A cockroach is one of the oldest species on earth. They have not changed in the process of evolution. It is one of the groups of insects widespread around the globe. Cockroaches are among the most enduring insects on the planet. People have struggled with them for many centuries. Science describes 3,600 species. The insects are heat-loving and inhabit mainly heated buildings. They breed all year round actively. The insects are well-oriented in space. Cockroaches label their shelters and the way to them with trace pheromones. The insects are practically omnivorous (eat everything except glass and metal). They eat both fresh and spoiled food. Cockroaches can eat non-traditional products: pepper, ink, leather.
A cockroach is an agent of more than 40 different kinds of pathogens (causing intestinal infections, urinary tract infections, hepatitis), as well as helminth eggs. In addition, cockroaches can provoke allergies and asthma attacks. When a cockroach dies, it leaves a skeleton, which consists of chitin. A mixture of chitin and house dust causes asthma. There have been cases when hungry insects bit babies’ ears, nose, and lips.
History of Cockroaches
A cockroach appeared when there was neither man nor birds and animals on the planet Earth. Cockroaches crept along wet warm forests. There were no wingless forms. “Once thought to have originated from Africa, the German cockroach probably spread from an area in East and South-East Asia” (Bonnefoy, Kampen, & Sweeney, 2008, p. 54). The German cockroach and the Black-beetle are spread everywhere. The American Cockroach is widespread in Eastern Europe.
Some people say that the German cockroach’s homeland was South Asia and that it was brought to Europe in the XVIII century. Others believe that it moved with people on ships from Africa. They moved to the north, settling with people. In Central European cities, the Black-beetle has been known for over 400 years (Bonnefoy et al., 2008).
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Cockroaches are very unpretentious. However, the main things for these migrants from the southern geographic areas are warmth, moisture, and, of course, food. Breadcrumbs on a kitchen table or even just a badly wiped surface are a magic tablecloth for them. Glue on the envelope will be enough for the cockroach to eat for a week. It can also eat soap, shoe polish, paper. Nevertheless, it has gastronomic preferences like white bread and beer. That is why, cockroaches choose kitchens, bakeries, and breweries most willingly.
Like all arthropods, a cockroach’s body is segmented and covered with a chitinized cuticle, which is released by cells of the hypodermis. The segments are combined into three functionally distinct sections: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. The head consists of five segments fused into a solid head capsule – epicranium. The head is triangular or heart-shaped, flat, covered by a shield-shaped pronotum. There are sensory organs and mouth adnexa on the head. There are two big eyes. They are of two types: complex and simple. However, they often atrophy. Sometimes, both are absent. Cockroaches have strong jaws. “The mouth parts are of the biting kind common to primitive” (Kemp, 1906). The first two pairs of jaws are mandible and maxillae. They are separate. The third pair is fused in the midline, forming the lower lip, the end parts of which remain divided. Tentacles are long and bristle. They are segmented and mainly olfactory organs. They are situated on the front side of the head between eyes. Tentacles consist of a different number of segments. A clypeus is simple and has two parts. The body is flat and oval with a length from 1.7-2 cm to 9.5 cm. The pronotum is large, almost flat, and usually with transparent edges. Superior wings are dense, but with distinct venation. Underwings are webbed and are folded under superior wings. Superior wings and wings are often short or absent. Hips are flat and armed with spines; the armament is of three types. All tibias have strong spines. An abdomen is long, consists of 8-10 tergites and 8-9 (males) or 7 (females) sternites. The last tergite is an anal plate, which is very diverse, sometimes asymmetrical. A genital plate represents a male’s external genital apparatus; an external one is very diverse. A female’s ovipositor is completely hidden. The development occurs with incomplete metamorphosis. A cocoon shell covers mature eggs. Larvae are wingless and small. The development of an embryo lasts 17 days. Post-embryonic development lasts 40-41 days, followed by six molts. The lifespan of a female is up to 153 days.
