Cockroach Infestation: How to Tell If You Have One (and How To Fix It!)

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: February 1, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Kamonkanok
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Cockroaches are synonymous with filth and disease; infestations can be a nightmare for home and business owners. Not only do cockroaches live in our homes, but they also live outside. Roaches occupy every continent but Antarctica. They’ve been around for over 300 million years, and in that time, they’ve barely changed. With over 4,500 species of cockroach worldwide, and scientists discovering more every year, it’s no wonder that a few species make their way into our homes.

Less than thirty known species of roach come into contact with humans outside of zoo or exotic pet store settings. Unfortunately, these species can cause a lot of damage to homes and businesses, and they can be extremely difficult to get rid of. 

Here, we’ll go over all the dangers of a cockroach infestation. Then, we’ll analyze the signs you should watch out for—including live and dead roaches, as well as young roaches. Finally, we’ll determine whether or not you may have a cockroach problem, and not even know it.

The Dangers of a Roach Infestation

Cockroaches are harbingers of disease and pathogens. Their shed exoskeletons and feces can trigger asthma in otherwise healthy people; a significant cockroach infestation can be especially unhealthy for housebound people. Roaches also leave behind stains and bad smells when they feed, breed, and run around the house. If they, or their waste, come into contact with food, humans can develop food-poisoning-like symptoms that may become severe enough to warrant a hospital visit.

Additionally, cockroach feces and urine can damage and even destroy homes and everything in them. Left unchecked, a cockroach infestation can rot away wooden floors, destroy furniture, and even spread to mattresses and clothing. Many roaches lay their egg cases in safe, warm places like furniture and bedding. This can pose major hazards to occupants, and disgust homeowners for a lifetime.

5 Signs of a Cockroach Problem

Seeing even a single cockroach can lead you to wonder whether there are more that you can’t see. Here, we’ll take a look at five of the most common signs of a roach infestation, and what you can do about them.

What Do Cockroaches Eat-pest control
Cockroach infestations are diagnosed by the presence of roaches, roach nymphs, droppings, stains, and bad smells.

Elnur/Shutterstock.com

1. Adult Cockroaches

The most obvious sign of a cockroach infestation is the presence of adult roaches. Cockroaches are medium-sized insects; home invading species range from ¼ inch to 2 inches long. They’re red-brown to nearly black in color, and have antennae longer than their entire body. They’ve got six legs with stiff spikes on them, and heads covered by a shield-like pronota. Adult roaches are often confused with other insects, like beetles, bed bugs, and water bugs.

If you see an adult cockroach in your home or business, it’s important to note where you saw it. Just because you’ve only seen one roach, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t more.

2. Baby Cockroaches

Baby Cockroach - Cockroach Lifecycle
Cockroaches breed frequently and begin their lifecycle anew.

VectorMine/Shutterstock.com

After adult roaches, the next biggest sign of a cockroach infestation is the presence of baby cockroaches, or, nymphs. Nymphs are the cockroach equivalent of children and teenagers. When they’re born, they’re very pale white and are often mistaken for albino cockroaches. As they grow, they molt their skins up to eight times, getting darker in color with every molt. 

Cockroach nymphs in your home may be indicative that not only do you have roaches, but you also have breeding roaches. Each nymph has the potential to reach adulthood, and create more cockroach larvae. Since nymphs are the most populous life-stage of cockroaches, it’s likely that you’ll see more nymphs than adults.

3. Cockroach Eggs

Baby Cockroach - Cockroach Egg
A dead cockroach next to a cockroach egg.

Georgy Dzyura/Shutterstock.com

All cockroaches come from eggs encased in egg cases. These egg cases may be deposited in safe places like the undersides of electrical appliances or inside furniture, or they may be hauled around with the female. Some cockroach species even keep the egg case inside, and actually give birth to live young.

Egg cases are a good indication of a cockroach infestation. Often, they look like small, dried kidney beans, or dark brown grains of rice. Egg cases are most often found in cockroach ‘nests’—places where roaches congregate because they’re warm, damp, and close to food and water. 

4. Cockroach Poop

Cockroach Poop - Cockroach next to Feces
Egg cases, feces, shed exoskeletons, and remains, are all signs of a cockroach infestation

iStock.com/Kamonkanok

Cockroach feces, unlike mouse feces, can look very similar to ground black pepper or ground coffee. Bigger species produce larger feces that look like tiny, black, seeds. The extremity of a cockroach infestation can often be determined by just how bad the cockroach waste is. Poop may be found anywhere the cockroach has been, but will be worst in nests.

If you find cockroach poop, you’ve got an infestation. Your first step may be to call a professional pest exterminator or to purchase bait traps and pesticides. Use extreme caution if you decide to eliminate the roaches on your own; pesticides are toxic to both humans and pets.

5. Stains and Foul Odors

The final sign of a cockroach infestation comes in the form of bad smells and stains. The species of cockroach that infest homes are filthy indeed; the smell of a cockroach nest is often intense, oily, and distinct. 

After you’ve eliminated your roach problem, you’ll want to thoroughly clean all areas exposed to the cockroaches. If the problem is bad enough, you may even want to call in a professional cleaning crew. Be sure to wear breathing protection when you clean out the stains and cockroach leavings; all aspects of a cockroach infestation can cause asthma or allergy-like symptoms.

Can You Have Roaches and Not Know It?

Yes, you can have a cockroach infestation without even knowing it. Often, seeing that first roach is just the tip of the iceberg. Cockroaches are good at hiding themselves, and usually only come out at night. If you see even one cockroach, take the proper precautions, and either call a professional, or work fast to deal with the infestation.

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