An old joke says that cockroaches are so resilient that they can survive even a nuclear bomb. While the joke itself may be funny, the reality behind the jest is less so.
It is true that cockroaches are among the heartiest of creatures ever to walk the earth. They have been around for more than 300,000 million years and have evolved into more than 3500 individual species.
Of these thousands of species, the German cockroach is one of the most common to be found in homes and buildings around the world. To defeat this insect opponent, you must first appreciate its behavior and learn how you can effectively stop an infestation of these bugs from growing in your home.
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German cockroaches look very similar to other roach varieties, which can make proper identification difficult for novices. Even so, these insects measure anywhere from ½ to 5/8 inches in length and are light brown in color. Full-grown adults have two thin black lines on their backs that span from their heads to their wings. Adolescents likewise have the two black lines on their backs; however, they are darker in color than adults.
Their appearance is very similar to that of the Asian cockroach as well as several other varieties. Some people even mistake them for the common beetle. However, the German roach, despite having wings, typically will not fly. It prefers instead to crawl on the ground and other surfaces. It also prefers to live indoors where it is humid and warm.
The Asian variety alternatively will use its wings to fly and in fact prefers to live outdoors. This species will come inside if it cannot find food outside. However, while food and water sources are plentiful, the Asian roach will remain primarily outdoors. It is about the same size as the German variety, which adds to people’s confusion when they try to determine what species is living in their homes.
As noted, the German cockroach prefers to live indoors and will find a way to remain there if it detects plenty of food and water available to it. These insects are opportunistic and will use avenues that you may not suspect to get in as you go about your normal life. You can, in fact, carry roaches with you into your home in vessels like:
- grocery bags
- cardboard boxes
- clothing, such as in coat pockets or in hats
They can also come hitch a ride in used appliances that you buy at yard sales or secondhand stores. If you live in an apartment building, you may get roaches from your neighbors as these creatures will crawl from unit to unit using the shared walls and plumbing as their routes.
Once they are inside your home, they immediately begin hunting for a place to make their nests, food that they can eat, and warmth and humidity that they can enjoy during their stay. Because they prefer warmth and humidity, these pests will make their homes in your kitchen or bathroom before they will venture into your living room, bedrooms, or other parts of your house.
The kitchen tends to be their favorite place to take refuge because they have ready access to food and water. They particularly are drawn to food that you leave out on the counter, food crumbs that you forget to wipe or sweep up, and dirty dishes that you leave in the sink. They also will eat the garbage that you forget to bag up and dispose of properly.
While their preferred sources of sustenance are the food and water that you leave out, they also will eat substances like:
- pet food
They hunt for their food at nighttime after the lights are turned off and the house is dark. The nighttime hours also give them the opportunity to find mates and reproduce.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Cockroaches are masters at making the most of their reproduction opportunities. A female German cockroach lives for 100 to 200 days. During that time, she can lay enough eggs and spawn enough offspring that will result in up to 10,000 descendants in a single year.
A female can actually begin mating and laying eggs as soon as 54 days after being born. When she reaches adulthood in a short seven weeks’ time, she can then go on to create as many as four to eight egg capsules in her lifetime.
An egg capsule is light brown in color and oval shaped as it hangs from the bottom of her abdomen. She hides her capsule in dark and warm corners and crevices about one to days before the eggs are ready to hatch.
Each capsule that she lays can contain as many as 48 eggs. These eggs only take about 28 days to gestate and hatch. The female hatchlings can then start reproducing their own offspring in around seven to eight weeks’ time. This short reproduction cycle means that a single female roach can have as many as 10,000 descendants before the year ends.
The astonishing rate at which German roaches can reproduce accounts for one main reason why fighting an infestation is so challenging. It takes more than killing just those insects that you can see to get them out of your house for good. It takes time, effort, concentration, and dedication to killing all of the live adults as well as the hatchlings and eggs. If you leave the hatchlings and eggs, the pest problem will continue to fester.
Signs of an Infestation
It is commonly said that if you see one cockroach, chances are there are hundreds or even thousands more lurking somewhere in your home. You may not notice these invaders immediately. However, they do eventually make their presence known. By the time they make themselves known, you may have a significant number of these insects living throughout your home, particularly in the kitchen and bathrooms.
One of the tell-tale signs that indicate you have a roach infestation includes these insects’ droppings. The droppings can be difficult to discern at first because they look like pepper. You may think that you have spilled black pepper on the floor or on the cupboards when in fact this residue is the roaches’ droppings.
