The American cockroach, Periplaneta americana (Linnaeus), is the largest of the common peridomestic cockroaches measuring on average 4 cm in length. It occurs in buildings throughout Florida, especially in commercial buildings. In the northern United States, the cockroach is mainly found in steam heat tunnels or large institutional buildings. The American cockroach is second only to the German cockroach in abundance.
It is found mainly in basements, sewers, steam tunnels, and drainage systems (Rust et. al. 1991). This cockroach is readily found in commercial and large buildings such as restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and anywhere food is prepared and stored. The American cockroach is rarely found in houses, however, infestations can occur after heavy rain. They can develop to enormous numbers, greater than 5,000 sometimes being found in individual sewer manholes (Rust et. al. 1991).
Brownbanded cockroaches prefer warm and dry locations, such as near refrigerator motor housings, on the upper walls of cabinets, and inside pantries, closets, dressers, and furniture in general. They can also be found behind picture frames and beneath tables and chairs, and inside clocks, radios, light switch plates, doorframes, and dressers. It is common to find them hiding nearer the ceiling than the floor and away from water sources. Accurate identification is paramount to controlling brown banded cockroaches. Control strategies for other cockroaches will not be efficacious for brown banded cockroaches.
The German cockroach is the cockroach of concern, the species that gives all other cockroaches a bad name. It occurs in structures throughout Florida and is the species that typically plagues multifamily dwellings. The availability of water, food, and harborage governs the ability of German cockroaches to establish populations and limit growth. Non-toxic and low toxic alternatives for German cockroach control are available. Sticky traps can be used to monitor or reduce population size. Improving sanitation by eliminating food and water sources and clutter can have a significant impact on reducing the chances of infestation population size. Exclusion practices such as sealing cracks and crevices will reduce harborage space and also negatively impact population size.
Oriental cockroaches are often called water bugs because of their preference for dark, damp, and cool areas such as those under sinks and washing machines, and in damp basements. This species, which is less wary and more sluggish than the others, of concern because it often travels through sewer pipes and lives on filth.
Adult Oriental cockroaches are about one inch in length (Fig. 1). Both male and female adults are very dark brown, nearly black; their bodies usually have a somewhat greasy sheen. Females have small, functionless, rudimentary wing pads and broader, heavier bodies. Males have wings that cover only about three-quarters of their abdomen. Males are apparently unable to fly.
Nymphs and adults have similar habits and are found with decaying organic matter indoors and out. Indoors, Oriental cockroaches prefer dark, moist areas such as under porches, sewers, drains, crawl spaces, dark, damp basements, and floor drains. They can be found outdoors in abandoned cisterns and water valve pits; in yards; beneath leaves; in bark mulch around shrubs, flowers, and foundations; in dumps, stone walls, and crawl spaces; and in garbage and trash dumps and trash chutes. Both nymphs and adults are sluggish and are usually situated at or below ground level indoors. They are seldom found on walls, in high cupboards, or in the upper floors of buildings. At times large numbers occur in one great mass around leaks in the basement or crawl space areas of homes. Oriental cockroaches are generally found outdoors during warm weather, but in periods of drought there may be considerable movement into structures, apparently in search of higher humidity. They may enter the home in food packages and laundry, or merely come in under the door or through air ducts, garbage chutes, or ventilators.
Although closely related to the American cockroach, the smoky brown cockroach is readily distinguishable from it by its uniformly dark brown–mahogany coloration. Furthermore, unlike the American cockroach, which possesses a light-rimmed pattern on its thorax, the smoky brown cockroach’s thorax is dark and shiny. This cockroach may come indoors to look for food and even to live; generally, however, in warm weather, it will move outdoors. The smoky brown cockroach prefers warmer climates and is not cold-tolerant. It may, however, be able to survive colder climates by going indoors. In addition to this, it fares well in moist conditions and appears to be particularly prevalent in moist concealed areas. It often lives around the perimeter of buildings.