Signs You Have a Cockroach Infestation

Cockroaches are some of the most unsightly pests one can see in their house, and no one wants a sudden appearance of cockroaches in their house. These bugs are capable of spreading disease-causing pathogens, triggering allergic reactions and exacerbating asthma. Cockroaches contaminate the surfaces upon which they walk and the food with which they come into contact. For these reasons, it’s important to know how to tell if you have cockroaches, what species of cockroaches you may see in your house, and how to prevent or eliminate them.  The top 8 signs of a cockroach infestation include:

F&W Pest Control has been serving Massachusetts for over 75 years, so you can rest assured that we know our local cockroaches and how to best treat them! Check out our cockroach guide below. If you still have questions, give us a call at 508-406-9233 and we will be glad to help you!



The 3 Most Common Cockroaches in Massachusetts

Scientists estimate that cockroaches have been on this planet for more than 300 million years. During that time, approximately 4,600 species of cockroaches have developed, but only three species are commonly found inside homes and businesses in the Massachusetts area. 

1. American cockroach

American cockroaches are the largest of the species, measuring anywhere from 1-3/8 to 2 inches long. They’re reddish-brown with a pale mask-like pattern on its back, and they have wings and can fly (only short distances). They are commonly found in residences and commercial buildings, such as restaurants and stores—anywhere with storage to hide in. The development time for an American cockroach is anywhere from six months to two years. About 10 egg capsules are produced per cycle, each hatching around 14-16 eggs.

2. German cockroach

German cockroaches are most often found in tight, closed spaces. Since they’re smaller—only ½ inch to ¾ inches long—they can hide easier than other species of cockroaches. They are tan and brown, and they have wings but cannot fly. They are the fastest species to reproduce: development time from egg to adult is only four months, and 15 to 50 nymphs are hatched in a single cycle.

3. Oriental cockroach

The Oriental cockroach, with a maximum length of about an inch, is shiny and dark brown in color. These roaches are more commonly known as “water bugs” as they are found in dark and wet places. Some places oriental cockroaches are found are bathrooms, basements, sewers, and under sinks. They have wings but cannot fly. Each egg capsule (ootheca) contains up to 16 eggs, and females reproduce about eight times during their adult lifetime. Oriental cockroaches only live for about six months. If you find oriental cockroaches in your house, contact a professional to get rid of them. To prevent all species of cockroaches, always practice good sanitation and have regularly scheduled pest control complete with a roach exclusion. 



Top 8 Signs of a Cockroach Infestation

The sooner a cockroach infestation is eradicated, the easier it will be to obtain complete control. However, because most species of cockroaches are nocturnal and tend to be secretive, a serious infestation can occur before you ever catch sight of a live roach. If you know these 8 primary signs of cockroaches, you can take action sooner and eliminate these unsightly pests.

1. Droppings

Roaches have surprisingly voracious appetites and will eat virtually anything, including human food, pet food, garbage, and dead skin cells. As a result, they tend to leave droppings wherever they go. The type of roach determines the appearance of the droppings, but most roach droppings resemble coffee grounds or specks of black pepper. If the droppings are found in many different locations, you may have a large infestation. If the droppings tend to be found in one area, you should take steps to eliminate any sources of nearby water and food to help control the roach population.

You can find roach droppings:

  • On counters and floors
  • Behind and underneath kitchen appliances or the washer and dryer
  • In the corners of shelves in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets
  • Inside the pantry

2. Egg Cases

Roaches are prolific breeders, but their reproduction method can make it easier to find evidence that they have invaded. Roach eggs are contained inside egg cases that are known as oothecae. Each ootheca can contain 10 to 50 eggs. Some species of roaches keep their oothecae attached until just hours before the eggs hatch, but other species will attach an ootheca in a sheltered space several days before hatching occurs. Once the eggs hatch, the ootheca — which is a brown, oblong, nearly translucent casing — is left behind.

Where to find empty or full oothecae:

  • In books
  • Inside cabinets
  • Behind furniture
  • In any dark, protected, tight areas
  • On counters, if the infestation is severe

3. Odor

A single German cockroach can produce this smell, but most people will not notice an odor until the roach population is quite high. Why do roaches leave a smell?

