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What is a German Cockroach?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Despite its name, the German cockroach actually originates in Asia, and was also ubiquitous in Russia long before it made its way to the United States and other countries. This type of cockroach is a common household pest across the U.S. as well as most other countries in the Western world. The German cockroach is the most common pest species in apartments, houses, restaurants, and hotels alike.

The adult German cockroach is relatively small compared to other cockroach species, between 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) and 0.625 inches (1.6 cm). This species is tan or light brown, with distinctive dark-colored parallel line markings which extend from the head to the wings. They cannot fly, despite having a set of fully-developed wings.

German cockroaches prefer to live in a moist, warm environment, and as such tend to gravitate towards kitchens and bathrooms. These environments supply plenty of food as well as the preferred temperature and humidity. While this species prefers to dine on starches, sugar, and meat, they will feed off a wide variety of organic substances, including hair and shed skin cells.

Like other species, the German roach is nocturnal. During the day they hide in dark, warm, moist areas, and emerge at night to forage for sustenance. It is rare for German cockroaches to be seen during daylight hours. When roaches are spotted during the day, it usually means a heavy infestation is present, or the insects are subject to stressful living conditions such as lack of food.

The German cockroach secretes a substance with a characteristic odor, which can affect the taste of foods that the insects dine upon. Heavy infestations can cause an entire room to take on this oily, unpleasant smell. The roaches also carry disease-producing organisms which can cause gastroenteritis in humans. These organisms live on the bodies of the roaches and are deposited on any item the roach encounters, including food and cooking utensils. Cockroach excrement is a highly allergenic substance which can cause watery eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and asthma.

A number of strategies can be used to get rid of cockroaches. Effective German cockroach control requires first that a thorough survey is taken to determine where cockroaches are nesting, and where they exit and enter the nest location. Traps can then be placed in areas the roaches are known to frequent. For heavy infestations it’s usually most effective to have an exterminator deploy traps and chemical treatments. At the same time, it’s important to prevent further reinfestation by improving sanitation. Food should be stored in sealed, airtight containers, and surfaces should be kept clean.

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Discussion Comments
By dbuckley212 — On Dec 02, 2010

I knew of a cockroach infestation at a local bakery which caused a big ruckus in the community. These pests tend to gravitate toward such warm starchy climates, and can cause food product to become contaminated en masse if their numbers are not checked. It is quite disgusting to find a cockroach in purchased food, and can even lead to legal issues.

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