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Cockroaches: Facts & Control

Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria or Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,500 total are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known aspests. Among the best-known pest species are the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, which is about 30 mm (1.2 in) long; the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, about 15 mm (0.59 in) long; the Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai, also about 15 mm (0.59 in) in length; and the Oriental cockroach, Blatta orientalis, about 25 mm (0.98 in). Tropical cockroaches are often much bigger.

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Cockroaches live in a wide range of environments around the world. Pest species adapt readily to a variety of environments, but prefer warm conditions found within buildings.

Cockroaches are one of the most commonly noted household pest insects. They feed on human and pet food, and can leave an offensive odor. They can also passively transport microbes on their body surfaces including those that are potentially dangerous to humans, particularly in environments such as hospitals. Cockroaches have been shown to be linked with allergic reactions in humans. One of the proteins that triggers allergic reactions has been identified as tropomyosin. These allergens have also been found to be linked with asthma.

General preventive measures against household pests include keeping all food stored away in sealed containers, using garbage cans with tight lids, frequent cleaning in the kitchen, and regular vacuuming. Any water leaks, such as dripping taps, should also be repaired. It is also helpful to seal off any entry points, such as holes around baseboards, between kitchen cabinets, pipes, doors, and windows with some steel wool or copper mesh and some cement, putty or silicone caulk.