Soshi K. asks: What do cockroaches eat and where do they live when not in our houses?
Sneaky and skittering, invasive and indomitable, the disgusting peridomestic cockroach is a formidable enemy for anyone unlucky enough to live among them. Interestingly, however, they are surprisingly delicate, and at least one species is utterly dependent on humans for its survival.
Of the 5,000 known species of cockroaches, those that most plague people are the American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana) and the German cockroach (Blattella Germanica).
Americana is the largest cockroach encountered in human constructions, growing to an average length of 1.5 inches (4 cm); it is not common in homes in the northern U.S., preferring a warmer environment, although it will be around – especially in larger, particularly commercial, buildings like grocery stores and restaurants.
Unlike their German counterparts, the American cockroach will live outdoors (in warmer climates), and in places like Florida, they can be found around garbage, in trees and in woodpiles. During periods of heavy rains, this species is known to “mass migrate,” and overrun a building. The bugs are managed around homes by caulking cracks, removing rotting vegetation and keeping areas around the structure as dry as possible.
Indigenous to Africa, the American cockroach was introduced across the pond in the 17th century and is usually found below ground in drains, steam tunnels, sewers and basements. Prolific, one community of Americana that was discovered in a single sewer manhole consisted of 5,000 members.
On average, each female of the species will produce 150 eggs over a 10-month period and will deposit them, in clusters inside a hard-shelled case, near a food source – sometimes “gluing” the case to the source with her spit.
After hatching, the American cockroach goes through several stages of development, but during each it actively forages for food. Opportunistic, they enjoy whatever is at hand and will eat decaying matter, as well as bread and fruit, paper and clothes, hair and even shoes.
Because of their proclivity for sewers and human waste, the American cockroach spreads over 22 species of organisms that cause disease in humans, including protozoans, viruses, fungi…