If you are seeing insects in your home and think you may have an infestation, it’s nice to know what type of bug you are dealing with.
Depending on where you live, insects can have multiple names, so to eliminate a pest problem, it’s probably good to know what they’re called.
There is no difference between a roach and a cockroach – roach is just the short version of the word. There are many different species of roaches, and they have particular characteristics and survival strategies. Eliminating a cockroach infestation can be difficult, but there are things you can do to rid your home of these pests.
The word “cockroach” comes from Cucaracha, the Spanish word for the insect. The scientific name for roaches, Blattodea, comes from the Latin word blatta and means “an insect that shuns the light.”
What Makes a Roach a Roach?
Cockroaches are fairly distinct looking. Typically, these scavenging insects are flat, oval-shaped, and run very fast.
They resemble large beetles and have hard exoskeletons and long antennae. Some cockroach species have wings, but not all of them can fly.
Like all other insects, roaches have a three-part body consisting of a head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax has three segments, and the abdomen has ten.
In some species, the second and third thoracic segments have wings. The first pair of wings, called tegmina, protect the second pair. If the roach can fly, it only uses its rear wings.
Cockroaches have six jointed legs, and a pair of legs is attached to each segment of the thorax.
The front legs are shorter than the hind legs, and the hind legs primarily propel running.
Most species of cockroaches start out as eggs, except one. Beetle mimic cockroaches are the only roaches that give birth to live young.
Cockroaches produce hard, protective egg sacs called ootheca, which carry anywhere from 10 to 50 eggs.
Females either attach the ootheca to something, leave it in a protected place (like a crack in the wall), or carry it around until just before the eggs hatch.
It takes between 24 to 38 days for the eggs to hatch, and females can produce hundreds of eggs during their life cycle.
Baby cockroaches (or nymphs) look like miniature roaches but don’t have wings. Depending on the species, nymphs can take anywhere from 40 to 800 days to reach maturity.
Different Kinds of Cockroaches
There are over 4,000 species of roaches, but only 30 live in the same environments as humans.
Of these, less than ten species are particularly bothersome, the most common being American, German, Oriental, and Brown-Banded cockroaches.
The American cockroach is the largest species of roach that tends to infest human environments.
These winged cockroaches are dark brown or reddish-brown, ranging in size from 1.1 in (2.8 cm) to 1.7 in (4.3 cm). They can (and do) fly – although due to their large size, they usually have to start from a high place and then glide.
They occasionally wander into homes, but as an opportunistic outdoor species, they are more commonly discovered in restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and other sites where food is prepared.
American roaches eat anything from garbage to crumbs to hair and plastic bags, but they particularly like beer and other fermenting foods. They also eat their dead.
These cockroaches prefer high temperatures around 84°F (29°F) and generally live outdoors until winter, when they cannot tolerate low temperatures.
A female typically produces 9 to 10 egg cases and deposits them into a crack or crevice. Occasionally, she will adhere the ootheca to a surface using saliva.
Eggs hatch in about 45 days, with each case producing about 14 young. A nymph matures between 215 days and 400 days.
The average life span for adult females is about 440 days, the longest lifespan of any common cockroach species.
German cockroaches are small, light-brown, or tan insects that range in size from ½ inch to 5/8 of an inch (1.27 cm to 1.58 cm) long.
They can be distinguished by two dark stripes that run down their backs, and they have wings but cannot fly.
The German roach prefers moist, warm environments, so you will likely find them near dishwashers and sinks in your kitchen or bathroom.
These roaches have a quick reproduction and maturity rate. Females produce about 30 to 50 eggs at a time and can produce six to eight egg cases in their 200-day lifespan.
The female German cockroach also carries the egg case until the eggs are ready to hatch.
Nymphs are smaller and darker-colored than adults, with a light-colored streak running down their backs. It takes between 40 and 125 days for a German roach nymph to reach maturity.
Oriental cockroaches are a large, outdoor species of cockroach, ranging in size from 0.71 in to 1.14 in (1.8 cm to 2.9 cm).
