The name "cockroach" comes from the Spanish word for cockroach, cucaracha, transformed by English folk etymology into "cock" and "roach". Cockroaches have been on earth for more than 300 million years and are excellent at adapting to new environments. There are over 4,000 species of cockroaches in the world and over 60 species in the United States. Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources, such as the glue from the back of postage stamps. Some can go without air for 45 minutes. In one experiment, cockroaches were able to recover from being submerged underwater for half an hour.
These pests can bring a variety of disease-causing germs into your home that can trigger allergic reactions and transmit illnesses such as food poisoning, hepatitis and diarrhea.
Cockroaches have flat, oval-shaped bodies. The usual suspects when it comes to cockroach pests can range in size from ½-inch to 3 ½-inch depending on the species. Since they are nocturnal, they spend the day hiding in tiny cracks and crevices. Cockroaches seek out dark sheltered areas with plenty of moisture such as the motors of refrigerators and dishwashers, in the insulated area of stoves, along the gaskets around refrigerator and freezer doors and behind the kick plates under base cabinets. Cockroaches will fit themselves in very tight cracks and feel most secure in spaces where they are being touched by surfaces on all sides.
There are four species of cockroaches in California that are common household pests. There are other species, but they mostly stay outside. The four pest species are Brown-banded cockroach (Supella longipalpa), German cockroach (Blatella germanica), Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis) and the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). The American roach is called the Palmetto Bug in Florida.
German roaches, Oriental roaches and American roaches all originated in North Africa. German and Oriental roaches traveled on Phoenician or Greek vessels to Asia Minor and areas around the Black Sea. Then they moved from Russia to Western Europe and eventually to America. It is thought the American cockroaches came to America from Africa on slave ships.