The German cockroach is the scourge of the kitchen. It is the most challenging cockroach species to control. While most other cockroaches are peridomestic – that is, they live outside your home but make their way inside – the German cockroach is entirely domestic, living and breeding inside your home. They’ve got everything they need inside, and they love all the same things you do.
The most noticeable feature of the German cockroach is its small size. Most pest cockroaches exceed an inch in length, but the German cockroach is quite petite at around half an inch. Their tiny bodies allow for them to fit into places where bigger, fatter cockroaches can’t go. That means more hiding places are available to them. This is one reason why the German cockroach is so successful as a pest.
There are a several more reasons.
Most cockroaches lay eggs in the form of an egg case – the case looks like a segmented bean or purse, with each segment representing a developing cockroach. The peridomestic cockroaches - those big ones that give people the heebie-jeebies - drop their egg cases in areas that are moist and secluded and hope for the best. The German cockroach doesn’t drop its egg case, but instead carries it around, providing it with moisture and security. The mother cockroach doesn’t release the case until her young are just about to hatch.
In addition to providing more parental care than other cockroaches, the German cockroach also has a lot more babies than other pest cockroaches. The peridomestic cockroaches have roughly 15 young per egg case, while the German cockroach has 30 to 40 young per egg case. This, coupled with a shorter development time compared to other cockroaches, results in loads of babies and rapid maturity into breeding adults that results in huge populations in just a few months.
Like I mentioned earlier, these cockroaches are happiest in conditions that make you happy. They like to be warm and near food and water. In fact, being cold really puts a damper on their ability to survive. Up north in the colder states, German cockroaches fail to establish themselves in homes without central heating. But most people prefer not to be too hot or too cold, and these cockroaches are all about being at room temperature. People also like to eat a variety of food, and these cockroaches aren’t picky about what you’re willing to leave behind for them. People like to drink water, and, hey, these cockroaches like water, too! So much so, that they are mostly limited to the kitchen.
The kitchen is cockroach paradise. Warmth emanates from appliances like the oven and the refrigerator. Water is not scarce. From appliance drip pans, leaky sink faucets, and half-filled bowls and cups in the sink, there’s no shortage of moisture. Even in a clean kitchen, there’s plenty to eat when you’re as small as a cockroach. Countless crumbs between the stove and the counter, grease spatter from the last time hamburgers were made, and food bits on dishes not yet washed - these are all delectable feasts for tiny omnivores. There’s also no end to the hiding places for these buggers. The cabinet beneath the sink is dark and moist, the rubber sealing of the fridge is cozy, and the hollow metal leg of some countertop appliance is great for a cockroach and all of his friends.
So, what can you do about German cockroaches? The answer is sanitation. Keep your home and kitchen free from clutter, free from stacks of empty pizza boxes, free from old cartons of Chinese take-out. Clean up thoroughly after cooking, and clean under appliances like deep fryers where oil may accumulate. Empty the crumb trays on toasters – did you even know that toasters had crumb trays? Vacuum floors to pick up food particles, and mop floors to pick up food residues. Don’t let dirty dishes sit overnight. Take the trash out often, but don’t just leave the bags in your garage; take the bags to the bin outside. Anything you can do to drastically reduce their access to food, water, and shelter will cause their population to decline. Sanitation is key, but the use of baits will expedite their eradication.
Featured Creature: German Cockroach. University of Florida. Department of Entomology and Nematology. Website: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/german.htm. Accessed July 2017.