Cockroaches are members of the order Blattaria, and are common invasive pests throughout the United States. These hardy insects reproduce quickly, adapt to pesticides and poisons, and can be difficult to eliminate once they gain a foothold in a dwelling. While there are about 4,500 different species of roaches, four of them represent most of the cockroaches found in or near dwellings in America.
The German cockroach (Blattella germanica) is one of the most common cockroaches in the world, and one that ranges throughout the continental United States. Adults grow to 16 millimeters or 0.62 inches in size and are light brown or tan-colored. German cockroaches are especially adept climbers, able to scale walls by thrusting their claws into tiny surface imperfections and even able to scuttle upside-down across ceilings. Female German cockroaches carry their fertilized egg sac throughout the gestation period and deposit it only a few days before the young are due to emerge. German cockroaches are capable of flight but prefer erratic and quick scurrying over flight for evading enemies.
American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) are much larger than their German counterparts, reaching sizes of up to 50 millimeters or 2 inches long. These insects are usually reddish-brown in color and have distinctive shiny carapaces. American cockroaches prefer to live outdoors, making their homes in damp areas like rotting logs or in gardens, but they may venture indoors when temperatures fall. Adult specimens are capable of flight for short periods and may take to the air to escape an attacker.
Oriental cockroaches (Blatta orientalis) are another species of cockroaches common in many areas of the United States. These insects can grow to 32 millimeters or 1.25 inches in length and range in color from dark brown to black. Like American cockroaches, Oriental cockroaches make their homes outdoors but can venture into dwellings in search of food or shelter. Oriental cockroaches are poor climbers, however, and they frequently resort to climbing through ventilation systems or along pipes to enter homes.
The brown-banded cockroach (Supella longipalpa) is another species whose range extends throughout the United States. Adults reach 14 millimeters or 0.55 inches in length and have light brown or tan bands across their bodies and wings. Brown-banded cockroaches prefer a warmer environment than other species of roaches and are happiest in temperatures of greater than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In homes, they tend to congregate around light fixtures, electric motors and other sources of warmth, foraging nocturnally for food.
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Milton Kazmeyer has worked in the insurance, financial and manufacturing fields and also served as a federal contractor. He began his writing career in 2007 and now works full-time as a writer and transcriptionist. His primary fields of expertise include computers, astronomy, alternative energy sources and the environment.