Cockroaches are a major pest in Houston and can spread disease and cause asthma. Cockroaches thrive in an urban environment, where human building provide them with easy access to food and shelter.
There are several different species of cockroach in Houston, each with unique characteristics and behaviors.
A pest control method that works on one type of roach may not work on another, so identifying the species can be an important step towards exterminating them.
Despite their name, American cockroaches were originally introduced to this county from Africa several centuries ago, and have since become incredibly well established. American cockroaches thrive in hot, humid urban environments, making Houston pretty much perfect for them to live in. These roaches are the most commonly seen type of roaches in Houston, identifiable by their dark reddish brown bodies and lighter colored bands on the back near the head.
American cockroaches thrive in sewer systems and will often enter homes by crawling along plumbing and drainage pipes. Despite their voracious feeding habits, American cockroaches are most often drawn into homes seeking heat and moisture. Warm, damp areas, such as under kitchen sinks, are their preferred nesting ground.
Getting rid of American cockroaches can be an ongoing process. Because they are so prevalent in Houston, the threat of infestation is nearly constant, although the are more likely to be seen inside during cooler months or during prolonged droughts. Keeping homes clean and pipes well-sealed can help reduce the chances of roaches infesting the home, and there are a number of effective professional roach control treatments to eliminate infestations.
Asian cockroaches are a newcomer to Houston, first coming into the country through Florida in the 1980s. In appearance, they are essentially identical to German cockroaches, with the same light brown bodies colored with dark bands down the wings.
They fly, which German and American Cockroaches don't. If you're wondering if you have Asian or German cockroaches in your home, if they're flying, they're Asian cockroaches.
Asian cockroaches are capable of sustained flight and, like moths, are attracted to light. They will cluster around porch lights and fly in to homes following lights. Because of their attraction to light, many people have had the unpleasant experience of sitting under a lamp reading and suddenly having a large cockroach flying directly at their heads.
Asian cockroaches are most active in the late spring and early summer. While they generally prefer to stay outdoors, they can become established inside homes. Because of their ability to fly and their attraction to light, they are more likely than other cockroach species to end up directly interacting with people.
Because Asian cockroaches usually enter a house by flying, sprays and treatments on surfaces are almost completely ineffective in controlling them. There are some baits and traps they will respond to.
Brown-banded cockroaches are small roaches that are recognizable by their light brown bodies colored with a pair of blotchy, dark-brown bands that horizontally cross their wings. These cockroaches are less attracted to moisture than other types of roaches, and prefer dryer environments. Because they seek homes away from ground moisture, they are a particular problem in high-rise buildings. These roaches prefer dark, sheltered places, and are often found under furniture and in the upholstery, where they are known to lay their eggs. These roaches can spread disease and are a known allergen and can be a problem for anyone with asthma.
Brown-banded cockroaches can be difficult to control, especially in situations like apartment complexes where the infestation may be spread across multiple dwellings. Treating the entire building is usually required to eliminate these roaches.
Florida woods cockroaches, also commonly called palmetto bugs or tree roaches are some of the biggest cockroaches we see in Houston, commonly growing over 2 inches long. When they feel threatened, they'll spray a foul-smelling liquid like a skunk, earning one of their other names as stinking cockroaches. Fortunately, these roaches prefer to stay outside, seeking warm, sheltered places and bushy vegetation for their homes. They are nocturnal and capable of flying great distances.
Although they rarely enter homes, they can become a nuisance pest in outdoor spaces, particularly yards or patios surrounded by bushes. They will also occasionally infest outdoor sheds or garages. Keeping bushes well-trimmed and undergrowth well-maintained can help keep palmetto bug populations down.
German cockroaches are one of the most common types of cockroaches to infest homes in Houston. They have light brown bodies colored with dark bands down the wings. German cockroaches look almost identical to Asian cockroaches, although they lack the Asian cockroach's ability to fly long distances.
German cockroaches are particularly prone to carrying disease, since they commonly feed on refuse and garbage and can spread bacteria and germs. German cockroaches are also very fond of moisture, and will often come into bathrooms or kitchens. German cockroach mothers carry their eggs on their bodies until they hatch, which means that their eggs have a much higher survival rate than other cockroach species. This allows them to establish large populations relatively quickly.
Cleanliness is essential in keeping German cockroaches out of your home. Keeping surfaces clean, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, and promptly removing all garbage from the home are all effective ways to reduce the chances of infestation. However, since these pests are everywhere in Houston, even the cleanest home will occasionally see a roach. Fortunately, German cockroaches can be eliminated by many common professional roach control treatments.
Oriental cockroaches are highly glossy with a dark brown to black shell, with lighter colored legs colored with black splotches. Originally from the Middle East and North Africa, oriental cockroaches have become very successfully established in Houston, thriving in the area's high humidity. Unlike other roach species, oriental cockroaches are slow-moving and can't climb vertical services. When they invade homes, they tend to stay under sinks and refrigerators. Oriental cockroaches will usually find their way into homes through cracks or by climbing along pipes. They are most active during milder weather, being seen in Houston in the early spring and late fall
Oriental cockroaches can spread some unpleasant diseases. They pick up and transmit germs and bacteria and can also spread some species of parasitic worms.
Many over-the-counter roach control products are ineffective against these cockroaches, and usually professional treatment is required to get rid of an infestation.
Another invasive species from Asia, these large cockroaches are recognizable by their dark, shiny brown bodies and dark black heads. Adults can grow to over an inch in length. These roaches need a vey high humidity environment to survive, so naturally they are thriving in Houston.
Smoky brown cockroaches are mostly content to stay outdoors. They will sometimes infest outbuildings or garages and can often be seen on the exterior walls of homes. Smoky brown cockroaches will come inside and infest homes occasionally, usually attracted by a leak in a roof. Many roach control treatments are highly effective against them.
The Surinam cockroach is another invasive cockroach species, a medium-sized roach with dark brown wings and a darker head, most adult roaches are about 3/4 of an inch in length. These are burrowing cockroaches who spend a good amount of their time underground. Surinam cockroaches fortunately rarely interact with humans, and when found inside they are usually nesting in houseplants. They can also infest mulch beds and gardens.
Surinam roaches are relatively easy to keep out of your home. Check the soil of potted plants for the presence of roaches before bringing them into your home, and be aware of their presence on any gardening tools or cloning brought into the house. They are relatively easy to treat for and seldom pose a serious infestation problem.