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“White Cockroaches” Have Just Molted

By Chris Williams on November 20, 2013.
Molted german cockroach

Question

I think I have a different kind of cockroach in my apartment. These look like the regular cockroaches that I see occasionally in my kitchen but they’re almost pure white. Are these a different cockroach or are they albino roaches?

Answer

I bet that the white cockroaches that you’re seeing are also regular German cockroaches, but they are cockroaches that have just molted or shed their skins. When a cockroach molts, its old outer skin splits open. Underneath, the cockroach is like brand new with pale skin and soft appendages. Once it wriggles out of its old skin, it takes several hours for its new white body to gradually harden and darken to regular cockroach color.

Since most insects have hard skin or cuticle on the outside of their bodies, molting or shedding that cuticle is the only way that they can increase in size. The white body underneath is just slightly larger than it was before and hardens to a larger size. A German cockroach nymph sheds its skin 6 or 7 times before its big enough and mature enough to become an adult cockroach. During the nymph’s final molt to adult, it gains its wings and reproductive organs.

The fact that you’re seeing these white roaches at all might be bad news. Because molting cockroaches with their soft bodies are so vulnerable to predators and injury, they remain hidden until they harden-up. We rarely see new molts unless the population of cockroaches is so heavy that the molting cockroaches are forced out of the limited hiding places and out into the open. Sometimes molting cockroaches can be forced out of hiding by insecticide sprays as well.

photo credit: azarius via photopin cc

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