Cockroaches generally have a flattened, oval appearance, long spiny legs and long antennae. Color, which depends on species and age, ranges from a reddish brown to dark brown and from tan to black. The female cockroach deposits eggs in a reddish brown, bean-shaped capsule, which in some species is carried at the tip of her abdomen until the eggs are nearly ready to hatch. Nymphs (immature or young) resemble adults. The most noticeable difference is their size and the absence or length of wings.

The German cockroach is by far the most likely species to infest homes in Maine. It is about 1/2 inch long, light brown, with two lengthwise black stripes on the shield behind the head. The adults are fully winged but rarely fly. The nymphs resemble the adults but are smaller, darker and wingless.

Adults live an average of 20 weeks. The German cockroach has the shortest life cycle of house-infesting roaches (from egg to egg in three to six weeks). Egg capsules remain attached to the female until the eggs start to hatch. The female produces seven egg capsules. Each capsule can contain up to 48 eggs, more eggs per case than other species. Thus, one female can generate up to 35,000 offspring per year. This explains why large numbers of cockroaches sometimes seem to appear overnight. German cockroaches prefer kitchen and bathroom areas but will disperse to other rooms as their numbers increase.

Because of its size, the American cockroach is the species most likely to be recognized in Maine. Up to two inches long, this insect is chestnut colored with a light yellow band around the edge of the head shield. Males and females have well developed wings; they are capable of gliding flights, but they seldom fly. Nymphs are similar to adults except that they lack a complete set of wings.

It takes about 15 months for the nymph to mature to the adult stage. The adults will live for another 15 months. The female can lay anywhere from 6 to 14 egg cases in her lifetime. These egg cases can contain a maximum of 16 eggs. American cockroaches may be found in any room of the house.

Although cockroaches carry disease organisms, they are not known to transmit disease to humans. They do contaminate food and kitchen utensils with excrement and salivary secretions, leaving an unpleasant odor. Roaches move rapidly, disappearing quickly when discovered. They may be found wherever food, warmth, poor light and undisturbed hiding places are available. Empty beer, soft drink or juice bottles and cans are very attractive to roaches.

Sanitation is the cornerstone of effective, long-lasting roach control. Food material must be eliminated as much as possible and harborage areas sealed off where possible. Diligence and persistence are the keys to successful control of this pest.