Oriental cockroaches, also known as waterbugs, are one of the most reviled household pests. While they don’t directly harm human health like some insect pests, oriental cockroaches can still cause significant problems if left uncontrolled. This article will explore why you should take oriental cockroach infestations seriously and the health risks associated with waterbugs.
What Are Oriental Cockroaches?
Oriental cockroaches (Blatta orientalis) are large, dark brown to black cockroaches that get their name from their origins in the Middle East and Asia. They are also referred to as black beetles or waterbugs since they prefer damp, humid environments.
Adult oriental cockroaches grow to be around 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. The females have short wings that don’t cover their abdomen, while males have longer wings that extend just past the abdomen. Nymphs are smaller, wingless, and a lighter brown color.
Oriental cockroaches prefer dark, moist areas and are most active at night. During the day, they hide in damp cracks and crevices. Common hiding places include:
- Drains and pipes
- Basements and crawl spaces
- Around hot water heaters and washing machines
- Inside refrigerator motors
- Under sinks and toilets
- Behind wall voids and cabinets
Why Oriental Cockroaches Are Problematic
While oriental cockroaches don’t bite humans or directly transmit diseases, they can still cause a number of problems when they infest homes and businesses:
Oriental cockroaches emit a foul, musty odor from their scent glands. Large infestations can make basements and other areas smell strongly of rotting garbage. The scent tends to linger even after the roaches have been exterminated.
The saliva, feces, and shed exoskeletons of roaches can trigger allergic reactions and aggravate asthma in sensitive individuals. Debris from just a few roaches can build up over time.
Oriental cockroaches are especially attracted to starchy foods and grease inside kitchens. As nocturnal scavengers, waterbugs crawl over dirty dishes, utensils, countertops, and other food preparation surfaces at night. This can lead to food contamination and increase the risks of food-borne illnesses.
Large groups of oriental cockroaches produce a organic waste and oily secretions that stain surfaces. Infestations around leaking pipes or drains can contribute to water damage and mold growth inside walls or flooring.
Waterbugs are attracted to the warmth of motors and electronics. When they get inside appliances, roach secretions and droppings can short-circuit breakers and wiring. This fire hazard makes roach infestations near critical equipment especially problematic.
Health Risks from Oriental Cockroaches
By themselves, oriental cockroaches pose minimal health risks to humans. However, their presence often indicates unsanitary conditions and the potential presence of other disease-carrying pests:
Indirect Disease Transmission
Oriental cockroaches feed on decaying organic matter, human sewage, and other disease-ridden materials. They can then physically transport germs onto food surfaces, increasing the risk of secondary contamination. These hitchhiking microbes include:
- Salmonella – Causes gastroenteritis
- Staphylococcus – Can lead to food poisoning
- Streptococcus – Causes sore throats and skin infections
- Hepatitis virus – Causes liver inflammation
Where oriental cockroaches thrive, other filth-loving pests like rats and mice are often present. These pests can directly spread dangerous diseases not carried by insects, including:
- Leptospirosis – Bacterial infection from rat urine
- Hantavirus – Rare but deadly rodent-borne disease
- Rat-bite fever – Bacterial infection from rodent bites or scratches
Oriental cockroach presence may also indicate suitable conditions for mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and other disease vectors in areas with poor sanitation.
Seeing large oriental cockroaches scurrying through living spaces can negatively impact mental health and quality of life. People report feeling anxious, stressed, or “crawling” sensations after sighting roaches. Severe infestations may make it difficult to relax at home.
Preventing Oriental Cockroach Infestations
The key to keeping oriental cockroaches under control is denying them access to food, water, and shelter. Try these IPM (integrated pest management) tips to deter roaches:
Fix any water leaks and avoid excess standing water. Thoroughly dry out damp basements or crawlspaces. Ventilate kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Dehumidifiers can help lower humidity under sinks and appliances.
Don’t give roaches places to hide. Eliminate piles of wood, paper, or debris they can use as habitat. Clean behind appliances and under sinks regularly.
Keep Surfaces Clean
Vacuum and mop floors often to remove crumbs and residue. Wash dishes and wipe down counters and appliances daily. Take out garbage frequently. Roaches won’t stick around without easy food sources.
Use Boric Acid
Apply boric acid powder along baseboards, under appliances, and into cracks and crevices. The fine powder sticks to roaches’ bodies and ingested during grooming.
Fix Cracks and Crevices
Seal any entry points around drains, pipes, windows, doors, and walls. Caulk and weatherstrip gaps to deny hidden access.
Work with a Pest Control Professional
For established oriental cockroach populations, contact a qualified exterminator. They have commercial-grade insecticides and gel baits that offer more effective control than DIY methods alone. Be sure to follow all preparation instructions to facilitate treatment.
With diligence and preventative maintenance, homes and businesses can stay roach-free and avoid the many problems associated with oriental cockroach infestations. Don’t tolerate waterbugs – take action to protect your property today.