Deaths Head Cockroaches

Death’s Head Cockroach Scientific Name: Blaerus craniifer

Death’s Head Cockroach Facts

The death’s head cockroach, also known as the palmetto bug or giant death’s head cockroach, got its name from the bizarre markings on its thorax. These markings look like vampire faces or skulls. It looks very similar to the discoid cockroach. Death’s head cockroaches are nocturnal scavengers. They are fast runners that live on the ground looking through leaf litter and bat droppings for bits of food. When frightened, these big bugs will emit a slight odor. They cannot climb smooth vertical surfaces such as glass.

Death’s Head Cockroach Identification

These large, flat insects are 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) in length and 1 inch (3 centimeters) wide. They are dark brown in color with yellow and black markings on their bodies. Adults are multi-colored. They have long wings that cover the abdomen, but do not fly. Their wings and pronotum are an ochre hue. Death’s head cockroaches’ heads are hidden underneath the pronotum. Newly molted nymphs are whitish while older nymphs are dark in color. Nymphs do not have any wings.

Death’s Head Cockroach Habitat

These unusual looking roaches are mostly found in the Americas, specifically Central and South America, Florida, and the Caribbean. They like to live in tropical forests, bat caves, or human habitations. This pest likes to hide in narrow gaps during the day and wander about the house or yard at night. Death’s head cockroaches mostly eat decaying plant and animal matter, but will eat feces or wood if its favorite foods are scarce. They have voracious appetites and can eat half their body weight in one feeding.

Death’s Head Cockroach Life Cycle

These insects reproduce sexually. Female cockroaches carry their eggs inside their bodies and give birth to live nymphs once they hatch from the eggs. The oothecae normally contain 34 eggs. Nymphs hatch in three to four weeks and remain hidden underground for one to two weeks. They are minute and hard to spot. The nymphs molt more then several times. Death’s head cockroach nymph’s wing sheaths are difficult to see as they grow. Death’s head cockroaches reach adulthood in four to five months and can live for about a year.

Death’s Head Cockroaches and Humans

A large population of these insects can leave a bad odor, which affects the flavor of food. Death’s head cockroaches contaminate food and utensils with cast skins, empty egg cases, fecal material and vomit. They also carry dangerous pathogens. They have been known to cause gastroenteritis including, but not limited to, food poisoning, dysentery, and diarrhea. They carry the bacteria on their legs and bodies and deposit them on whatever they touch. Their feces and dead bodies are harmful to asthma sufferers and cause many allergies.

Death’s Head Cockroach Control

  1. Death’s Head Cockroach Identification: A professional exterminator should come to your home and be able to identify the death’s head cockroach by its distinctive markings, color, and size.
  2. Bait and Insecticide: The exterminator can use amidinohydrazone, botanic, carbamate, inorganic, insect growth regulator, microbial, organophosphorous, and/or pyrethoid insecticides against death’s head cockroaches in baits, powders, or sprays. Boric acid or ground silica gel can be sprinkled into cracks, crevices, cabinets, along baseboards, behind refrigerators, in electrical outlets, underneath sinks and stoves, and within walls. The oil and waxy substance on the death’s head cockroach will attract these substances and cause it to dehydrate to death. Boric acid when eaten by the death’s head cockroach when it grooms itself will poison it.
  3. Removal of Death’s Head Cockroaches: The exterminator will vacuum up the carcasses, egg cases, and eggs of dead death’s head cockroaches and thoroughly clean and sanitize the area.

DIY and Green Solutions for Death’s Head Cockroach Control

  1. Keep them out! Stop up gaps around plumbing fixtures, switch plates, and wall outlets to prevent death’s head cockroaches from moving from one infested place to another. Seal all windows and doors or make sure open windows are covered with snug screens. Flush water through rarely used plumbing—death’s head cockroaches can crawl up dry drain traps into the home. Make sure vent pipes on the roof are covered to prevent them from entering attics and windows. Look at the food you buy at the grocery store to make sure you are not transporting unwanted guests.
  2. Ditch that junk! Tidy up all clutter to make it hard for roaches to find a place to breed and hide. Make sure to take garbage and debris away from the home. Take firewood and stack it far from the house since cockroaches like to hide in piles of wood. Trim vegetation in the yard.
  3. Dry it up! Mend leaky plumbing. Make sure to inspect spigots and sprinklers for leakage. Death’s head cockroaches lap up water left in dishwashers, tubs, and sinks. Mop up moisture from under the refrigerator. Drain and dry empty pet water bowls at night while animals are sleeping.
  4. Trap those bugs! Make use of desiccating dusts and traps. A jar with a little beer in the bottom will attract roaches. Make a ramp with a stick for roaches to climb up and into the trap. Coat in the top inside inch of the jar with petroleum jelly so that once the roaches fall in the trap they cannot climb back out eventually they will drown.