With the possible exception of invasive ladybugs that overwinter within homes and maybe that friendly ant from Honey I Shrunk the Kids, there does not exist a single insect pest that is commonly regarded as charming and approachable. Some of the most repellent insect pests of homes and buildings include bed bugs, house flies, silverfish, fleas, flour beetles, clothes moths, earwigs, and brown marmorated stink bugs, just to name a few. However, none of these insect pests come close to matching the collective disgust humanity has reserved for cockroaches. Numerous scientific surveys of American citizens show that cockroaches are the most reviled insects in the country, as well as one of the most commonly feared arthropods. While experts claim that it is irrational to harbor a pronounced fear of cockroaches, it’s certainly not irrational to find the inconceivably resilient pests repulsive.
Historically, the insect order Blattodea included only cockroach species, but due to taxonomic revisions and advanced DNA sequencing technology, it was recently confirmed that termites evolved from primitive wood-eating cockroach species 170 million years ago. Because of this, termites are now coupled with cockroaches in the Blattodea order, rendering the previous termite order, Isoptera, retired. Of the more than 5,000 cockroach species that have been documented worldwide, only around 30 species are considered indoor pests. The vast majority of cockroach species inhabit tropical regions around the world where they perform an ecologically beneficial service by breaking down virtually all types of organic waste, most notably dead plant matter that cannot be digested by the vast majority of living organisms. However, a small number of synanthropic cockroach pest species in the US are known for carrying dozens of disease pathogens including E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus, making their reputation as disgusting pests well earned.
Cockroaches can also spread food-borne illness by urinating and defecating on human foods, and most alarming of all, it is now understood that cockroaches serve as indoor allergens that contribute to the development of childhood asthma. The Food and Drug Administration has deemed the four most common cockroach pest species in the US to be a significant source of food-borne pathogens. These species include American, German, Oriental, and brown-banded cockroaches. While American and Oriental cockroaches are known for traveling between sewer systems and indoor dwellings, the German and brown-banded species dwell solely indoors where they rely entirely on humans for the resources they need to survive. Although cockroach pests are smeared in disease-causing microorganisms, there does not exist any documented case of a human contracting disease from pathogens carried by cockroaches. That being said, entomologists seem to agree that the four cockroach pests named above are among the very few insect species that could be eradicated from the planet without triggering negative ecological consequences.
Have you ever found cockroach pests within your bathroom tub?