See a Roach Kill a Cockroach
Motto of a Confessed Bug Killer
When my children were little I taught them well, "See a bug, kill a bug." Obviously, I was primarily referring to cockroaches, which here in the Southeastern part of the United States, can be a problem.
Today, as a Master Gardener in the state of Florida, I'm a little more enlightened about the facts that many insects are beneficial and others are harmful. Therefore, not all bugs that cross my path are automatically sentenced to death without a trial. My new motto is, "Know the bug before you kill it."
To know the Asian cockroach, is to aspire to become a mass murderer. This insect pest is primarily a lawn pest that makes having fun outside in the evening miserable. Additionally, it is a constant battle to keep them outdoors once they have infested your lawn and shrubbery.
I'm No Sissy Girl
Just for the record -- Growing up in the Anza Borego desert on a ranch, I'm no sissy girl. There it wasn't uncommon to encounter scorpions, bats, and rattlesnakes on a daily basis. Insects were pale colored in the kaleidoscope of things that struck terror in my girlhood world. Spiders were my only concern in the desert.
Later, I first met the Asian cockroach's cousin, the German cockroach as a young bride living in our nation's capitol. I was not impressed, especially when our first apartment was infested with these disgusting little roaches. This is probably when I was first aware that I was a bug murderer and was proud of it.
The roaches were so bad in our apartment complex that our neighbors on our floor got together and had a killing spree, that netted several two gallon coffee cans of bugs. These bug bodies were promptly dumped on the complex manager's desk as proof that his extermination program wasn't working.
Fast forward ten years later and I was living in Orlando, Florida. My husband at the time, was a chemist turned physicist. He was vehemently opposed to using any kind of insecticide for any reason. This presented a life challenge, as he was also a devoted house flipper, long before the concept had a name and was popular.
Furthermore, he would move us into a house to renovate the house, then put it up for sale, and move the family to the next project. There were times when it seemed like we were living more outdoors than indoors. One of those early house projects was on a heavily treed palmetto bug infested property.
A palmetto bug is the common name for a Florida woods cockroach that commonly lives in the bark of dead trees, wet leaves, and woodpiles. If I hadn't learned to hate roaches before, this infestation of these flying pests put me way over the top, when it came to mayhem and hysterics. Let's just say, somewhere in a Florida trash heap is the bed I screamed and danced on till it broke -- all because one of these roaches flew onto our bed. That cockroach had a short life. Not normally an indoor cockroach, this invader is one of the larger varieties of cockroaches. After that episode, the exterminator visited much to my husband's chemist background horror.
Winner of the Race!
Cockroaches can run an amazing three miles per hour. That means if they were the size of a human, they would be able to run approximately two hundred miles per hour. So, it shouldn't surprise any of us that cockroaches are the fastest of all insects.
The Invasion of the Asian Cockroach
At first, although I wasn't aware of it, the Asian cockroach and I both arrived in Central Florida about the same time in 1986. Back then, I was immediately much more concerned with the Palmetto bug. They were everywhere and a force to be reckoned with.
With that background, the reasons the Asian cockroach strikes ire and murderous treachery in my heart is clear. They have very similar habits and habitats to the Palmetto bug -- mainly that both fly and are attracted to light. This is not usual behavior for cockroaches. This behavior means that they spread out over the country very easily, and that getting inside our houses is easier than with its "crawling only" cousins.
It is believed the Asian cockroach originally hitched a ride to to Central Florida from Japan, perhaps among cargo offloaded at one of our ports. Asian cockroaches were first noticed in Lakeland, Florida. Afterwards, nearby counties began to also be infested. Now, the Asian cockroach can be found in most southeastern states, and is spreading westward into Texas.
Characteristics of the Asian Cockroach
Many of its characteristics are similar to the annoying German cockroach. However, a German cockroach prefers to live inside homes, whereas the Asian cockroach likes the great outdoors. That doesn't mean that you won't find them in your home if the infestation is bad enough. It can be identified and distinguished from the German cockroach by:
- The fact that it can fly.
- It's wings are longer but narrower.
- There is a difference in the groove in one segment in the abdomen of the female (8th) and in a small gland of the males.
- It prefers to be outside.
