Cockroaches 101

Cockroaches with the many species around the world, have been around for thousands of years. Out of all of the pests that people have to encounter, it is my opinion that the cockroach is the most difficult of the pests to exterminate. I call them “super pests” in that they are able to adapt their habits to surrounding conditions. Cockroaches are one of the living things that survived the atomic bomb in WW2. Due to their size and ability to hide in just about anything, makes it difficult to get at them. After saying this, it is still possible to exterminate cockroach issues.

The information that I will present are facts that you should know about if you have cockroaches in your home. I will endeavor to cover all aspects regarding cockroaches so that you will have a broad knowledge of this pest. Topics will include:

  • How did you get cockroaches in your home?
  • What Pest Control companies offer and how to choose the right one
  • Cockroach identification, habits and the diseases they can transmit

If you take the time to read the information I have given you, you will have a tremendous amount of knowledge to combat the issue without paying tons of money and not getting the results you desire.

First of all, my name is Jim Middleton and I have been the owner and operator of my business…Reliance Pest Management here in Winnipeg, Manitoba for 8 years. I have studied insects, birds and animals my whole life so for me, the habits of pests that come into the home, comes to me easily. I became interested in pest extermination because I saw the need to help people who were paying tons of money to get rid of pests but not always getting successful results. Reliance Pest Management also does not need to use chemicals or poisons to successfully exterminate pests in the home.

When you think of the words…”pest control”…it really doesn’t give anyone the impression that someone is going to exterminate the pest issue but just merely “control” the issue. The way I look at it is, in the case of cockroach issues, if the reasons why cockroaches are breeding in your home and where they are finding a food source are not addressed…then the cockroach issue will never be exterminated. This will be dealt with a bit later.

How did I get cockroaches in the first place?

We will just deal with the most common species of cockroach that is prevalent in Canada …the German cockroach. Normally cockroaches are not indigenous to Canada and there-fore you do not see them walking around outside. They are hitch-hikers and have come from some place where they are allowed to breed. German cockroaches are here in Canada everywhere. Even if it is cold outside, they are living indoors where it is warm and if they can find a food source. This can be in homes, businesses such as restaurants to food stores. The German cockroach can easily be introduced to your home in various ways.

  1. ) If a home has been infested with cockroaches and someone visits that home, it is very possible that some cockroaches can tag along with you in your purse, bags or anything that is taken out of that home. They can then be transported to another home.
  2. ) Cockroaches can be transported to your home after you visited a super market that has a cockroach infestation. This can be in the bags of groceries, in the boxed products you purchased and also as eggs on produce or fruits.
  3. ) Cockroaches can be transported to your home inside used stoves and fridges or any appliance for that matter. I have seen cockroaches come out of a TV top box given to people at a cable company. The appliance can be placed in your home without you knowing that cockroaches are hiding in them.
  4. ) Lastly, when a home next door to you has developed a major cockroach infestation, eventually the issue gets to the point where it is possible for cockroaches to leave that home during the summer months in search of food and find refuge in your home. I have actually found german cockroaches inside my back yard because there is a major issue next door.

Cockroach Identification

German Cockroach

This is the most common cockroach that presents itself as a pest in the home. It is a small species typically about .43″ – .63″ in length. In colour it varies from tan to almost black and it has two dark, roughly parallel streaks on the thorax running from behind the head to the base of the wings. The wings are not fully formed to fly but it can glide if it had to.


The german cockroach reproduces faster than any other residential cockroach growing from egg to reproductive adult in roughly 50 – 60 days. Once fertilized, the female develops an ootheca (egg case) in her abdomen. The abdomen swells as the eggs develop until the translucent tip of the ootheca begins to protrude from the end of her abdomen and by that time the eggs inside are fully sized about 1/4″ lg. The egg case soon turns white and then within a few hours turns pink, progressively darkening until some 48 hours later, it attains the dark-red brown of the shell of a chestnut.

A small percentage of the nymphs may hatch while the egg case is still attached to the female but the majority emerge some 24 hours after it has detached from the female’s body. The newly hatched 3mm long black nymphs then progress through 6 or 7 stages before becoming sexually mature but the moulting process is such a hazardous process that nearly half the nymphs die of natural causes before becoming an adult. The egg case contains about 40 eggs and an average of 4-8 egg cases will be produced by a female in her life. The developmental time from egg-nymph to adult is 54-200 days.

Moulted skins and dead nymphs are soon eaten by living nymphs present at the time of moulting. The average life span of this species of cockroach is about 200 days but this all depends on optimal conditions.

The preferred nesting areas in a home are where they find heat and humidity like the kitchen. They congregate together in large numbers often called nesting areas.

