to work quickly building nests, laying eggs, and reproducing in large numbers. They hide in corners where it is dark and warm. They typically come out at nighttime to hunt for food and to find mates.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
As a hearty cockroach variety, the American cockroach wastes no time reproducing in large numbers. These insects can start laying eggs of their own as soon as five months after hatching. When females reproduce, they lay egg capsules that contain as many as 16 eggs per capsule. They hide their capsules in dark, warm corners of your home or yard where the eggs then gestate for another 28 to 50 days.
Once the eggs hatch, the new offspring spend the next five months maturing into adults. As soon as they reach five months of age, they are then capable of reproducing another generation of cockroaches that will take over your yard or home if left unimpeded. Cockroaches from this particular species can live for as long as 15 months. During that seemingly brief 15 months, however, a single female can create as many as 800 descendants.
Given the astonishing rate at which they reproduce, these cockroaches can quickly and easily create an infestation that could become quite large and burdensome to eliminate. They fare well living both indoors or outdoors, encountering few conditions that actually stop their desire to eat, nest, and reproduce. If you see one American cockroach in your home or yard, it is fair to say that there could be thousands lurking nearby.
Killing the single cockroach that you see does nothing to stop a growing infestation, in fact. You must take swift and decisive actions to kill those pests that you can see and also those that are hiding in flower beds, under vegetation, inside the plumbing or crawl spaces, and elsewhere in your home. If you are unsure of whether or not you are actually dealing with an infestation, you would do well to learn the signs so that you can take the best actions for your home.
Signs of an Infestation
American cockroaches are larger than many of their cockroach counterparts and therefore easy to see when they are crawling up a tree or on top of your counters. Their distinct reddish-brown color and a yellow band behind their heads differentiate them from other varieties. However, if you have yet to see one in your home, you can know for sure that palmetto bugs have infested your home by looking for other tell-tale signs in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and elsewhere in the residence.
One of the most common signs that they leave in their wake is their droppings. Their droppings are so large that some people mistake them for the droppings of a mouse. However, mice droppings are more pointed and also commonly contain rodent hair. Palmetto bug droppings are more rounded and also have ridged sides. When you see such fecal matter in corners, on counters, and elsewhere indoors and outdoors of your home, you can confidently assume that American cockroaches have set up residence.
You also can know for sure that these bugs are present if you see dead roaches in the yard or inside your house or if you find their exoskeletons. Nymphs, in particular, shed their skins as they change from a gray color to the distinct reddish-brown hue that hallmarks this roach species. If you see dead roaches or exoskeletons, you can be sure that live ones, most often by the thousands, are lurking in your lawn and trees and inside the rooms of your home.
Finally, these roaches give off a distinct musty smell when they congregate in great numbers. The musty odor is a signal that these roaches use to ensure that the group of them remains together. People with heightened senses of smell can detect this odor and know that roaches have overtaken the home.
Dangers and Health Risks
The sight of a palmetto bug crawling around inside your home is enough to give anyone a scare. However, a scare is the least of your worries when you consider the risks that these bugs can pose to your health and the health of your family. This species of roaches have been known to carry infectious diseases like:
The bacteria and viruses on their legs and bodies can also cause you to develop sicknesses like:
- Skin rashes
Once they are inside your home, they make it a point to explore every possible inch of counter and floor space, meaning that your food could easily be contaminated. Once you ingest the bacteria and viruses that these bugs leave behind, you and your loved ones could become sick.
Another worry that accompanies any American palmetto bug invasion involves the dander that these creatures shed naturally. People who normally do not suffer from asthma or allergy symptoms may develop side effects like wheezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and be sneezing.
No amount of allergy or cold medication can ease the symptoms as long as the infestation is allowed to continue unfettered. Children, the elderly, and people who have compromised immune systems are particularly at risk of developing allergic and asthma-like side effects.
When you want to protect your family from such reactions, it is critical that you take steps to identify with certainty the presence of palmetto insects in your home. You should then take the necessary actions to treat the infestation at the source and prevent these insects from returning to both your yard and your residence.
How to Get Rid of American Cockroach
The best way to stop an infestation at all from occurring involves making both the inside and outside of your home as inhospitable as possible to these pests. When you want to keep them out of your home’s interior, you should take preventative measures like:
- Thoroughly wiping down counter and cabinet surfaces
- Using bleach or ammonia to neutralize food and drink residue
- Taking out the garbage nightly
- Sweeping and mopping the floors, paying extra attention to the corners and crevices
- Keeping the dishes washed
- Putting away leftover food promptly
Your yard likewise can be an attractive place for these bugs if you fail to take preventative measures to keep these bugs out. It is critical that you:
- Dump water in bins, buckets, and bird baths
- Rake up leaves in the yard
- Kill algae and fungus in the lawn and flower beds
- Exterminate smaller insects that palmetto bugs like to eat
You also should repair your crawl space, attic, and basement foundation if you notice cracks and holes in which these insects can crawl and enter your house. Likewise, you are advised to replace cracked or missing weather stripping on the doors and windows. Finally, replacing or repairing screens that have holes in them and keeping windows closed during the hottest and most humid times of the year can be a viable way of keeping these creatures out of your home.
If your best efforts to keep these pests out prove fruitless, you can address a growing infestation by utilizing professional extermination services or by trying several proven do-it-yourself measures. Professional exterminators can identify what kinds of roaches live in your home and also find out from where they are entering the residence. If you prefer to use do-it-yourself methods, feel free to read our guide on how to get rid of roaches with or without killing them. This resource can help you discover how to use natural plants or products like boric acid safely and effectively.
American cockroaches are hearty and invasive pests. You can keep them out of your yard and out of your house by learning more about their appearance, behavior, and preferences. Once you uncover these critical facts, you can take the best measures to exterminate burgeoning infestations and also make your yard and home uninviting to them.