The droppings also smear when you try to clean them up and cannot be swept up like ordinary black pepper. If you see droppings, chances are that you have an infestation of cockroaches somewhere in your home. This sign also indicates that the pests are being well-fed and have plenty of food and water in your home to thrive.
These pests also emit a noticeable odor, particularly as their numbers grow. The odor and droppings both impact the smell and quality of the air in your home. They both also contaminate food and beverages with which they come into contact. The odor that they emit is said to smell musty. It can be difficult to mask and can be quite noticeable by people who visit your home.
As noted, female roaches leave their egg capsules in dark and humid corners to await hatching. When you see light brown, oval-shaped capsules, you can know that you have a roach infestation that needs to be addressed.
Finally, the presence of dead cockroaches or their exoskeletons indicates that your home has been invaded by these pests. Any of these signs should warrant your prompt attention to eliminating them entirely from your home.
Dangers of a Roach Infestation
Many people are frightened or repulsed by the presence of these German insects in their homes. More than giving you a fright, however, these bugs pose a more serious risk to you, your family, and your home. Along with leaving behind messy droppings and a smelly, musty odor, they excel at eating away at your possessions. As noted, these bugs love to munch on paper, fabric, and grease. They are not above eating at your wallpaper, snacking on your books and magazines, or wearing away your curtains and upholstered furniture.
While you can easily clean up the damage that they inflict on your possessions, you may find it more difficult to get past the health risks they pose to you and your loved ones. In particular, people in your home who are asthmatic or suffer from conditions like allergies and COPD may find the presence of these pests especially dangerous. The droppings and dander that they leave in their wake cause people with respiratory issues to cough, sneeze, wheeze, and sometimes even have difficulty breathing. At the minimum, people who are sensitive to allergens could develop rashes and hives that warrant medical attention.
Moreover, these insects carry with them detrimental bacteria that can cause you and your loved ones to get very ill. Bacteria that cause e.coli and salmonella thrive on roaches’ bodies. When these bugs crawl around on your counters and tables or scurry along your floor, they leave behind the bacteria that will make you sick if you touch it or allow your food to come into contact with it.
Within just a few days, if not hours of ingesting these bacteria, you could develop a nasty stomach flu bug that will make you vomit, suffer from diarrhea, and otherwise feel under the weather for several days. Unless you clean up the bacteria and remove these bugs from your home, you will find yourself at risk of reinfecting yourself and your loved ones over and over until all of the German roaches are gone.
How to Get Rid of German Roaches
Killing these creatures requires that you devote yourself fully to the process and to use whatever resources best fit your particular extermination needs. If you believe that you can successfully eliminate them yourself, you can try several do-it-yourself home remedies to get rid of roaches or some over-the-counter products that have been known to work for smaller infestations.
Wonder how to kill German roaches effectively? Boric acid is one of the better known DIY products that homeowners use to try to kill these bugs in their homes. Boric acid, along with diatomaceous earth and silica aerosol spray, draws out the insects from their hiding places and then kill them once they are out in the open. You can buy roach traps in the grocery or hardware store that contains these ingredients. The traps also allow you to properly identify these creatures so that you know for sure what pest you are fighting in your home.
If you use these products, it is important that you take the necessary precautions in your house. If you have pets or small children, you must ensure that the powders or spray do not come into contact with food or beverages. You also should keep your children and pets out of the treated areas until the pests are eliminated and the residue is clean up thoroughly.
As effective as these products are in killing live adults, they are less successful in killing hatchlings and egg capsules. Even if the roaches take the poisons back to their nests, chances are that some of the infestation’s population will survive.
When you want to eliminate these creatures as thoroughly as possible, you may consider hiring a professional extermination service. Professional exterminators are trained to identify what pest populations are living in your home. They use a variety of methods for accomplishing this including inspecting behind your walls, on top of high cabinets, and even outside around the perimeter of the residence.
They also have access to powerful chemicals, sprays, and traps that are not available for public use. You may be asked to leave the premises while the home is exterminated. However, when you return you can expect to see a large number of dead or dying cockroaches in the exterminator’s wake.
The products that professionals use leave behind a residue that will kill any remaining live adults, as well as bugs that are newly hatched or awaiting hatching in egg capsules. If your home has a large pest population, you may be advised to have it treated every two to three months until you can be sure that any capsules left behind have hatched and the offspring have been killed.
German cockroaches are found on every continent across the globe. As hearty as these creatures are, they can prove challenging to exterminate once they are in your home. You can fight them successfully and once again enjoy a pest-free house by learning what they look like, how they behave, and how they can be drawn out and killed for good.