With uncounted trillions of cockroaches walking the earth, large percentages are never seen by humans. Most cockroaches live in forests, caves, burrows, and brush. The mammoth rhinoceros cockroach, native to Australia can be more than 3 inches long and live up to ten years. These 1.5-ounce behemoths burrow more than three feet in the soil and are not considered pests. The giant hissing cockroaches of Madagascar, which are an inch wide, love rotting logs in tropical forests.
While these fascinating roaches make for great nature programs on TV, the world’s most reviled cockroaches are another story. Pest cockroaches are of several species including the American cockroach, the German cockroach, the Asian cockroach, the Oriental cockroach, and the brown-banded cockroach. These pesky pests live in kitchens, basements, bedrooms, bathrooms, garages, boats, trucks, restaurants, grocery stores, and any other spot where food is available. Roaches love warm, damp places and in the summer they congregate in sewers, dumps, outbuildings, wood piles. The black cockroach likes things a little cooler and might spend its time around the toilet, shower, or sink.
Cockroaches are nocturnal and spend their days sleeping in narrow cracks and crevices. This behavior is motivated by the fact that the critters are what scientists call thigmotropic. This means they like their bodies to be in solid contact with firm surfaces. This drives them to squeeze into tiny places. The smallish German cockroach can fit into a crack the size of dime, while its bigger American cousin can jam itself into a space no thicker than a quarter.
When the sun goes down, cockroaches leave their cozy crevices in search of food. At this point they exhibit much activity, running hither and yon in search of food. Cockroaches are also fast—very fast. A cockroach can detect a threat by sensing changes in air current. Within milliseconds the roach can achieve speeds of 2.6 feet per second. And they steer better than a race car. A cockroach can turn on a dime while running at full speed.
If your home happens to be a cockroach habitat, you can’t outrun them and probably won’t catch them before they disappear into a tiny crack under your baseboards. And if you see one, it’s possible that hundreds cockroaches are colonizing and proliferating in you habitat.