Surinam Cockroach: Facts, Identification & Control in the Home
Native to the Southeastern United States and other regions with warmer climates, Surinam cockroaches are sometimes found in indoor settings throughout New England. The tropical insects, scientifically named Pycnoscelus surinamensis, typically travel to the New England area as stowaways in potted plants, soil and mulch, and similar items imported from their native habitats. Though not considered household pests in the same vein as other New England cockroach species, Surinam cockroaches can still cause damage in the buildings they inhabit.
What do Surinam cockroaches look like?
When fully grown, Surinam cockroaches generally measure slightly less than an inch in length. Dark and shiny, the bodies of Surinam cockroaches are black with olive-green or dark brown wings that stretch past the abdomen and give the insects a distinctive two-tone look. Developing nymphs have no wings, while adults are able to fly. In New England, only female Surinam cockroaches exist. These females are able to reproduce asexually through a process termed parthenogenesis (females lay unfertilized eggs).
As natives of the tropics and subtropics, Surinam cockroaches can only survive in warm indoor areas when transplanted to colder regions. In New England, the Surinam cockroach is almost exclusively found in greenhouses, shopping malls, restaurants, offices, and other buildings where indoor planters are common. Surinam cockroaches are burrowing insects and primarily live in loose soil, compost, and mulch. During the day, the pests may also hide in crevices and holes providing ample heat and darkness. The nocturnal insects emerge at night, often en masse, to feed.
What do Surinam cockroaches eat?
Unlike other New England cockroach species that invade homes to find moisture and feed on human food, Surinam cockroaches prefer to eat plants. The Surinam cockroach often feeds on the stems of plants rooted in the soil in which the insect lives. Due to their status as herbivores and their need for warm, moist areas, Surinam cockroaches can become a major problem in heated greenhouses.
Surinam cockroaches found in New England are always female and only produce female offspring. Classified as a parthenogenic species, Surinam cockroaches do not need to mate in order to reproduce. Adult females produce egg cases, or oothecae, which are between 12 and 15 millimeters long and carried internally until hatching. Each case contains roughly 25 eggs that hatch into nymphs after about 35 days. The average adult female Surinam cockroach lives for up to seven months and produces three egg cases in a lifetime.
Problems Caused by Surinam Cockroaches:
Though not native to New England, Surinam cockroaches can survive and thrive indoors upon relocation to the area. If undetected and permitted to reproduce, the Surinam cockroach has the ability to create infestations capable of wreaking havoc on houseplants. On a larger scale, Surinam cockroach invasions can overrun the indoor vegetation in greenhouses and shopping malls, creating unsightly landscaping and negatively impacting the commercial operations of plant retailers.
It is believed that the first specimens of the Surinam cockroach were collected in Surinam. Because of this, the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus gave it the name Pycnoscelus surinamensis.
Adult Surinam cockroaches are about an inch long. They are dark-colored insects, usually brown. The pronotum that covers the head is almost black.
Surinam cockroaches are burrowing insects. They hide in the soil or under mulch or piles of leaves. They come out at night and feed on the bark of plants. There have been reports of great numbers of Surinam cockroaches emerging from the soil where people were not even aware they were in the area.
Scientists believe the Surinam cockroach originated in Southeast Asia. Now it is found throughout the world. In the United States it is common in the Southeastern states. It is found from Virginia to South Texas.
Surinam cockroaches are reported to be very sensitive to cold temperatures. As a result, in northern areas, they often survive only indoors. They are found inside buildings, in atriums of office buildings, and in greenhouses. In these protected environments, Surinam cockroaches have been found as far north as Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Surinam cockroaches are not usually considered structural pests, however they can cause economic damage in greenhouses and nurseries. In the warm climates, they can become troublesome in flowerbeds. They do not normally invade homes or buildings. They are often shipped in the soil of potted plants.
People who have found Surinam cockroaches should begin their control measures outdoors where the roaches live. Control begins with removing as many of the roach hiding places as possible.
Remove dead leaves from flowerbeds, especially near the foundation of the home. Move woodpiles away from the house and stack the firewood on a rack. Landscape timbers may also have to be removed. Keep the grass mowed and keep weeds trimmed.
Granular roach bait is an effective tool for controlling Surinam cockroaches. Many brands of bait are water-resistant so they can be used in flowerbeds and other damp locations. Liquid insecticide may be effective, especially to drench the soil where the roaches have been burrowing.
Because of the effects of sun and rain, these treatments often have to be re-applied. Homeowners often find it more convenient to have pest control professionals make these applications and control these pests.