Brown-banded Cockroach

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Overview

Cockroaches are insects belonging to the family Blattidae and they share a common ancestry with termites and grasshoppers.

Brown-banded cockroaches, Supella longipalpa, prefers to live in warm, rather dry, elevated areas of building such as inside water coolers, behind wall hangings, behind exit signs and under tables and furniture. They also hide in electrical appliances making control difficult and allowing transport of infestations when occupants move to new buildings. These cockroaches are not common in New England but can be imported at any time.

Having had a longer track record of survival on the planet earth (300 million years versus 1 million years for man), it is thought by many that cockroaches are likely to out survive man in the long run.

Cockroaches are known mechanical vectors of bacteria and other diseases; their fecal material, hairs and cuticle are the source of allergies and asthma for many, and their odor is described as unpleasant, but their most objectionable characteristic is their tendency to appear uninvited at the table. Long considered a sign of poor sanitation, cockroaches are now identified as a public health issue.

Interesting Facts about Brown-Banded Cockroaches:

Cockroaches have been found in the fossil record as far back as 300 million years and the largest fossil, from Ohio, measures nearly 3.5 inches long There are about 3,500 cockroach species world-wide, about 70 of which are found in the United States. The egg case or ootheca contains about 40 eggs lined up in a double row.

The egg case or ootheca.

Identification

There are several pest species of cockroaches found indoors and many more non-pest species found in nature. It is important to identify your cockroach. Brown-Banded cockroaches are slightly more than .25 inch in length. They are light to dark brown in color and have two light colored lateral bands across the wings and abdomen. These light bands are present on nymphs (the earlier stages without wings) and on males and females. The female carries her eggs (up to 16) in an external capsule called an ootheca which she cements to surfaces. The nymphs go through several molts in a two month period before reaching sexual maturity and bearing wings. The males and females have wings and the males are capable of flight under the right conditions.

Biology

Although Brown-Banded cockroaches are attracted as nymphs to the odor of fecal material and as adults to each other, in all life stages the main attraction is food. Even a clean, sanitary area will have sufficient food to sustain a few cockroaches so that it is most difficult to eliminate an infestation through restriction to food alone.

An important task is to identify where cockroaches are hiding during the day since they are primarily active at night. It has been found that the average cockroach prefers to wedge itself into a crack about .25 inches wide. Since there are numerous cracks of this dimension in any normal setting and since food is also generally plentiful, cockroaches can hide in some very interesting places. Examples include behind electrical plates, inside water coolers, under wall moldings, behind walls, and in plumbing and pipe chases. Of course when cockroaches are more abundant, they will also hide in folded paper bags stuffed next to refrigerators, inside radios on kitchen counters, inside wooden knife holders, under the rim of sink fixtures, and even in recipe boxes.

Moisture is not critical to Brown-Banded cockroach survival so breeding can take place in any room. These cockroaches will live up to 6 months as an adult.

Control

This fact sheet discusses how to keep Brown-Banded cockroaches out of urban settings by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques rather than by spraying insecticides, chemicals which eventually can be more harmful to man than to cockroaches.

By careful monitoring of cockroach population numbers and breeding locations, you can evaluate the success of different control methods and come up with the best balance of several successful IPM technologies.

The following steps have proven to be successful in controlling Brown-Banded cockroaches under most circumstances when carefully applied.

Use sticky traps to monitor population levels and to identify breeding locations. Hot melt adhesives (non-volatile glues) are excellent surfaces for capturing cockroaches. The trap surface must be tacky enough to hold these light insects as they scamper onto the glue. In recent years there has been considerable improvement in the design and function of insect sticky traps. Place traps high up along walls and near ceilings to detect cockroaches nesting in the warmer areas of a room. Temperature extremes are excellent tools for preventing normal life cycle activity. Very hot temperatures (140 degrees F for several hours) have been licensed under technology in some states for the control of cockroaches. Elsewhere museums are using cold storage (below freezing for 24 hours) to decontaminate artifacts. Baits are very effective, in recent years the improvements in bait formulations has resulted in dramatically reduced cockroach populations. The toxicant may very from bait to bait as well as the food based attractants. Synthetic hormones in baits show value in locations where bait stations cannot be used due to extreme conditions of moisture. These chemicals interrupt the molting process and prevent cockroaches from reaching adulthood. Over time, resistance may develop to either the bait attractant or to the toxicant but today, baits are producing remarkable results. Baits in containerized distribution units are more expensive and less flexible than the bait formulations applied with a caulking gun. However, the baits in containers are less likely to be exposed to the public or the environment and may stay fresh longer. Desiccants powders and dusts have replaced sprays during the last decade but their greatest limitation is that they can only be applied behind walls and into voids and similar locations. Clean up clutter wherever it is found, including paper bags behind and on top of refrigerators, items that fall behind drawers, and cardboard boxes.

MYTHS AND HOAXES

Due to public concern over the safety of pesticides and the desire to find alternatives, some individuals and companies are selling devices for the control of cockroaches that have questionable value except for the value to their own pocket book.

Ultrasonic devices: cockroaches are not repelled by ultrasonic sounds; these sounds do have the potential to disturb dogs and other animals that can hear in this range. Electromagnetic devices: may increase activity levels of some insects but do not repel cockroaches. Expensive electric traps: cost up to $300 and catch no more cockroaches than a smaller 50 cent trap which is more easily replaced. Questionable guarantees: claims of 100% control, safe for everything except pests, and statements that cockroaches have nests when in fact they do not.

PROFESSIONAL PEST CONTROL SERVICES

If you prefer to use a pest control professional, then the following guidelines should help you choose a reputable firm.

Obtain two or more estimates for control. The company you choose should have experience in using IPM in an urban location. Do not accept the alternating of chemical sprays as a definition of IPM. Is safety measures part of the pest control service? Are you provided with a material safety data sheet or sample label that indicates hazards and are you given a fact sheet on cockroaches? If the infestation is successfully eliminated, there is little concern that you will need additional service such as a yearly or monthly service. Be wary of signing a contract that requires additional costs and service.

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