Cockroaches – Unhygienic scavengers in human settlements!

Cockroaches are the most common pests in many homes and buildings. At night they search for food in kitchens, food storage places, rubbish bins, drains and sewers. They are pests because of their filthy habits and bad smell. Some people may become allergic to cockroaches after frequent exposure. Cockroaches can sometimes play a role as carriers of intestinal diseases, such as diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid fever and cholera.

Cockroaches are insects, flattened from top to bottom, usually with two pairs of wings folded flat over the back. Most species rarely fly but they walk very fast. The colour usually varies from light brown to black. The species vary from 2 – 3mm to over 80mm in length. Of over 3500 identified species only a few are of importance to people because they have adapted to living in buildings. The most common species are:

  1.  The American cockroach, (35–40mm), color shiny redish to chocolate brown,  egg case – 8–10mm with 16eggs.
  2. The Australian cockroach, smaler than american (31–37mm), darker, egg case has 22–24 eggs.
  3. The Oriental cockroach, (20–27mm), blackish,  egg case is 10– 12mm long with 16–18 eggs.
  4. The brown-banded cockroach, ( 10–14mm), has yellow and brown bands, egg case is 4–5mm with 16 eggs.
  5.  The German cockroach, (10–15mm), light yellowish brown, egg case  7–9mm with 40 eggs.

Behaviour Pest cockroaches live in close association with people! They are tropical in origin but in the temperate zones most species live in parts of houses and other buildings where warmth, moisture and food are adequate. Cockroaches usually live in groups. They are mostly active at night; in the daytime they hide in cracks and crevices in walls, door frames and furniture, and in secure places in bathrooms, cupboards, steam tunnels, animal houses, basements, televisions, radios and other electric devices, drains and sewer systems. If the lights are turned on in an infested kitchen at night the cockroaches will run from dishes, utensils, working surfaces and the floor towards shelter.

Cockroaches eat a great variety of food, including all food used for human consumption. They prefer starchy and sugary materials. They sip milk and nibble at cheese, meats, pastry, grain products, sugar and sweet chocolate. They also feed on cardboard, book bindings, ceiling boards containing starch, the sized inner lining of shoe soles, their own cast-off skins, dead and crippled cockroaches, fresh and dried blood, excrement, sputum, and the fingernails and toenails of babies and sleeping or sick persons.

Mass migrations have been reported for some species, apparently resulting from overcrowding. The migrants move into new areas by crawling or flying. They commonly enter houses in boxes of bottled drinks and bags of potatoes, onions or other foodstuffs that have become infested in poorly maintained foodstores. Long-distance transportation of the pests can occur on aircraft, ships or other vehicles.

Diseases Cockroaches move freely from building to building or from drains, gardens, sewers and latrines to human habitations. Because they feed on human faeces as well as human food they can spread germs that cause disease. Cockroaches are not usually the most important cause of a disease, but like houseflies. they may play a supplementary role in the spread of some diseases. They are proven or suspected carriers of the organisms causing: — diarrhoea — dysentery — cholera — leprosy — plague — typhoid fever — viral diseases such as poliomyelitis. In addition they carry the eggs of parasitic worms and may cause allergic reactions, including dermatitis, itching, swelling of the eyelids and more serious respiratory conditions.


Environmental management Cleanliness and hygiene Food should be stored in tightly covered containers in screened cabinets or refrigerators. All areas have to be kept clean so that no fragments of food or organic matter remain. Rubbish bins should be securely covered and emptied frequently, preferably daily. Basements and areas underneath buildings should be kept dry and free of accessible food and water. Reduction of accessibility Groceries, laundry, dirty clothing, egg crates and furniture should be checked before being taken into a building. In some instances, accessibility to buildings can be reduced by closing gaps in floors and door frames. Openings for drain water and sewer pipes, drinking-water and electricity cables should also be closed!


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