Non-native invasive species present a serious threat to humans, wildlife, and the environment. It doesn?t matter whether they are weeds, rodents, or insects. They can upset nature?s delicate balance. The Turkestan cockroach (Shelfordella lateralis) is one of the latest unwelcome stowaways to make it to the United States, particularly in the American? Southwest, California, and southern states.
The sight of this insect is enough to send chills up your spine for a good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they can carry salmonella and E. coli. That?s saying nothing about the stench of an infestation or the effect on your home?s property value.
While they don?t bite, Turkestan cockroaches can harm your plants, too, as carriers of the Herpomyces fungi. Dealing with the Turkestan cockroach presents new challenges because of its life history and the conflicting value of people who are actually bringing this pest into the country.
Hitching a Ride
The Turkestan cockroach is native to northeastern Africa and central Asia, where it lives in shrublands and near dwellings. The insect first showed up stateside in a California military base in 1978. Researchers believe that the stowaway hitched a ride on equipment transported from Afghanistan or Asia. The rest, as they say, is history.
The cockroach soon spread throughout the South into Georgia, Arizona, and other states. It adapted well to life in America, taking up residence in compost piles, above-ground electrical boxes, and gardens. Interestingly, the Turkestan cockroach is muscling in on the territories of native species.
The adult Turkestan cockroach gets about 1.2 inches long. It is a rust-colored insect, hence, its nickname, the red runner cockroach. It differs from other insects of its kind in that the male has wings. On the other hand, females have shorter appendages and are dark brown to black.
Unless the pest control service rep or your shoe finds it first, the Turkestan cockroach can live up to 1.5 years.
Like many prey species, the Turkestan cockroach is nocturnal. You?ll likely notice them under streetlights since the males are attracted to illuminated areas. You may see them scurrying around the yard, too. If you find them during the day, you have a serious infestation on your hands.
Usually, these insects live strictly outdoors. However, they will get too close for comfort near your house. Occasionally, they may get inside your home. You?re more likely to see males instead of females since they can fly.
The bane with many pests is that they are often prolific breeders. Turkestan cockroaches are no exception. Unfortunately, they are more successful with a shorter growth period. That might explain why they outcompete the native species.
Females can hatch up to 14 offspring each time. During its lifetime, that can mean hundreds of more cockroaches.
There?s another odd twist on the Turkestan cockroach?s story that is both unexpected and will help cement its place in the United States.
This insect has found an unlikely benefactor?the pet industry. Over 4 million American households have at least one reptile in their homes. The Turkestan cockroaches, as it turns out, are better food for these pets.
Turkestan cockroaches don?t stink.
They?re easier for reptiles to catch.
They provide better nutrition and are high in vitamin B12.
They?re less expensive than crickets.
These things have fueled an internet e-commerce industry to sell these cockroaches to reptile enthusiasts who want to add some variety to the pet?s diet. Unfortunately, it also increases the pest?s range.
Signs of an Infestation
There?s an adage that says if you see one cockroach, there are probably hundreds that you don?t know exist in your yard. That?s true with this pest, too. Seeing them flying at night is another sure sign that you have an insect problem.
Getting an Infestation Under Control
Like others of its kind, Turkestan cockroaches will put up a formidable fight. The fact remains that they are so adaptable. They are also more resistant to some pesticides that can make it an even greater challenge.
The first step is to eliminate what is attracting the cockroaches to your home in the first place. All organisms need food, water, and shelter. That?s where you start by cleaning up any potential food sources, such as crumbs and other foodstuffs on floors or in the cabinets.
Don?t forget the garage, either. We recommend getting chew-proof containers for your pet?s food. You might also consider feeding your dog indoors and picking up his bowl when he finishes eating. Turkestan cockroaches are opportunistic feeders that will even eat their dead.
The next thing to do is stock up on roach traps and bait. You?ll have an easier time luring the cockroaches if the house, garage, and yard are clean. Another pesticide you can use is boric acid mixed with some sugar. It works by wreaking havoc with their GI tract, eventually killing them. However, it is mildly toxic to pets, so be careful where you use it.
If all else fails, call in the pros. They can help you identify potential hotspots and develop a plan with ways that you can get a problem under control.
Preventing Future Problems
The best solution is prevention. We suggest making it a house rule to clean the dishes after every meal instead of letting them sit in the sink. Likewise, take the trash out every night.
You should also take a walk around your house to find any cracks or crevices where the Turkestan cockroaches may hide. Don?t forget to check around the water meter or any other utility boxes. Another favorite hiding place is around openings for cables and pipes. We also suggest that you check any outdoor storage areas or woodpiles.
Then, take a look inside in the attic or any crawl spaces that are doing double-duty as cockroach havens. Do the same inspection around the windows and doors.
Controlling Turkestan cockroach infestation takes time and diligence to get rid of these dreaded pests. However, rest assured that you can win the war and take back your home.