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The Characteristics of Roaches

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Cockroaches invade your home and waste no time devouring the contents of your kitchen. These insects are particularly hardy, and the species has been found on Earth for over 300 million years. Houses and restaurants make great cockroach homes because they offer just the right mixture of food and moisture roaches need to survive.

Basic Facts

The world hosts approximately 3,000 species of cockroaches, but only about 50 of these species live in the U.S. Commonly found cockroaches include the American, German, Oriental and brown-banded cockroach, according to the Orkin website. Cockroaches have flat bodies that range in color from tan to dark brown. They move on six legs, and use two long antennae to smell and identify potential food sources. Size varies depending on species, but can range from ½ to 2 inches long. You’ll see wings on many species of cockroaches, but curiously, most types of roaches don’t fly. Multiple lenses in their eyes enhance vision and give cockroaches the ability to view many things simultaneously.


Female roaches lay up to 50 eggs at a time, all of them enclosed in one egg case. Some species drop the egg case, while others carry the case next to their abdomens until the roaches hatch. Young roaches, called nymphs, are soft and white when they’re born. In just a few hours, their color changes to light or grayish brown and their shells start to harden. During their lifespan, they’ll shed their shells, or molt, several times. Each time they molt, their shells will darken and they’ll gradually take on their adult appearance. That process can take three months to over one year, depending on the species. Roaches live an average of one to two years, depending on the species.


Homes and restaurants provide the ideal conditions for cockroach life, and that’s where you’ll find many of them. Cockroaches aren’t picky eaters. They’ll eat a variety of food and non-food items, including meat, candy, soap, grease, starch, beer, leather, glue and even hair. Some roaches prefer the dark, moist areas found in kitchens and bathrooms, while others like to live under furniture or in closets. You’ll probably see more roaches once the sun sets. If you happen to move your refrigerator, pull up an old baseboard or repair a pipe, you might notice them scurrying away from the light. The URI Greenshare website notes that seeing cockroaches during the day can indicate that a large population lives in your home.

Role in Disease

No one likes to share a home with bugs, but cockroaches are more than just an annoyance. They can be harmful to your health. Cockroaches enjoy dining on your garbage and can spread bacteria found in rotting food. They’ve been known to carry and spread E. coli and salmonella bacteria, pathogens that can cause food poisoning and severe diarrhea. If roaches live in your home and you have allergies or asthma, you might notice that your symptoms worsen due to a sensitivity to roach droppings, shells or dead roach bodies.