Restaurant cockroaches aren’t always German

 Photo: ©Gene White

You may have immediately recognized this duo as Asian cockroaches, but your customer might assume they’re German cockroaches. Photo: ©Gene White

QUESTION: Dan, what sort of “other” cockroaches might pest management professionals (PMPs) encounter in a restaurant setting?

ANSWER: Well, Perry, the easy answer would be “all of them.” Two that come to mind are German cockroach (Blattella germanica) lookalikes: the Asian cockroach (B. asahinai) and the field cockroach (B. vaga). Neither of these were ever involved in infesting a facility in my experience, but the sight of them often created significant issues with auditors and health inspectors.

While these non-industry folks are generally intelligent and well-trained, any smallish cockroach with racing stripes is “definitely a German” to them, no matter how many pictures you show them. Trying to convince an under-informed expert that the insect found in a monitor at the back door isn’t a German cockroach can be a losing battle.

In some ways, however, a health inspector isn’t wrong to raise a red flag. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Food Code states “the premises shall be maintained free of insects, rodents, and other pests.” The species is entirely irrelevant: A pest is a pest; a cockroach is a cockroach.

Where the bodies aren’t buried

A third species, American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana), can exploit introduction spots such as utility penetrations, and the gaps in the drain-waste-vent system. They’re frequently found in basements and in warm, moist areas. But where they are really a problem is when they find their way into the void-space of a drop ceiling. They can accumulate in large numbers. And while they are relatively easy to kill, their little corpses present a big problem.

It has been shown that organisms like Salmonella can live inside the cockroach’s waxy cuticle layer. After a void treatment to a drop ceiling, those dead cockroaches are just left up there to dry out and break apart. Potentially harmful organisms can find their way onto food prep surfaces below — and into food. In other words: After treatment, vacuum the remains so this doesn’t happen on your watch.

Go forth and inspect

Now, if you follow some version of integrated pest management (IPM) principles, no matter the size of your company or the size of the client, you will have success:

  • Know how to identify the pests you are likely to encounter, and other potentially problematic pests that may be found in your area. Those found in a rural community may not be the same as those found in a densely packed urban center.
  • Exercise your intellectual curiosity and look for all the places the pest may gain entry.
  • Find, document and communicate any conducive conditions that must be addressed.
  • Continue to follow up on a schedule that makes sense for the pest in question.

Editor’s Note: Read more about the author’s stance on why educating customers is so important to successful treatment, “Be proactive with education.

Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies to Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming columns.

BALDWIN is director of technical, training and regulatory services for Terminix Commercial. He may be reached at

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