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Pests in Public Buildings and Private Residences: Cockroaches

A collection of resources regarding pests that infest public buildings and private residences.

All About Cockroaches

Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattodea, which also includes termites. About 30 cockroach species out of 4,600 are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known as pests.
The cockroaches are an ancient group, dating back at least as far as the Carboniferous period, some 320 million years ago. Those early ancestors however lacked the internal ovipositors of modern roaches. Cockroaches are somewhat generalized insects without special adaptations like the sucking mouthparts of aphids and other true bugs; they have chewing mouthparts and are likely among the most primitive of living neopteran insects. They are common and hardy insects, and can tolerate a wide range of environments from Arctic cold to tropical heat. Tropical cockroaches are often much bigger than temperate species, and, contrary to popular belief, extinct cockroach relatives and 'roachoids' such as the Carboniferous Archimylacris and the Permian Apthoroblattina were not as large as the biggest modern species.
Some species, such as the gregarious German cockroach, have an elaborate social structure involving common shelter, social dependence, information transfer and kin recognition. Cockroaches have appeared in human culture since classical antiquity. They are popularly depicted as dirty pests, though the great majority of species are inoffensive and live in a wide range of habitats around the world.
From; accessed August 30, 2017.


Varieties of Cockroaches

Facts About Cockroaches

  • Cockroaches have been around since the time of dinosaurs!
  • A cockroach can live almost a month without food.
  • A cockroach can live about two weeks without water.
  • Some female cockroaches only mate once and stay pregnant for life!
  • A cockroach can live for up to one week without its head!
  • Cockroaches can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes!
  • Cockroaches can run up to 3 miles an hour.


Cockroaches have been around for millions of years, evolving into some of the most adaptable pests on Earth. There are approximately 4,000 living species of cockroaches in the world. About 70 of these species are found in the United States.

Cockroaches are commonly found in buildings and homes because they prefer warm environments close to food and water. Unfortunately, cockroaches can cause allergies and trigger asthma attacks, especially in children. They can also spread nearly 33 different kinds of bacteria.

From; accessed August 30, 2017.

Cockroaches in Your School

Cockroaches in Your School - You Rarely Find Just One
Questions and Answers from a webinar hosted by EPA's Center of Expertise for School IPM

Cockroaches - Prevention and Control

WikiHow to do anything....How to Get Rid of Roaches

Once cockroaches make themselves at home in a house, it can be very difficult to kick them out. They can snack on your food, damage wallpaper, books, and electronics. They can also spread disease pathogens by contaminating food, appliances, and surfaces in the home. Serve these pests an eviction notice and keep them from coming back by choosing a bait, insecticide, trap or barrier approach that works best for you.

  1. Deny them water and food
  2. Using Cockroach Baits
  3. Using Insecticides
  4. Using Traps
  5. Preventing Reinfestation

From; accessed August 31, 2017.

Can Cockroaches Cause Disease?

Can Cockroaches Cause Disease?
Only a small number of the thousands of identified species play a significant role in transmission of disease to humans. These species are well adapted to life inside buildings. The most important ones are the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), the German cockroach (Blatella germanica), the Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis) and the Smokybrown Cockroach (P. fulginosa).
Although cockroaches are not usually associated with widespread disease outbreaks, their presence is a sign of poor sanitation procedures and they are known to carry a number of bacteria, which could give rise to serious illness in humans. They may also induce allergies and asthma symptoms in susceptible people. Cockroaches are a serious sanitary concern for humans but may also play a role in transmission of some worms and diseases to other animals when they are ingested.
Although cockroaches can bite, diseases are almost exclusively passed on through mechanical transmission whereby their bodies are contaminated with bacteria which is then transferred to other surfaces they encounter as they move about.
This may lead to wound infections, food poisoning and gastric upset. Amongst the organisms known to be carried by cockroaches are; Salmonella spp. including Salmonella typhi causing typhoid, Entamoeba histolytica causing amoebiasis, Shigella dysenteriae causing dysentery, and potentially also the poliomyelitis virus responsible for polio. Other species known to be carried are Proteus spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermalis, Streptococcus faecali, and Escherichia coli.
Their habits and body structure enable them to potentially transmit pathogens. Cockroaches are omnivorous and will readily eat and move between food sources such as faecal matter and fresh food intended for immediate human consumption. In doing humans can become exposed to potentially dangerous pathogens through contaminated surfaces and food products. They also do not feed exclusively on one food source but will scavenge for a variety of foods.