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Roaches in New England

By Chris Williams on May 2, 2014.

Katlyn Graham:  Hello. I’m Katlyn Graham, here with Tim Chace, a pest control technician with Colonial Pest, and entomologist. Welcome, Tim.

Tim Chace:  Hi, Katlyn.

Katlyn:  Thanks for joining me this morning.

Tim:  It’s my pleasure.

Katlyn:  Today we are discussing roaches in New England. What are cockroaches first of all Tim?

Tim:  Well, cockroaches are an interesting creature to begin with. Cockroaches evolved over 400 million years ago, so they’re pretty old insects, if you will. There’s over 3,500 known species throughout the world. Scientists believe that there’s over 4,000 unknown species of roaches that have yet to be discovered, that’s pretty exciting.

In North America alone, there’s over 57 species of roaches, and there’s new roaches arriving from around the world all the time. Roaches are all around the world, and they’re very cosmopolitan. In New England, for example, we deal with five or six different roach species. There’s some natural roaches that live in New England. We’ve got the field roach and the wood roach.

Roaches are related to crickets and grasshoppers. They love to live in dark, moist spots. The wood roach, the field roach, they like to live under logs. Certain times in the summer, you’ll find these guys clinging to your front door screen. Very common. If it’s really wet outside, some of them might escape the extreme moisture and crawl up under the screen door. Generally, that’s not an infestation. The natural roaches that live in New England do not prefer to live inside your home, they would love to live outside.

The roaches that we deal with commonly in New England as pests would be the German roach, the brown‑banded roach, the Oriental cockroach, the American roach, and the smoky brown roach. Those are the five most common pest roaches in North America and in New England.

The most common roach we’ll find in the home situation is, in fact, the German roach. He’s not from Germany.

Katlyn:  He’s not? Why do they call it that, then? [laughs]

Tim:  That is a good question. It was probably a Frenchman that discovered the German roach and blamed it on the neighbors across the border.

The German roach was believed to have evolved in Asia. All roaches come from a common ancestor that was living down in leaf litter, crawling around the roots of trees in dark caves. They believe that the German roach actually evolved in mammal nests, like orangutans and places like that. They’ve been associated with mammals and higher primates throughout eternity and have always lived in caves. As humans have become more cosmopolitan and lived in cities, the roaches actually moved right in with them and found wonderful conditions.

Katlyn:  Gosh. When I think of roaches, I normally think of New York City, but it sounds like there are a lot of roaches right here in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Tim:  Absolutely. Roaches really need the same type of conditions that they needed in the forest. They need moisture, they need food sources, and they need a harborage site. If you think about a common home, there are moist, damp places, there’s food, and there’s definitely moisture. If you think about an unkempt tenement house or a dirty restaurant, it just magnifies that a little bit more.

Where conditions are ideal for roaches, the populations can soar. In one location, you can have a really clean apartment that gets infested because the neighbors just have a bad situation. You have issues like sanitation are involved. Regular maintenance, making sure that there’s not a moisture problem, and then just general, common cleanliness. In some cases, that’s not even an issue ‑‑ you’ve brought it into your house somewhere, and now you’re in a perfectly normal house and you’ve got cockroaches. That can happen.

Katlyn:  Now, do roaches carry diseases?

Tim:  Roaches are an unsavory group to begin with, just due to their environment. They’re living in places where mold and fungus are normally. Roaches have been found to carry things like salmonella, E. coli, other types of fecal contamination, just by walking in bad locations, and then as they come out and walk across your plates or your counter, they’re spreading this material as they go. Roaches also produce many secretions and fluids from their body that they drop off and leave all over the place.

It’s just a bad situation wherever roaches are involved with humans. They can also contaminate food sources, get into your food and actually eat and damage things like that. You don’t want roaches living in your house with you.

Katlyn:  No, not at all. It sounds like they can really become a problem with all that contamination and bacteria. Can roaches be easily transported?

Tim:  Roaches are pretty cosmopolitan. They could get into a delivery truck. They could get into service equipment. They could be transported in a takeout box from a restaurant. They could be transported in luggage. There are any number of ways a roach could get from point A to point B.

In the summer months, a roach could walk simply cross a street. Most roaches are pretty good flyers. The American roach for example lives in bushes and trees down in the South. They call it the Brown Bomber. It flies around lights. If it lands on you it’s pretty alarming, because it’ a big insect.

Most of our German roaches are spread innocuously through intra‑restaurant travel. Let’s say you’re a restaurant worker and your restaurants infested. You could certainly bring one home with you, just in your baggage or something like that. There are many ways for roaches to get into your house or into a restaurant.

We just had a case where roaches showed up at one of our service restaurants where we do monthly work. We believe it came in in a brand new ice maker. It was the only new appliance in the area where a roach showed up. It just makes sense that it, potentially, came in with that.

We did some work for an office complex, and in one of their break rooms we developed a roach infestation. We believe it was some of the workers had brought that in from their residence in their lunch pail or something of that nature.

Katlyn:  Oh wow, roaches can really get everywhere and become quite a problem.

Tim:  Once the roaches get established the population can climb as long as conditions permit. You can go from one female roach or a roach egg to many hundreds of roaches within a couple of months.

Katlyn:  Wow, you really need to get on top of it. That will be the next podcast, “What to do if you Have Roaches.”

Tim:  Excellent.

Katlyn:  Thank you, Tim, very much.

Tim:  You’re welcome.

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