We all know that the cockroach is a very dirty, disgusting bug by nature. Most people are led to believe that because roaches live in sewers, dump disposals, carry disease, are small and creepy little bugs that fly, they’re no good. For some people this is true, especially if you have had a run-in with this little bug. The first thing people think of when you mention cockroach, is pest, filthy and disgusting. Did you know there are over 4,000 species of cockroach in the world and less than 1% are considered a pest species. The United States has at least five known pest species.

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Although roaches are capable of carrying disease, infesting your home or just creeping you out, not all roaches are the same. When you hear the word “cockroach”, you think “infestation”. To infes, according to the dictionary is “to inhabit or overrun in numbers or quantities large enough to be harmful, threatening, or obnoxious”. Roaches have had a bad reputation. Besides the bad things about roaches, there are a few good things too. Roaches are a great alternative food source for reptiles and other inverts. They make excellent pets, and are easy to care for and maintain. They are great for use in classroom projects; kids enjoy bugs too.

I have no fear of bugs, so it’s easy for me to talk to others who are terrified of cockroaches. I have been breeding and keeping roaches now for over two years. My biggest fear about roaches was getting my wife to agree to let me keep them for feeding purposes. Yes, feeding! Roaches have since, in the past decade or so, become a new alternative feeding source for people’s pets, like bearded dragons, geckos, inverts, amphibians, etc. But for most pet lovers, switching from crickets to roaches is a source of fear and concern.

Roach Fears

People have different fears of cockroaches. Some, like my wife and a friend, have fears of the little creepy crawlies getting on them, touching them. Others fear them getting out and infesting their homes. All legitimate and realistic fears. Both my wife and a friend had bad personal experiences with roaches. My wife had awoken one day to a bed full of cockroaches, years ago, long before I had started breeding them. Understandably, she wouldn’t want me to keep them in the house. A good friend woke to one getting in her ear and had to have it surgically removed. Now of course those two incidents would discourage most people from ever wanting to keep and breed roaches, let alone touch or handle.

Getting Over the Fear

On the other side of the coin, we have the tropical, more exotic species of roaches that are used as feeders or as display pets, yes, I said pets. These roaches, when observed more closely, don’t really look like your common house roach, but more like large roly-poly bugs, cylindrical, segmented discs with legs. This is one way we get over our fear of roaches. My wife couldn’t stand roaches, well she still can’t, but is more tolerant of them because she understands more about them. She got over her fear of tropical roaches, simply because they don’t look like your common household roach. After two years, she has even picked one up. Same with our friend. She was highly afraid at just hearing the word “roach”, but has since handled one. Again, she was able to view these fascinating creatures up close in a controlled environment.

For the past two years, we have had no problem with infestation in the house. I couldn’t tell you how many have gotten loose when cleaning, sorting, packing, etc. Cockroaches can and most likely will get out now and then when cleaning or pulling them from their enclosure to feed to pets. Keeping a tight fitting lid on their enclosure will help prevent escapes overall. They don’t jump like crickets, but will take a leap of faith off the egg flat or hand if held above the enclosure. The males of the species seem to jump more than the females. When I say jump, I mean they tend to jump off of items that are higher to get to a lower area. If you have a fear of handling a roach, there are alternatives. You can use tongs, tweezers, cups, gloves, etc.

Most people I know, mainly family members that come over, can’t stand these bugs, but they get used to them more and more as they see them. I found that my family, even though they don’t like them, are always curious to step into the “Bug Room” to see what’s new or different. I even have a customer down in Alabama that didn’t like them either and ask me to refer to them as “bugs”, not roaches. That alone helped her. I have many customers reluctant to order because of their fear of appearance, handling, escapes. They take the first step by ordering a small quantity. To get over a fear, you have to face that fear head on, otherwise you will most like always have that fear. Many who have received orders would say: “not what I had pictured, pretty cool little bug”.

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Keeping Roaches Contained

The majority of feeders and pet roaches aren’t known as an infesting type of species in the United States, with the exception of Florida. Most areas of the United States are too dry or cold for these species to  live for very long. For  roaches to grow, they have to molt (shed the exoskeleton). If it’s too dry, they get stuck in their own skin and die. Tropical species of roaches don’t do well in cold temperatures below 60°F. These roaches need a constant supply of food and water, not likely to be found in most households. Tropical roaches require warm, humid conditions to readily survive in most areas of the USA, with the exception of Florida and possibly a few southwestern states like Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Though the  B. lateralis species is widely seen during spring and summer months here in California., we have never had a problem. If housed correctly, you shouldn’t have any escapes to begin with.

If escaping roaches is your fear, there are many ways to catch the roaches to help keep your fears minimal. I use sticky insect traps to catch escapees and they work pretty well. A few other ways that work well are water traps, food traps, loose egg flats or cardboard. Cockroaches are instinctively attracted to food, water and shelter. A water or food trap is simply a plastic or glass container with water or food set beside an interior wall. Roaches will climb the wall and fall into the container. If you want a dead roach, use water; for a live roach, use food. Use egg flats to catch escapees. Roaches will use these to hide in, feeling safe.

Bottom line, you’re not going to get over your fear of roaches overnight. But with time, an open mind, patience and hands on experience, you will progressively chisel away your fear of cockroaches. I hope this helps.

Greg HagedornVisit Website

Greg Hagedorn resides in the southern deserts N. of Palm Springs, CA. in a small town called Yucca Valley, CA. He has lived here since 1976. As a kid growing up, he always enjoyed catching lizards, snakes and spiders among other bugs. He is a former swimming pool maintenance worker now enjoying a life long passion of bugs, keeping, raising and breeding 34 species of exotic tropical cockroaches as feeders and pets since 2009. Greg's Exotic Inverts is a small family run business catering to people's pet food needs.

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