Cockroaches, in general, can be quite a nuisance. They are associated with a lot of diseases and fomenting health scares. It is true that the insect can be quite capable of spreading a lot of germs and parasites that may not be desired. However, it is also equally true that cockroaches have been there on the food chain for a million years or so due to which they have carved a place for themselves. Basically, cockroaches have been divided into four main types, the American Cockroach, German Cockroach, Brownbanded cockroach and the Oriental Cockroach.
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Out of these, the American Cockroach is very famous due to its worldwide presence in more or less every country. Popularly, it is also known as the water bug but it is not a typical waterbug as per the literal sense of the word because it is not aquatic in nature. Alternately, it is also known as Palmetto Bug, Kakerlac, Bombay Canary and Ship Cockroach. All these names suggest the kind of popularity that this insect enjoys worldwide.
Table of Contents
- The Distribution of American Cockroaches:
- A Brief History of American Cockroaches:
- All Major Characteristics of the Cockroach:
- The Insect morphology:
- The lifespan of the Insect:
- Diet of an American Cockroach:
- The risk to Humans:
- Their Control is Very Much needed:
- It Also has Certain benefits:
The Distribution of American Cockroaches:
People who may want to know 'what attracts cockroaches to your home' may be happy to find out that as per its name, it is not as though the species was found in America. Rather, it came to the United States from Africa during the year 1625. At present, though, these can easily be found in warm and tropical climates due to extensive urbanization by humans. They have also undergone changes since those times and have practically metamorphosed themselves.
In the Mediterranean coast of Spain, these cockroaches are also called Plagues. People living in Southern Portugal, Southern Spain, and the Canary Islands also call them by the same name because all these places experience quite hot summers. Similarly, winters at these places can be expected to be frost free as well as comparatively quite warm.
A Brief History of American Cockroaches:
The roots of American Cockroaches can be traced to Carboniferous period. These are usually thought of to have surfaced on the Pangaea supercontinent or on the Gondwana, that was more of a daughter continent of the former. A lot of animals of that period have now become extinct whereas the American Cockroach underwent many adaptations through the period to survive main die-offs. Anyway, during the last decade, the insect has also evolved itself and at present, it is a completely modern organism. Not only for it - even the German Cockroaches and Brownbanded Cockroaches have evolved phenomenally during these years and that is quite marvelous to think of.
All Major Characteristics of the Cockroach:
Among all the known variants of cockroaches, the American Cockroach is by far, the largest in terms of body size. It can molt up to six to fourteen times prior to metamorphosis and also has one of the longest life spans amongst all cockroaches. It can successfully live for up to 700 days.
The flattened and broadly oval body of the cockroach has a protective covering-type shield that is known as the Pronotum. It is located just behind the head and is a plate-like structure. The length of the insect is about 1.6 inches and it is about 0.28 inches in height. It can generally be reddish brown in color and has a characteristic yellowish margin on top of the Pronotum. Baby cockroaches may completely look like adults except that they may not have wings.
The body of these cockroaches may be divided into three distinct parts - the head, thorax, and abdomen. The head is faced downward and has a mouth in it for chewing properly. The head also features a pair of compound eyes to aid the vision and long antennae. Each compound eye has more than 2000 lenses built inside it for augmented viewing. The hexagonal eyes provide what is usually known as the 'mosaic vision'. Although the resolution is less, the sensitivity can be much higher optically. Therefore, it is also known as nocturnal vision. It also has the ability to shun any light.
It is capable of covering most of the dorsal surface that lies within the thorax region. The thorax contains forewings and hind wings although the insect hardly uses it for flying as a means of mobility. The abdomen is the last part of the insect.
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The adults can fly over short distances though they can hardly be seen as flying. However, from high places, they can be expected to land down easily and this can be seen at certain times. The nymphs of these cockroaches can also regenerate their limbs successfully which is a distinct property.
Considering its small size, the moving speed of the insect can be particularly quite high and it is, in fact, the fastest moving insect! It can easily vanish within a matter of seconds and can completely hide out of sight. Despite its size, it can easily fit itself under doors or rugs or inside small cracks and may not be quite easy to locate.
In a clinical trial, it was observed that the insect had a speed of 3.4 miles per hour, that is about 50 times the length of its body per second. Simulating it, this can easily be compared to a human being who is running at a speed as high as 210 miles per hour!
The Insect morphology:
As already stated above, the American Cockroach displays a typical insect body characteristic with its head, thorax and abdomen clearly demarcated from each other. The thorax area of the insect can be further subdivided into three major parts, i.e., mesothorax, prothorax, and metathorax. Each of the thoracic segments has a pair of walking legs protruding from it. The insect also possesses two pairs of wings. The forewings are called tegmina and originate from the mesothorax. It can be darkly colored as well as opaque. Hind wings can be used by them for flying and they originate from the metathorax. The abdomen can be easily divided into ten segments in which each segment may be covered by an exoskeleton plate known as sclerites. The sclerites may include lateral pleurites, dorsal tergites, and ventral sternites.
