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Cockroaches are one of the biggest household pests and can carry a variety of diseases that negatively impact the health of you and your family. Sufficient knowledge about the insects is important when combating them, as they are not so easy to remove from your premises. To start, you need to know what cockroaches look like so you don't confuse them with other creepy crawlies. Only then can you initiate appropriate measures.


An essential element in combating cockroaches is to know whether they are insects from the cockroach family and specifically what species. Numerous insects, especially beetles, can stray into your living spaces and at first glance look like a cockroach work even though they aren't. Only the typical characteristics of the animals provide information about this, which can also help in combating them, since the individual species, despite their similarity, show significant differences in behavior and even in locomotion. There are a total of five taxa that are considered to be descendants of cultures in Central Europe and that settle in human dwellings:

  • German cockroach (Blattella germanica)
  • Common cockroach or oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis)
  • American cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
  • Australian cockroach (Periplaneta australasiae)
  • Furniture or brown-band cockroach (Supella longipalpa)

There are many other species of cockroaches that can be found in the home, but these are not ones that would intentionally nest in your living quarters. Taxa such as the Lapland forest cockroach (Ectobius lapponicus) or real forest cockroach (Ectobius sylvestris) clearly prefer to be in nature and only get into their premises by mistake. This is particularly evident from the fact that these cockroaches usually appear alone and are looking for an escape route to the outside. However, if you encounter any of the above species of cockroaches, you must act. You don't want to offer your house to the cockroaches as a settlement for the rapidly growing colony.

German cockroach: characteristics

The German cockroach is the most common species in Germany and is named differently depending on the region. It is one of the most important pests in the home and is not picky when it comes to food. They actually eat everything that gets between their mouthparts. Even carrion or their own species are a typical food source, especially when there is overpopulation. Damage to buildings is rather rare as they hardly get any nutrients from wood, paper or similar materials and are therefore mainly focused on the organic, easily consumable substances. The appearance of German cockroaches as follows:

  • Size: 13 to 16 millimeters
  • Color: brown
  • Decorated with dark breast stripes
  • nocturnal
  • can even climb smooth surfaces
  • Wings: as long as or longer than torso
  • airworthy: bad
  • omnivore
  • preferred temperature: 28°C to 30°C

It is not necessarily the largest of the cockroaches, but it can reproduce rapidly. A female lives between 100 and 200 days, depending on food availability and temperature. During this time, they can produce four to eight egg packets (oothecae) with an average of 35 eggs, for a total of 140 to 280 new potential cockroaches. Insect infestation is usually only noticed when it is too late. As soon as you notice the animals during the day and not at night, the infestation is already worrying. German cockroaches are considered dangerous disease vectors compared to the other species. Although the other taxa can also do this, this is particularly evident in the case of Blattella germanica. The following problems can occur:

  • anthrax
  • salmonellosis
  • tuberculosis
  • roundworms
  • worsens asthma
  • aggravates allergies
  • molds

However, this is rather rare in Germany and Central Europe, since cooler temperatures limit the activity of cockroaches.

notice: With a maximum length of eleven millimeters, the furniture cockroach is the smallest cockroach in Central Europe and is very similar in appearance to the German cockroach. If you encounter such a smaller cockroach, you must also use the same control measures as it behaves similarly to the German cockroach.

Common cockroach: characteristics

The common or oriental cockroach is particularly robust, can even withstand temperatures around 0 °C and is the most difficult of all cockroach species to control. Although they are a bit slower than other taxa, they can even withstand chemical control. They carry up to 170 eggs in their lifespan of up to nine months and can lay them even in cool temperatures. The appearance of the oriental cockroach is strongly reminiscent of large beetles:

  • Size: 25 to 30 millimeters
  • Color: black, brown
  • nocturnal
  • bad climbers due to weight
  • Wings: rudimentary (females), covering abdomen (males)
  • airworthy: no
  • omnivore
  • preferred temperature: 20°C to 29°C

In contrast to the German cockroaches, the Oriental ones transmit fewer diseases, but are a dangerous carrier of mold spores. Their size makes them easier to spot, but they are rarely found during the day.

American Cockroach: Characteristics

The American cockroach is the most airworthy species that can nest with you. Especially in warm temperatures, the animals can almost flap around your ears. Compared to the other species of cockroaches, they can make themselves much flatter and thus fit into almost any crack that is no narrower than three millimeters. They produce a similar number of eggs as the oriental cockroaches, but stay less in human dwellings and instead in damp rooms or hospitality establishments. Animal stables are also often affected. For this reason it is the rarest of the taxa mentioned. In addition, the Central European climate is not good for them, as they cannot withstand temperatures below 15 °C.

  • Size: 28 to 44 millimeters
  • Colour: reddish brown
  • nocturnal
  • can even climb smooth surfaces
  • Wings: longer or as long as torso
  • airworthy: yes
  • omnivore
  • preferred temperature: 25°C to 30°C

Damage to building structures is one of the major problems with the American cockroach. They can severely damage homes and even disable electronic devices because they like to stay in them because it is warm.

tip: If you find a slightly smaller variant of the American cockroach with yellow stripes on the wing edges, it's probably the Australian cockroach. Except for a few points and the size, it looks confusingly similar to the American one and even behaves in a similar way.

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