Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006
* Japanese name: Kuro-gokiburi
* Scientific name: Periplaneta
* Description: The smoky brown is similar to the more common American cockroach, but at 3-3.5 cm long it is slightly smaller. It is a rich mahogany brown color, and the thorax is dark and shiny, which distinguishes it from the lighter thorax of the American cockroach. Females are slightly larger than males.
* Where to find them: The smoky brown likes warm, humid conditions, and so it is found over most of Honshu, Kyushu and Okinawa, as well as in the southern United States. It tends to base itself in warm spots outdoors, and from there invades buildings and houses. It needs access to liquid water every 2-3 days, as it loses moisture through it's outer layer of skin. In Japan, this means that the smoky brown is not as common in houses as other types of cockroach, because many houses have air conditioning, which keeps humidity levels down.
* Food: Cockroaches are scavengers, eating rotting vegetation in forests, food scraps in kitchens and drains, as well as cat and dog food. They will also eat the feces of other animals. This habit, combined with their secretions of saliva, give them that uniquely unpleasant cockroach smell.
* Special features: I don't expect to change people's minds about one of the most maligned animals on the planet. But: They fly well (better than the American cockroach), they are hardy insects able to survive pretty much anywhere and on anything, and they've been around, in a form not much different from today's, for at least 350 million years. However, their association with dirty and unsanitary conditions does have health consequences. A study on Japanese asthma patients shows that many of them have antibodies to cockroaches -- that is, their immune system has been stimulated to attack cockroach emanations. Once smoky brown cockroaches find a suitable site, they can quickly infest it. Females produce and carry around a capsule containing about 20 eggs. The capsules hatch after an average of 45 days and females mature in about 300 days. Each female can make around seven capsules. The best way to keep numbers of smoky brown cockroaches low is to make sure they don't have places to hide outside, near your house.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET