Lakeside Nature Center

Lakeside Nature Center

Wood Cockroach

It all started the very day we were given the keys to our "new home" in the country.  This day was spent cleaning and preparing the house for us to move into.  Picture this if you will..I am in the kitchen scrubbing the floor, wiping down walls etc. I turn around to see a horrifying sight! There is a creature on MY counter, that looked as if he owned the place!  This was the biggest bug I'd ever seen. Bugs the size of Buick's outside are one thing, but when they take up residence in your kitchen that is something else entirely!!!  What to do? Well...I screamed, naturally.  What insect could have caused so much commotion? Why it was a "Cockroach" That's right...a cockroach.

My fear led to curiosity, which led to respect of these unique creatures. I've learned that although these guys can reach 2 inches in length, they will not breed in your house.  They simply become disoriented and wander about aimlessly, ending up inside our homes. The males are attracted to lights at night, so leaving your porch lights on can result in these guys following you inside uninvited. They typically congregate in large numbers in hollow trees where they breed and a live.

"Wood Cockroaches" are the cousins to the more infamous roach that sometimes invades our homes and pantries. Unlike that particular roach, wood cockroaches do not spread disease, they do not contaminate food, and if left inside will die in only a few days from lack of moisture.

After breeding in May and June the nymph will over-winter under the bark of trees where it will finish out its growth cycle which usually takes one year, but can take up to 2 years.  After reaching adult size they typically live several months.

This cockroach is quite common, and found only in the eastern 2/3 of the United States. They belong to the family Blattellidae in the order Dictyoptera. They are mostly dark brown with pale whitish to yellowish margins on the edges of the elytra (wing coverings). Adult males fly, but females are flightless.  I imagine the massive numbers of these flying around in the spring are males looking for love.

Over the years the Wood Cockroach and I have reached a truce. If you can manage to overcome your natural aversion to roaches these insects are really quite fascinating in their resilience and ability to survive almost anything. They are able to live up to  nine days without a head, they simply starve to death. It is predicted that in the event of a nuclear war they would be the sole survivors.

(Story and photos by Shelly Cox, FOLNC Volunteer)

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