Cockroaches: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Cockroaches: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Upon hearing the word “cockroach,” most people involuntarily grimace or shudder. These bugs don’t have a good reputation, and they’re usually towards the top of people’s “Most Disgusting Pests” lists. But are cockroaches all that bad? Let’s take a look.

The Good

The truth is that the environment needs these little guys; more specifically, cockroaches (also known as water bugs) help play a large role in the ecosystem’s nitrogen cycle, where nitrogen moves from bacteria, animals, and plants to the ground and the air. Professor Srini Kambhampati from the University of Texas at Tyler tells us why:

“Most cockroaches feed on decaying organic matter, which traps a lot of nitrogen. Cockroach feeding has the effect of releasing that nitrogen (in their feces) which then gets into the soil and is used by plants. In other words, extinction of cockroaches would have a big impact on forest health and therefore indirectly on all the species that live there.”

The Bad

Okay, so cockroaches aren’t all bad, but they’re not all good, either. These creatures can feed on almost anything, including (but not at all limited to) bread, beer, dead skin flakes, hair strands, glue, and baked goods. In the 1900s, sailors coming into the San Francisco area would have to wear gloves while they slept or cockroaches would chew off their fingernails (Mallis, 1997).

These bugs tend to target places that are (1) unsanitary and damp or (2) used to prepare and store food. Common sites include bathrooms, sewers, kitchens, restaurants, grocery stores, and bakeries. When they’re feeding, cockroaches “produce odorous secretions” that not only contaminate food, but can also alter the flavor of the food and leave behind an unpleasant odor, especially when there are lots of cockroaches.

The Ugly

Cockroaches actually contaminate more than what they eat. They can carry dangerous bacteria (like salmonella) on their legs and bodies, and they’ll spread this bacteria around while feeding and when they’re just wandering around your house, or when they’re climbing over your silverware, cooking utensils, and pots and pans. Common diseases that are spread by these creatures include food poisoning, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal-related issues. There was one case of a food poisoning epidemic where new cases significantly dropped after the affected area took care of its cockroach infestation.

Finally, they can also bring in a number of allergens, leading to common allergic reactions from humans including sneezing, asthma attacks, watery eyes, and rashes.

In short, while our ecosystem needs these pests around, there’s no reason they need to be your uninvited houseguests. They may be good for the environment, but they are not good for humans, and your home is no place for them. If you have a cockroach problem, don’t put up with it any longer. Give Western Exterminating a call today at 817-834-3121 and let us take care of your cockroach problem for you!


Mallis, Arnold. (1997). Handbook of Pest Control (8th ed.).