Behavior and Habits

The german cockroach is the most common species of cockroach that infest homes and reproduces the fastest. Though nocturnal, it occasionally appears by day especially if the population is crowded or has been disturbed. They will quickly go for cover if a light is suddenly turned on in a dark room or a cupboard is opened. When excited or frightened, they will emit an unpleasant odour.

Even though the german cockroach has wings does not mean they readily can fly. They may glide from a higher area if they are chased or disturbed.

It is doubtful that you will find them scavenging outside. The german cockroach occurs widely in human dwellings but is particularly associated with restaurants, food processing facilities and institutional establishments such as nursing homes. In cold climates they occur only near human dwellings because they cannot survive severe cold hence the reason why they originate from warm climates. They prefer confined spaces and can hide within small cracks and crevices that are easy to overlook thereby evading humans and extermination methods. When german cockroaches are infesting a home, they prefer kitchens and bathrooms. The kitchen is where they find their food source and bathrooms are where they find a water source. They prefer dark, secluded areas such as behind the fridge, stove or dishwasher, inside cupboards etc. When the population gets large, they may even inhabit inside plug outlets, your toaster or microwave or infest areas where they can readily find food. German cockroaches love heat and humidity and the kitchen and bathroom provide both for breeding. They prefer a temperature of 85F – 95F.

The german cockroach is particularly attracted to meats, starches, sugars and fatty foods. This is why you will find them taking up refuge behind the stove. When someone cooks on the stove, leaves a mess and leftovers in pots and pans, the cockroaches can easily get to it and go back to their hiding place. The same goes for food or food scraps left on the counter.

Another major food source for cockroaches is the garbage can. All the foods and garbage one does not want goes into the garbage and that is what cockroaches will now eat. If the garbage can has no lid, has openings that allow cockroach access or is just a garbage bag, this makes it very easy for cockroaches to get an easy meal. You will find that cockroaches will hide close to where they can easily access food. If the garbage can is located under the sink cupboard, beside the fridge or anywhere near another structure, the cockroaches will hide near to where the garbage can is kept.

Where cockroaches in the kitchen can be found is dictated where they can find food and not have to travel far to get it. Finding them in the cupboards or appliances, on the counter usually means food is left on the counter, leftovers are being left out or dishes with food on them are not being washed. A cockroach is not very big, especially young nymphs and so they don’t need that much food to survive. Adults have been known to go without food for a month.

When food is scarce, cockroaches have been known to eat toothpaste, soap and wallpaper glue.

Like most insects, cockroaches need a water source all the time. They usually can get this by going in the kitchen sink, drinking from water spills, leaky pipes below the sink cupboard or they may travel to the bathroom where they have numerous places to obtain water. A cockroach can survive without water for up to a week.

Diseases and Prevention

Due to cockroach’s dietary choices and dirty habitats which makes it easy for them to accumulate a range of different microbes; roaches are source of infectious pathogens and their contamination of food items or other household items have direct consequences on humans because it leads to diseases and health complications.

Cockroaches are also carriers of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Cockroaches don’t inflict diseases on humans; they simply contaminate things in the home and this is how they spread diseases. Some of the common diseases spread by cockroaches are listed below:


Cockroaches harbour salmonella bacteria, a disease that shares similar symptoms with food poisoning. This bacteria can be in their digestive system for months and they deposit it through their vomit and feces. When a human eats food contaminated by a cockroach having this bacteria, he or she gets infected and symptoms start to show 12 – 72 hours later. The symptoms include fever, diarrhea and vomiting.


Roaches are carriers of pathogens that cause the two forms of dysentery. They carry the shigella bacterium also known as shigellosis and a single-celled parasite called Entamoeba that causes amoebic dysentery. This disease is transmitted through food and drinks contaminated with these organisms and the signs and symptoms are diarrhea containing blood and mucus, nausea and vomiting, high temperature and stomach cramps.

E.coli infections

Roaches harbour E.coli and they spread them by contaminating food and drinks. They do this by mechanical transfer on their feet and exoskeleton. Although most of them are harmless, some of them can cause serious food poisoning. When infected with E.coli, one experiences watery stools, abdominal cramping, fever, chills, nausea and muscle aches.

These insects can trigger asthma in some people that are reactive to certain proteins on the bodies of these insects. These allergens or tiny particles from the bodies of the roaches spreads through the air and when inhaled by sensitive people, it can trigger an asthmatic attack.

In some people, there have been reports that they contracted a rash resulting from cockroaches crawling on their skin. The saliva, feces and shed skin can both trigger an allergy or asthmatic attack.

So, cockroaches spread disease through their droppings, saliva or vomit, and direct contact with them. Inhaling particles from the cockroaches themselves, touching the surfaces that cockroaches have been on, eating or drinking contaminated foods and drinks are a sure way of contracting the above diseases.

Contact Info


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City of Winnipeg with a 100km radius