Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The "University Roach"

Once cold weather sets in, it is more difficult to find wildlife, even insects. Sometimes, though, they find you. Such was the case last week when the nymph of a brown-banded cockroach, Supella longipalpa, crossed my desk at the lab while I was eating lunch.

I have taken to calling brown-banded roaches the “university roach” because that is the only place I’ve ever seen them: Oregon State University, the University of Arizona, and now here at UMass (Amherst). I’m not sure what, if anything, this says about the academic proclivities of the species, but it is certainly more sharply dressed than our other domestic pest cockroaches.

The two-tone coloration of brown-banded cockroaches is especially obvious in the nymphs, before the wings obscure the markings on the abdomen. These are not large roaches, perhaps a little bigger than German cockroaches, but still much smaller than American roaches and other members of the Periplaneta genus.

Like the other domicilatory roaches, the brown-banded is not native to North America. Its origins remain elusive, but perhaps its homeland is somewhere in tropical Africa. Females are flightless, having short, non-functional wings, but it does not deter the mobility of the species. Brown-banded roaches are frequently transported inside of furniture, which may explain the appearance of that nymph on my desktop. Male brown-bandeds are, ironically, quick to fly when disturbed.

Watch for brown-banded roaches in warmer, drier places than other roaches. They may seek shelter behind pictures on the wall, or in appliances. This latter habit has earned them the popular nickname of “TV roach.” I suspect the one exploring my desk normally resides inside the computer tower. Doesn’t seem to affffffffect the….perforMancccce of the thing, though….


  1. What I want to know is, what does a bug guy do with a cockroach when he finds it? Does your computer tower still serve as a roach apartment?

  2. That's actually a rather...pretty??!!?...roach! The only time I've ever encountered roaches was at my old alma matter as well...the biology department greenhouses were always reliable sources of specimens for undergraduate Ento collections.

  3. Woodswoman: Depends on the situation. LOL! I'm tolerant of a roach here and there, but confess I had to take major control measures at my Tucson apartment on one occasion. The Mediterranean gecko had been doing a good job, but eventually passed away I think....I haven't opened up the computer to see what might be lurking.

  4. When I open my desktop towers, I find spiderwebs. I once had to use canned air to blow a dead spider off the motherboard! I think they think the constant airflow will bring them food... instead they get stray bits of spinning fibre and cat hair. Alternatively my machine is a great spider party venue.

  5. You'll be amused to know that I came across your page while trying to identify a clump of bugs I found today... in my college office. Yup, those are they. In fact, facilities was just installing a bunch of new furniture in the building the other day.

    I'd just add that the nymphs are really quite small. The body can't really be confused with a tick or bedbug, but the nymphs are about that small.

    1. Thank you, David, for making my day by sharing your observations and experience :-)


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