The lifespan of the Insect:
Typically, an American Cockroach displays the following life forms - egg, nymph as well as an adult. A female cockroach creates an egg case called the ootheca that may stick out from the abdomen. They can produce up to 90 oothecaes although that rarely happens. Usually, 9-10 oothecaes can be expected. After around 2 days, the oothecaes can be expected by them to be placed at a safe location for hatching. These are usually brown in color and 0.9 cm long. In about two months’ time, baby cockroaches can be expected to hatch out of them and it may take 6-12 months for them to completely mature. After the nymphs come out of the egg, they can undergo at least 13 moultings before they make the exact formation. An adult cockroach can easily live for a year and during this time, the female of the species can produce at least 150 babies. Their reproductive cycle may also last for 600 days. The reproductive style of this cockroach is generally known as facultative parthenogenesis.
After the Locusta Migratoria, the genome of this cockroach can be well regarded as the second largest within insects. Repeat elements form a huge part of its genome and therefore about 60% of it is repeated in nature. Many different representatives of Blattodea also display at least 90% of the genome that is there in American Cockroaches. It is not close to the German Cockroach and rather shows much more resemblance to two different termite species, Macrotermes Natalensis and Zootermopsis Nevadensis. There are a lot of chemoreceptor families like the 154 olfactory receptors and 522 taste receptors for which the cockroach's genome codes successfully. 522 taste receptors are the most number of genomes that have been successfully sequenced among insects. There are 329 receptors that are related to bitter taste feeling. All these factors along with different gene groups related to immune system, reproduction and detoxification may be involved in the cockroach's ability to make them secured at their living places.
Diet of an American Cockroach:
As of diet, an American Cockroach may have practically anything that is edible! they are omnivorous and eat a long list of things like cheese, tea, bakery products, glue, dried skin flakes, plant materials, starch enhanced glossy paper, beer, leather, manuscripts, hair, dead animals, soiled clothing, etc. Any type of fermenting food can be a typical delicacy for them. They can also eat up a wounded or dead cockroach of its own family or from any other species.
These cockroaches generally like to live in places that are moist in nature. They can also survive at places that are dry provided they can get some water. They like to live in higher temperatures of around 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, these can easily be spotted at crawl spaces, building foundations, basements, porch crevices and cracks and walkways near to big buildings. In tropical climates, they usually live in residential buildings and during the summer seasons, they can easily be expected to move outdoors.
The risk to Humans:
Human food flavor can get altered if their pungent secretion somehow gets in touch with it. If an area is infested with them, there can be a distinct and pungent odor of its secretion from the place. They are also known to be carriers of many food infections as they carry disease-spreading bacteria, like Salmonella through their legs and deposit it somewhere on food particles and that can be quite lethal. Cockroach body parts and faeces may cause asthma or allergic reactions in kids and children.
Their Control is Very Much needed:
Due to the kind of threats that they pose, it is very important to keep a check on them. During winters, these roaches may try to sneak inside a residence so that they can get warm climate and food inside a home. They can come in through drain connections, around plumbings, foundation openings, air ducts or under doors, etc. Insecticides can always be used to neutralize them. It can also be a nice idea to keep all probable places neat and clean so that there is no dirt and residual build up. It can also help to cover any crevice, fissure or crack so that there is no space available for them to hide easily. Checking everything before shifting it inside a home can also be a good way of preventing them from coming in. Eggs, nymphs, and cockroaches may remain hidden in furniture, suitcases, boxes, etc. and therefore, a visual check can be quite satisfactory to detect their presence.
It Also has Certain benefits:
It is not as though the insect has nothing to offer except being in the food chain. It is an active ingredient in conventional Chinese medicine. There are many references to it in the famous book Shennong Ben Cao Jing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine) and Compendium of Materia Medica. For many types of tissue repair and wound healing, ethanol extracts from the cockroach are used in China. It is called the Kang Fu Xin Ye. All these benefits from the medicine point to the fact that the insect can be quite useful for certain applications.
The American Cockroach is a typical breed within the cockroach family and can easily be found all around the globe. They mostly breed at places that are warm and slightly humid and therefore the body functioning has also evolved in the same way. They are also the largest known cockroaches in terms of size that may be present everywhere. They can practically stay anywhere. It is very important to keep them away from food as well as clothing or any other item that can be infected by it. Particular care should be given to children who can very easily get contaminated and infected by them. There are a lot of ways to keep them away, both chemically as well as naturally. It can always be a good idea to invest in a natural process so that there may not be any side effects after the removal or cockroach termination is over. However, depending upon an infestation, a call can be taken accordingly.