Cockroaches are among the oldest creatures on earth. Fossils not so different from modern cockroaches have been found in 250 million year old rocks. Though originating in hot climates they are now found everywhere. In cooler climates they live predominantly inside warm human habitations.
Cockroaches are large, robust insects with whip-like antennae and two pairs of wings. The most common species in Britain are German and Oriental cockroaches; Brown-banded and American varieties are also found (the names have little real bearing on the origin of the insects). Adult cockroaches live about 4-14 months, during which time females can produce up to 50 egg sacs). Each sack contains 12-30 eggs. A female German cockroach would produce about 150 live offspring in an average 8 month lifetime.
Where cockroaches are found
- comfortable temperature
- food and moisture
Cockroaches like to avoid daylight and hide in cracks and crevices. They eat almost anything, including cardboard, and come out to forage at dusk and early night. They thrive at temperatures of 20-35 oC, more towards the higher end of the range. They need access to water. They stay together in groups. They are mostly found in kitchens and toilets, e.g. behind cookers or in laundry baskets, at the backs of drawers, behind peeling wallpaper, etc. They move along water pipes and air ducts. Tower blocks are particularly vulnerable to infestation because of the ease with which cockroaches can move through the building. The design of buildings and the materials used in their construction can facilitate the spread of cockroaches.
Cockroaches can walk, run, jump and sometimes fly. But probably their main movement from building to building is in transported goods; this can even occur in ships and aircraft.
Cockroaches and disease
Cockroaches are implicated in the transfer of disease. They are bearers of pathogens such as salmonella and staphylococcus. They have been associated with outbreaks of gastro-enteritis, typhus and skin diseases. They taint human food. They are a particular menace in hospitals.
Contact with cockroaches can lead to a number of allergic illnesses, including dermatitis, urticaria (another skin disease), rhinitis, bronchitis and asthma. Laboratory workers involved in the breeding of cockroaches for research are particularly prone to these conditions.
Some people have an aversion to cockroaches amounting to phobia and can suffer anxiety when in the presence of the insects.
Keeping cockroaches out
Cockroaches are vermin which should be denied access and eradicated if they obtain access.
Good hygiene is essential in preventing or limiting infestation. It is vital to deny cockroaches food, water and shelter. Dishes should be washed promptly, food stored in tightly sealed containers, working surfaces kept clean, and all scraps and crumbs cleared up. Rubbish should be kept in containers with tight lids and the bags properly sealed when moved outside. Water spills should be mopped up and all water leaks, sweating pipes, etc. repaired. Remove any clutter where cockroaches might live and mend any holes and cracks in walls. Seal openings around pipes, remove paint and loose wallpaper and replace broken tiles.
Insecticides and other treatments
Eradication of an infestation is a professional job, if complete and permanent removal of cockroaches is to be achieved. Members of the public can purchase some of the older insecticides but more modern and effective chemicals are only available for professional use. Insecticides are toxic and present a risk to the user unless properly employed. Once cockroaches have appeared in a block of dwellings, treatment is needed throughout the block to bring about eradication.
Eradication begins with trapping and monitoring. Traps are open cardboard boxes placed near harbourages, coated on the inside with adhesives, and containing bait which consists of food mixed with insecticide. The number of cockroaches trapped indicates the extent of infestation.
Once this is established, a treatment strategy has to be applied.
Cockroaches are cannibals and this assists the spread of the pesticide.
The Council's contractor, Pestclear, provides a treatment service for cockroaches. To arrange treatment please contact them direct on 01255 433999. N.B. This is a chargeable service, visit the Pest Control home page for details of the current charge.