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“The German cockroach, Blattella germanica, is the most common indoor species, especially in multiple-family dwellings” (UC IPM, 2007). The German cockroach or Croton-bug is an especially well-known species of synathrophic cockroaches. It is reddish-brown with two stripes on a pronotum. Its length is 10-13 mm. The cockroach’s homeland is South Asia. It was brought to Europe in the XVIII century. It lives in warm, heated rooms in winter, especially in old bathhouses, bakeries, and kitchens. The German cockroach is heat-loving and cannot stand cold weather. A temperature below 5°C is lethal for it: at -5°C it dies in 30 minutes and at -7°C – in a minute. Living in premises, it can eat remnants of bread, vegetables, sugar, butter, and other products. In addition, it damages paper, books, as well as shoes and other leather items.
The Black-beetle occurs outside a human’s accommodation in countries with warm climate. “The black roach is less active and wary than the others, and particularly to German roach, which is especially agile and shy” (Marlatt, 1915, p. 5). Now, the Black-beetle is rare, but it lives in Central Asia. The color of the Black-beetle is pitchy or blackish-brown. It is bigger than the German cockroach. A male is 20-25 mm long and a female is 18-30 mm. Males’ underwings are shorter than the abdomen. The underwings of females are undeveloped. Skin glands of this cockroach spread unpleasant smell. The female lays 5-8 cocoons before dying. The Black-beetle cockroach cocoon contains 16 eggs. Larvae go out of eggs after 2-3 months. Terms of an embryo development depend on temperature and humidity. They grow and develop rapidly: from 4 months to 4 years, depending on the temperature and habitats.
Do Cockroaches Carry Diseases?
It is a well-known fact that cockroaches carry millions of bacteria on their legs. These bacteria enter a body, causing dyspepsia and intoxication. Experts point out that cockroaches are vectors of the so-called “viral fatigue”. Doctors in the USA and France have concluded that cockroaches are guilty of a permanent prostration. Scientists have recently discovered a new species of cockroaches living in concrete buildings. They have found that they had “viral fatigue”, which appeared because of mutation. Doctors believe that a microbe can suck the life force from the body, which leads to a sort of premature aging. Contact with insects can transmit the virus to humans.
For humans, the virus is dangerous by the fact that the high-calorie diet and vitamins do not bring relief as it eats all useful substances contained in the food before they manage to enter the bloodstream. The person is slowly dying, not knowing that he or she has been the victim of a deadly disease. A new species of parasites was first found in France. Scientists have not found a way to cope with the virus of “cockroach fatigue” yet, but prevention may stop the disease.
Allergies and Asthma
In fact, human aversion to cockroaches comes from self-preservation. Cockroaches that eat garbage spread diseases by contact. It is true that these insects cause allergies and asthma. According to experts, a significant increase in the incidence of asthma in recent years, especially among children, is associated with allergy to cockroaches.
Now, Japanese scientists have proven that they cause cancer. Actually, there is a clear correlation of cockroaches with cancer. Today, researchers from the Medical University of Kyoto Prefecture have found that cockroaches could be the cause of cancer. It is clear that cockroaches are vectors of all kinds of bacteria. Japanese scientists claim that the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori increases the risk of stomach cancer and spreads with cockroach droppings. According to scientists, if there are cockroaches in a house, then most likely an owner is infected with this bacterium. However, this bacterium does not cause cancer; it just increases the possibility of its occurrence. The main conclusion of Japanese scientists is that cockroaches are not only disgusting, but also terribly harmful. Exterminator specialists argue that the main method of controlling cockroaches is to cut their way to the water. One needs to fix all taps, wipe the sink at night, and close a drain with a plug. Flowers need watering only in the morning. Under these recommendations, the probability that cockroaches will breed in the house is almost zero.
One of the most common misconceptions is that cockroaches can be killed forever. The first way to fight with cockroaches is spray (from 1-2 days to 2 weeks). Chemical compounds that include aerosols are so unstable that they are often decomposed in a couple of hours after application and do not cause any harm to insects. Besides, one should not forget about the problem of resistance, i.e. addiction of cockroaches to a particular type of chemical compounds. “Using these products can cause the roaches to hide deeper inside walls and be more difficult to control later” (Ogg, 2004).