  • Secreted pheromones
  • Odor trails
  • Droppings
  • Dead, decomposing roaches

4. Live or Dead Cockroaches

Most people only see live roaches at night—they enter a dark kitchen or bathroom, turn on the light, and see roaches run for cover. However, if the roach population is high, you may see roaches during the day as well. A lack of resources and overcrowding can force roaches to migrate during daylight hours if they want to survive. Finding a dead roach is also an indication of an infestation, especially if it is found in areas where droppings or egg casings have been found.

5. Furniture Damage

Cockroaches eat anything from obvious foods to things less obvious like leather. Look out for damage done to your leather furniture if you suspect a cockroach infestation. The furniture will appear as if it has been eaten or even torn. Other interesting food sources for cockroaches include: 

  • Wallpaper
  • Glue
  • Hair

6. Shedded Skin

Before a cockroach becomes an adult it will have shed its skin 8-13 times. If you’re spotting what looks like the molted exoskeleton of a cockroach, there’s a good chance you have an infestation. These exoskeletons have been known to cause allergies in humans if inhaled and are especially concerning if you have asthma or are prone to asthma attacks.

7. Smear Marks

One of the more gross signs of cockroaches is brown smear marks that are left behind when they poop. They crawl over their discarded feces leaving behind the smear in high trafficked areas. You’ll find more of these marks around their nest or in damp spaces of the house. These marks are not only gross but their stench can attract other roaches, making the infestation worse. 

8. Allergy Symptoms

As mentioned previously, many signs of cockroaches can also cause allergy symptoms like sneezing and coughing. You may be allergic to their saliva, body parts or waste. Common signs of a cockroach allergy include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • Cough
  • Itchy skin or rash


Cockroach FAQs

What do cockroaches look like?

The cockroach has an oval somewhat flattened head partially concealed by the pronotum and with the mouth pointing backward between the fore coxa. The antennae are long and thin and inserted below the middle of the eyes, the mouthparts are adapted for biting, chewing, and licking while the compound eyes are usually large and irregularly hemispherical being wider near the vertex (the top of the front of the head). The forewings (tegmina) are usually hardened and often opaque, while the hind wings are membranous. The legs are almost equal in length and depressed beneath the body and the abdomen has ten segments, only 7 or 8 being visible from above.

What do cockroaches eat?

Cockroaches will eat almost anything: left-over human food, wood, leather, cigarette butts, tooth paste, milk, sugary materials, coffee grinds, glue, soap, feces, fabric, shoes, paint, the glue on the back of the wallpaper, human hair, fingernails, etc.

How do you prevent cockroaches?

Controlling the availability of food, water, and hiding places can manage cockroach populations. Poor sanitation that is contributing to a cockroach problem should be corrected. Food and water should not be left out overnight and should be stored so as to deny access by the roaches.

Structural modifications that will deny cockroaches access to hiding places should be undertaken. In multiple unit dwellings, this should include modifications to prevent the free movement of roaches between dwellings.

What Do I Do If I See Cockroaches In My House?

Although there are other signs of a roach infestation, most of them require a trained professional to read the evidence. The eight signs listed are the most common signs that are relatively easy for an untrained person to recognize. Because cockroaches can trigger breathing problems or contaminate food, it’s imperative to contact the professionals at F&W Pest Control for safe, effective treatments as soon as you think you may have an infestation. Whether you found live or dead cockroaches in your home, it’s always best to call in a professional pest control company.

How We Treat for Roaches

In the past 75+ years we’ve been in business, we’ve created a foolproof plan for eliminating cockroaches and preventing future infestations. We offer multiple Pest Guard Programs with varying levels of protection, but all programs include a free inspection, quarterly exterior treatments, annual interior treatments, and free call-back services. All four of our programs treat for cockroaches, so no matter which is best for your goals and budget, our exterminators are here for you!

Our cockroach treatment includes:

  • Seeking out their harborages in buildings, tunnels and sewers and
  • Removing them using pest vacuum cleaners
  • Trapping them using food lure sticky monitors and
  • Making strategic placements of insecticide baits and dusts
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