There is a saying that a few bad ones ruin it for the rest, and this is true for the cockroach kingdom. There are about 4,300 identified species of cockroach but less than 30 of these are considered pests. Britain has three small native cockroaches, the tawny cockroach, Ectobius pallidus, the lesser cockroach, E. panzeri and the dusky cockroach, E. lapponicus. None of these species are considered a pest.
In many parts of the world, including the rainforest, cockroaches are part of an important ecosystem. They are omnivore scavengers which help recycle the organic litter that would accumulate. But when removed from their natural environment cockroaches can become a pest by breeding rapidly, contaminating foodstuffs, and spreading diseases such as salmonella, dysentery, gastro-enteritis and typhoid.
The cockroaches which have become a nuisance were inadvertently introduced to the UK from the tropics over the past 250 years. Hailing from a warm, humid environment most cockroaches are completely dependent upon centrally heated buildings. The German cockroach prefers high temperatures and humidity but Oriental cockroaches can survive for three months in freezing temperatures if they are sheltered beneath leaves or stones. They may be drawn into a home or business premises with the onset of winter, flooding or heavy rain. Cockroaches can be introduced into a building through imported food or goods and become established in a short space of time if the conditions, such as access to food and water, allow them to thrive.
Infestations can be hard to spot as they are nocturnal and spend daytime hiding in cracks and crevices. Cockroaches like tight spaces where their upper and lower bodies touch a surface which can make them difficult to spot. Inside the heated electrical motor area of fridges, beneath ovens and under the rim of a toilet bowl provides perfect harborage. If you see a cockroach in daylight this may be a sign of infestation as it could have been pushed out of its hiding place due to overcrowding. Here are some interesting facts about cockroaches.
6 Cockroach Facts
- Fossil evidence indicates that cockroaches were alive during the Carboniferous period, about 315 million years ago. They were able to fly and were possibly the first flying animals.
- Cockroach eggs are encased in capsules called oothecae, which in some species remain attached to the abdomen of the female until the eggs hatch.
- Some cockroaches have two pairs of well-developed wings, the front pair covering the hind pair when at rest; others have reduced wings or none at all.
- Cockroaches are night-active insects and are rarely seen during the day.
- The heaviest cockroach is the Australian Rhinoceros Cockroach which can grow to 80mm long.
- The German cockroach is the most common pest cockroach species in the UK.