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Multiple cockroach species are major indoor pests in Massachusetts, and while they are all equally ugly, they are not necessarily easy to tell apart. The four primary cockroach pest species in the United States include American, German, Orienal, and brown-banded cockroaches, and each of these species inhabit Massachusetts. Although three out of four of these cockroach species have been structural pests in the US for centuries, they are not native to North America. All cockroach pest species originate from tropical regions, most likely in Africa or southeast Asia, but today’s indoor pest species have benefitted from living in close association with humans for centuries. This is why cockroaches are skilled at thriving in large numbers within homes while remaining out of human sight. This is especially true of the most commonly controlled cockroach pest, Blattella germanica, or the German cockroach, as the species is more commonly known.

The German cockroach is one of the very few arthropod pest species that has evolved to live solely in homes and buildings, as they are now entirely dependent on human activity in order to survive. The brown-banded cockroach is the only other domestic cockroach pest species, but they account for a small minority of indoor infestations that occur in Massachusetts. German cockroaches do not need a substantial amount of food to establish thriving infestations, as just a couple of crumbs from the floor each day is adequate to feed an adult specimen. If it were not for discarded food scraps, runaway crumbs, or even organic waste like excrement and dead organisms, the German cockroach would not be able to sustain itself as a species.

While no amount of human effort will prevent German cockroaches from finding adequate food within homes, human environments can be hazardous to roaches due to heavy human traffic. Because of this, females of this species remain in constant contact with their eggs right up until they hatch, as depositing eggs even in seemingly safe locations may result in the death of offspring. This maternal behavior is unusual for cockroaches, as American, Oriental and even the domestic brown-banded cockroach species deposit their egg sacs (oothecae) in varying indoor areas long before the emergence of their babies, or “nymphs.”

Have you ever encountered a female cockroach carrying her oothecae?