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Cockroaches live in a wide range of environments around the world. Pest species of cockroaches
adapt readily to a variety of environments, but prefer warm conditions found within buildings. Many tropical
species prefer even warmer environments and do not fare well in the average household. The spines on the legs were
earlier considered to be sensory, but observations of their locomotion on sand and wire meshes have demonstrated
that they help in locomotion on difficult terrain. The structures have been used as inspiration for robotic
Cockroaches leave chemical trails in their feces as well as emitting airborne pheromones for
swarming and mating. Other cockroaches will follow these trails to discover sources of food and water, and also
discover where other cockroaches are hiding. Thus, cockroaches can exhibit emergent behavior in which group or
swarm behavior emerges from a simple set of individual interactions.
Anyone who has lived in Florida,
even for a short time, has probably come in contact with one of the most unpopular and prominent of Florida
bugs, the cockroach. There are about 3,500 cockroach species world-wide, about 70 of which are found in the
United States. The mere sight of this so-tough-it-can-withstand-nuclear-war critter usually has one reaching for
a rolled-up magazine or shoe ASAP. Also known as water bugs or palmetto bugs, this easily recognizable Florida
bug is an unwelcome sight for anyone.
Typically reddish-brownish in color, these nasty pests can grow up to 1.5 inches in length, and prefer warm, moist,
and dark areas. They have an oval shaped and flat-bodied, with a pronotum, or shield-like covering, which projects
over their head. Both the male and female are fully winged. Although they are able to fly short distances, they
seldom do, preferring to let their six long legs do the scurrying when making a run for cover, which anyone who has
surprised one feeding knows.
Females produce their skittering spawn from purse-shaped egg capsules, which are formed at a rate of about one per
week until 15-90 have been produced. Each capsule contains 14-16 eggs, which produce
grayish-brown nymphs. These nymphs quickly begin feeding, and although their appearance and behavior is similar to
the adults, they are smaller and don’t have wings. Newly molted nymphs are white, but darken to their normal color
within a few hours.
Although cockroaches can be found in groups in their daytime hiding areas, known as harborages, or feeding in
groups at night, cockroaches are generally not social insects as ants or wasps are. They tend to behave in an
individual or non-social manner, but often form small clusters. Cockroaches aren’t picky eaters, though they tend
to favor decaying matter, and have been known to snack on sweet, starchy and greasy foods. As scavengers, the
cockroach is an opportunistic and omnivorous feeder. They have been known to eat just about anything: paper, boots,
pet food, book bindings, cloth, leather, glue, even other roaches.
Most Floridians are familiar with the American roach, which is the largest pest species of cockroach. They are
reddish-brown with light brown markings around and behind its head, as well as two dark spots on the pronotum that
look like eyes. Other cockroach species, such as the Smokey Brown roach, Brown Banded roach, Australian roach,
German roach and Asian roaches are common in Florida as well.
For those who want to eliminate cockroaches without a mess, spray them with rubbing alcohol. Cockroaches take in
oxygen through their permeable exoskeletons, and the alcohol suffocates them!
information derived in part or in whole from Trueman's Scientific Guide to PMO 6th ED