- It is attracted to light.
- It is not as dark brown colored as the German cockroach.
That said, even experts have a difficult time telling the German cockroach and the Asian cockroach apart. Furthermore, they can interbreed with the German cockroach.
Note: Scientific name -- Blattella ashinal Mizukubo.
Habits and Habitat of the Asian Cockroach
- Because the Asian cockroach is a strong flyer, it can get into your house quite easily.
- It can fly over 120 feet in one flight.
- Be aware that they are very active at dusk.
- They launch themselves off the tips of leaves and the tops of blades of grass.
- They are attracted to light colored surfaces and light itself.
- They will invade any entry way to your house.
- They will invade electronics, such as your television and computer.
- They feed on filth and then drag it through our food and over home surfaces.
- Individuals who are sensitive or allergic to German cockroach will have the same problem with these pests.
- Thrive in shaded areas with leaf or plant litter.
- You can find them in pastures.
- You can find them along roadways.
- You can find them shaded areas of high grasses and weeds.
- You can find them in citrus groves.
- You can find them in strawberry fields.
Do the Bug Math
In a little over twenty years, the Asian cockroach population is estimated at about a quarter of million bugs per acre. How could that be? Take a look at the cockroach life cycle:
- Each females lays about 150 eggs in its lifetime.
- It only takes those eggs sixty days to mature.
- 22 years of the Asian cockroach multiplying.
Asian Cockroach -- the Strawberry Farmer's Enemy
This insect feeds on strawberries and is ruining strawberry growers in Florida and elsewhere in the Southeast. Strawberries are a important crop in many parts of Florida. It's currently being reported that more this pest is being recorded up to 54,000 per acre in some strawberry fields.
It bites the strawberry fruit, which causes it to rot. Thus, ruining commercial strawberry grower's crops.
The Enemy of My Enemy Is Your Friend, But My Enemy?
While farmers in Florida and other parts of the South are battling the Asian cockroach, as a pest that is destroying strawberry crops -- it's hard to believe that the spread of this pest to Texas in 2006, has had a different reaction. In Texas, the Asian cockroach is seen as an ally.
Cotton farmers, soybean, cabbage, tomato, and corn farmers are all looking in it's direction to help them with a major crop enemy -- the army-worm (bollworm).
With those crops, the Asian cockroach eats the the eggs and never damages the crop. So, the enemy of the strawberry farmer and the homeowner, is the friend of Texas farmers. Once seen as a harmful insect pest, now possibly a beneficial insect in some settings.
Samurai vs. Cockroach
What Can We Do to Exterminate This Pest?
Florida growers are already developing protection and containment plans. The best method for eliminating this pest around your home is prevention.
For the general public, we can:
- Reduce leaf litter near our homes
- Change the lighting around your home
- Use sodium vapor lights or yellow outdoor lights
- Place indoor lights away from windows and doors
- Keep shades, drapes, and blinds closed at night
- Keep screens in good repair
- Unfortunately, accept the inevitable, some unwanted insects are here to stay. This fact of life includes the Asian cockroach.
- Do as much as we can to promote cockroach control. Remember while the Asian cockroach will die from most pesticides, it's still difficult to control because of its sheer numbers living outside your home.
Killing a Cockroach
Pesticides for Cockroach Control
Obviously, if you have an Asian cockroach problem, outdoor insecticides are preferred to help eliminate the need for use of insecticides inside the home. If you do decide to resort to mass murder of this insect, here are some suggestions:
Recommended insecticides for homeowners in bait, combo, aerosol, and surfaces, for use inside:
- Combat Plus
- Combat Quick Kill Formula (Roach)
- Combat Source Kill 1
- Ortho Roach Ant and Spider Killer
- Ortho Ant B-Gone
- Ortho Flying Insect Killer 1
- Ortho Home Defense Perimeter & Indoor Insect Killer
Recommended insecticides for homeowners outdoors:
- Ortho Termite & Carpenter Ant Killer
- Bayer Advanced Lawn & Garden Multi-Insect Killer
- Bayer Power Force Multi-Insect Killer Ready-to-Spread Granules
- Bayer Power Force Multi-Insect Killer Ready-to-Spray