They are usually dark brown or black, and these pests cannot fly despite having wings.
This species thrives in temperatures from 68°F (20°C) to 84°F (29°C) and can tolerate cool environments. Oriental roaches have even been found outdoors in freezing weather!
They are called “waterbugs” because they prefer cool, damp places and can be found around sewers, drains, wood piles, under porches, and anywhere else that is wet and dark.
These roaches are hard to miss as they produce a strong smell. They are also considered one of the most unhygienic species of cockroaches because of their preference for garbage bins, sewers, and drains.
A female Oriental cockroach can produce about eight egg cases with 16 eggs in each case during its lifetime, and nymphs hatch and reach maturity within 300 to 800 days.
An adult Oriental cockroach has a lifespan of 34 to 180 days.
Brown-banded cockroaches are about the same size as German cockroaches measuring about a half-inch (1.27 cm) long and prefer warm temperatures greater than 80°F (26°C).
These roaches have yellow bands on their shells, but males are golden brown, and females are dark brown and pear-shaped. The males can also fly.
A nymph is recognized by the two pale bands which run horizontally across its body.
Brown-banded cockroaches prefer higher areas and hide behind pictures and clocks or beneath furniture, in appliances, and among books.
Like American roaches, female Brown-banded cockroaches often glue their egg cases to surfaces like furniture or inside appliances.
Eggs hatch in about 70 days, and it takes about 160 days for the nymphs to mature.
A female may produce around 250 offspring, but the long maturation period makes it difficult for large populations to develop.
Brown-banded roaches live for about 80 days in warm temperatures.
Do Cockroaches Eat Each Other?
Cockroaches consume anything, even each other. Roaches are decomposers, so decaying matter is literally their bread and butter.
Cockroaches of all ages consume carcasses and molted skin.
Larger roaches will also consume eggs, nymphs, and other smaller cockroaches.
The cannibalism may feel disturbing, but for roaches, a meal is a meal.
What’s the Best Way to Kill Cockroaches?
The most effective way to kill roaches is using multiple delivery methods for pesticides, including sprays, dust, and bait traps, brought into your home by a professional.
However, if you’re wary of pesticides or can’t afford an exterminator, there are effective DIY solutions using things you already have in your home.
No matter what type of roach you are dealing with, you may want to try one of these options.
A good solution for eradicating cockroaches is to use boric acid or Borax.
Borax is a powdered laundry booster and is carried by most stores.
To kill cockroaches, you simply need to mix Borax with powdered sugar and either spread it around your home or set up bait stations in areas where you know there are roaches.
Baking soda alone is actually repellent to cockroaches – they hate the smell – but if you mix sugar in equal parts, the roaches can’t resist the sweet treat and will eat it.
Baking soda only works after the cockroaches drink water, so use your baking soda/sugar mix as a bait station near areas with access to water.
Neem oil is a great way to get rid of a roach problem.
You can use a spray bottle and mix neem oil with water to combat cockroaches or scatter powdered neem at night and in the morning in areas where cockroaches are found.
Peppermint oil is lethal to cockroaches, but they need prolonged exposure (around 24 hours) for it to be fatal.
As such, peppermint oil is better used as a repellent than an insecticide.
Mix the oil in a spray bottle with warm water and white vinegar, and spray it around windows and doors every 3-5 days to keep cockroaches from entering your home.
Cockroaches and roaches are two ways of talking about the same insect.
There are thousands of different species of cockroach, but four main types tend to infest human environments.
American cockroaches are the largest, fastest, and live the longest out of any common species.
German cockroaches reproduce quickly and form large colonies.
Oriental cockroaches smell and are the dirtiest species, generally coming from sewers and other bacteria-covered areas.
Broad-banded roaches are small, like to live in high places, and are generally found in warm climates.
If you’ve seen any type of cockroach roaming around your home, you may want to consider calling an exterminator or using a DIY elimination method before things get out of hand.