1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cockroach
COCKROACH (Blattidae), a family of orthopterous insects, distinguished by their flattened bodies, long thread-like antennae, and shining leathery integuments. Cockroaches are nocturnal creatures, secreting themselves in chinks and crevices about houses, issuing from their retreats when the lights are extinguished, and moving about with extraordinary rapidity in search of food. They are voracious and omnivorous, devouring, or at least damaging, whatever comes in their way, for all the species emit a disagreeable odour, which they communicate to whatever article of food or clothing they may touch.
The common cockroach (Stilopyga orientalis) is not indigenous to Europe, but is believed to have been introduced from the Levant in the cargoes of trading vessels. The wings in the male are shorter than the body; in the female they are rudimentary. The eggs, which are 16 in number, are deposited in a leathery capsule fixed by a gum-like substance to the abdomen of the female, and thus carried about till the young are ready to escape, when the capsule becomes softened by the emission of a fluid substance. The larvae are perfectly white at first and wingless, although in other respects not unlike their parents, but they are not mature insects until after the sixth casting of the skin.
The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) is larger than the former, and is not uncommon in European seaports trading with America, being conveyed in cargoes of grain and other food produce. It is very abundant in the Zoological Gardens in London, where it occurs in conjunction with a much smaller imported species Phyllodromia germanica, which may also be seen in some of the cheaper restaurants.
In both of these species the females, as well as the males, are winged.
In addition to these noxious and obtrusive forms, England has a few indigenous species belonging to the genus Ectobia, which live under stones or fallen trees in fields and woods. The largest known species is the drummer of the West Indies (Blabera gigantea), so called from the tapping noise it makes on wood, sufficient, when joined in by several individuals, as usually happens, to break the slumbers of a household. It is about 2 in. long, with wings 3 in. in expanse, and forms one of the most noisome and injurious of insect pests. Wingless females of many tropical species present a close superficial resemblance to woodlice; and one interesting apterous form known as Pseudoglomeris, from the East Indies, is able to roll up like a millipede.
The best mode of destroying cockroaches is, when the fire and lights are extinguished at night, to lay some treacle on a piece of wood afloat on a broad basin of water. This proves a temptation to the vermin too great to be resisted. The chinks and holes from which they issue should also be filled up with unslaked lime, or painted with a mixture of borax and heated turpentine.
- The word is a corruption of Sp. cucaracha. In America it is commonly abbreviated to “roach.”