Interneet Helps Turkestan Cockroaches Spread US
December 9, 2013

Internet Helps Turkestan Cockroaches Get A Foothold In US

[ Watch the Video: What New Cockroach Is Making Waves In The Southwest? ]

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Popular among reptile breeders in need of a live food source, the Turkestan cockroach has proliferated in urban areas of the southwestern United States thanks to sales over the Internet, according to a new report in Journal of Economic Entomology.

"This may be the first time that an invasive urban pest species is widely distributed via the Internet and through the sale of live insects,” the study authors wrote.

The Turkestan cockroach was first seen in the United States in 1978 at Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrope, CA. Today, they are widely available for purchase on the Internet and reptile breeders are said to prefer the species because they are easily maintained, incapable of climbing smooth surfaces, breed in large numbers, and are easy to handle. In urban areas of the southwestern US, the Turkestan cockroach appears to be rapidly replacing the oriental cockroach.

In the paper, the authors report on the roaches’ background and compare it to the closely-related oriental cockroach.

The cockroach life cycle begins with an adult female producing an egg capsule, called an ootheca, from the tip of the abdomen. While some species carry the ootheca until about the time the eggs hatch, others carry it for a shorter time before laying it in a spot where it incubates for weeks or months. After hatching, young cockroaches undergo a gradual metamorphosis, which includes several moltings. Immediately after molting, the insects are white – their outer covering darkening as it hardens, typically within hours.

According to the report authors, the success of Turkestan cockroaches, compared to oriental cockroaches, can be attributed to the shorter developmental period of the nymphs of Turkestan cockroaches and the adult female Turkestan cockroaches’ ability to produce considerably more eggs than oriental cockroaches. Turkestan cockroaches also have a faster life cycle than the oriental cockroach, becoming adults after five molts, compared to the 7 to 10 molts for oriental cockroaches.

With Turkestan cockroaches still being relatively new to the United States, the report authors said they are unsure how they will continue to spread via the Internet and other means.

"It will be interesting to follow the spread of the Turkestan cockroach in the United States," they wrote.

Outside of a reptile breeders’ terrarium, Turkestan cockroaches can be found in cracks between blocks of poured concrete, compost piles, leaf litter, and potted plants. The roaches are often mistaken for other cockroach species, particularly the female. They can be distinguished from the oriental cockroach by the off-white markings behind their heads and around their short wings. Males can be confused with the American cockroach. However, they are smaller and are distinguished by their yellowish-tan wings with off-white stripes along the edges.

Cockroaches tend to be nocturnal, preferring dark, warm areas and narrow spaces where surfaces touch them on both sides of their body. Cockroaches also tend to gather in corners and travel along the edges of walls or other surfaces. Considered pests, cockroach populations can be easily monitored through commercially available traps.