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Sometimes confused with black beetles from the garden, cockroaches are distinguished by their very long whip-like antennae, flat oval bodies and rapid, jerky gait. The adult German cockroach is 10 to 15mm long. The Common or Oriental cockroach is 20 to 24mm long. They are rarely able to survive out of doors in the British climate, but thrive around the heating ducts and boiler rooms of large centrally heated buildings e.g. hospital, bakeries, hotel and restaurant kitchens, laundries and blocks of flats. They cluster around pipes, stoves, sinks, especially in humid areas.
German cockroach carries its egg case, a small brown purse-like capsule, until the 30 or more nymphs hatch from it. German cockroaches can grow to full maturity in as little as six to twelve weeks.
The Oriental cockroach deposits its 13mm long egg capsule on packaging, sacking or in suitable dark crevices before the 16 or 18 nymphs hatch out. Oriental cockroaches grow by stages – from “mini-cockroach” nymphs to maturity in six to 12 months.
The adult American Cockroach is reddish brown in colour and is fully winged. Male wings extend beyond the tip of the abdomen, female wings do not. There is a pale brown to yellowish band around the edges of the pronotum. Females deposit eggs by dropping or gluing to a suitable surface, usually in a pocket of high humidity near a food surface. The young nymphs emerge from the egg case and feed on a wide variety of foodstuffs, eating the same materials as the older nymphs and adults. This species is not well-established in Britain yet, nor do they tend to tolerate the cold as well as some of there counterparts, however they can often be found in port areas due to being introduced off ships.
Cockroaches are found throughout Europe and the Americas, particularly in warm, humid climates.
All American, German and Oriental cockroaches eat any sort of food and emerging after dark, from their inaccessible harbourages to forage, contaminating food and food utensils, or food preparation surfaces as they go. They taint food with an obnoxious smell and may be carriers of various diseases, including serious food poisoning.