Cockroach bait is a quite popular and widely advertised insect control. It has no smell and no stains. However, these insecticides have one, but a significant drawback: a cockroach is required to noose. “Bait is more effective if it is attractive or neutral to cockroaches, or if they cannot escape it” (Rust, Owens, & Reierson, 1995, p. 255). Insecticidal gels have become very popular in recent years. However, they frequently use ordinary chocolate paste (hence the brown color) as an attractant and the insecticide and sometimes bitter flavor are added to this paste to avoid eating gel by pets and small children.
There is another way of chemical control of insects – fumigation. “Fumigation is a category of a pest control in which gaseous pesticide (fumigant) is applied within a measured volume of space that is enclosed by tarpaulins or otherwise sealed” (Capinera, 2008, p. 3604). It means that an insecticide is placed in a special container and upon contact with water a reaction occurs, resulting in poisonous smoke. In some developed countries, this method is banned for residential use and is used only for disinfestation of storages, basements, and other commercial buildings. Biological effectiveness of this method is quite high because poison penetrates with “smoke” everywhere and settles on surfaces. However, people will have to live in a place where all things are covered with a thin layer of insecticide.
Chalk is the most primitive method of controlling insects. It has gotten its spread only by price. Chalks are soaked in a weak solution of the insecticide and act as compressed powders. The term of such chalks is short enough (7-10 days).
The next way to control insects is sticky “houses”. In fact, it is not a means of insect control. It is a natural trap. Sticky traps are recommended to be used together with chemical methods of insect control in places where treatment with chemicals is undesirable or impossible (cabinets for food storage, appliances, etc.).
Dust and Powder
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Talking about dust or powder in different packages, powder often clogs the spiracles of a cockroach. However, together with a low biological efficiency, powders have the most significant drawback as they raise dust, form suspension in the air, and are inhaled by humans and animals, causing attacks of allergy or asthma. Moreover, some powders, containing thiuram – a strong carcinogen, are very dangerous for health. Furthermore, cats and dogs breathe the air near the floor where the powder is scattered. It remains on their paws and hair. A cat licks its fur very often and the poison gets straight into its stomach.
Disadvantages of Chemical Methods
Most of these methods have a number of disadvantages. Firstly, cockroaches disappear only for a while. More often, cockroaches just become less numerous. Secondly, unpleasant smell can stay in the apartment (it applies to chemicals). Finally, chemicals used to control cockroaches are dangerous to human and animal health.
Vapors of toxic chemicals are harmful to health. They lead to a weakening of the immune system and, consequently, to a decrease of the body’s ability to resist pathogenic and harmful effects. As a result, it may develop or aggravate almost any disease. Dry pesticides are dangerous if they enter a mouth or open wounds (scratches). Most often, it happens with children and pets.
The presence of cockroaches indicates poor sanitary condition. The main thing in fighting against cockroaches is observance of sanitary-hygienic requirements, as well as elimination of food and water sources and hiding places. Although to find an effective remedy is quite difficult, it is necessary to fight for the eviction of these ill-fated red monsters and not just because they damp the spirits. The persistence of cockroaches is explained not only by unpretentiousness, but also by high fertility. The female cockroach is fertilized only once. However, over the six-month life of an adult insect, it lays eggs in the form of a baggage several times and drags them on the tip of the abdomen. Then, it unhooks the luggage from the abdomen and about forty white creatures appear.
Consequences of a cockroach’s coexistence with a person have a negative result: synanthropic cockroaches are dangerous because they spoil products. Furthermore, they spread various bacteria and helminth eggs. The bacteria cause dysentery, typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, and other diseases. There are whipworm and pinworms eggs in the rectum of a black cockroach. In addition, a German cockroach has broad tapeworm eggs. It could be concluded that cockroaches are troublesome neighbors.