Cockroaches - we've all seen them on the street, they tend to look like this:


But more often they tend to have a 'trodden on' appearance!

Not often will you see these monsters scuttling about your boat; you are more likely to see one of these:

german cockroach sailing the atlantic

German cockroach (Blattella Germanica)

Even the most cleanest of boats might get one or two (if you see one or two there are more in hiding), these little fellas have no morals when it comes to invading your space.  They particularly like the dark, also damp areas (they are always searching out food and water), and heaven forbid you leave a breadcrumb out - LOOK OUT!  They also like to party, so if you've had a few friends round, don't leave any empty beer cans lying around afterwards - as these little fellas will be partying long after you've gone to bed.

The German cockroach is known among entomologists as Blattella Germanica - but that is not likely what rolls off your tongue when you see the critters scurrying throughout your boat. No doubt you wish they were confined to their namesake country but unfortunately they proliferate quite happily and robustly throughout the Canary Islands. According to entomologists, these undesirables likely hitchhiked their way here hundreds of years ago. The German cockroach is a small species of cockroach, typically about 1.1 to 1.6 cm long. In color it varies from tan to almost black, and it has two dark, roughly parallel, streaks on the pronotum. While they have wings, these roaches do not fly. German cockroaches, like brown-banded roaches, are differentiated from other species by their small size.


So how did it all begin?

Paradoxically, the German cockroach likely did not originate in Germany at all. Entomologists believe it originated in Southeast Asia and like all cockroaches, has been around for millions of years. Since the cockroaches can’t pen their historic travels, the best scholars of such things can do is theorize. One plausible theory is that the bugs hitchhiked with Marco Polo during the medieval period, or Middle Ages, as he traveled from his home in Venice, Italy to Asia. Polo departed in 1271 and stayed in Beijing for 17 years. He then spent a few years in Persia, arriving back in Venice around 1295 -- and if the scholars are correct, with stowaway cockroaches aboard to settle in Europe.

Now matter how interesting all that may be you probably want to get rid of them - and fast.  Cockroach feces is one of the world's worst allergens, they spread disease - and basically are icky... So, follow a few basic rules below to not only irradicate them, but also to stop inviting them in in the first place.

Do Cockroaches have a breeding season?

It’s easy to assume cockroaches are infesting our boats all year round. While the cooler months may offer some respite, cockroaches can invade at any time of the year. That’s because they like warm and humid places no matter what the weather’s like. The warmer months are their chief breeding season, however, so it pays to understand their life cycle.

Life cycle of a German Cockroach (the one's most likely to be on-board)

Prolific Breeders

German cockroaches breed continually. In a lifetime, a female cockroach is capable of producing almost 400 eggs. Populations grow quickly in optimal conditions. A typical thriving population is comprised of 75 percent nymphs and 25 percent adult roaches.

Eggs & Oothecae

German cockroaches begin life as eggs within an egg casing known as an ootheca. The oothecae contain approximately 35 eggs and are brown in color. Oothecae are approximately 7 mm long and 2 mm wide. They are very resilient and can survive harsh conditions.

Nymph Stage

Female German cockroaches carry the oothecae attached to their abdomens until about two days prior to hatching and then deposit them in a protected location. Oothecae may be seen protruding from the abdomens of German cockroach females. Nymphs emerge from the oothecae as tiny insects. They gradually darken into dark brown or black cockroaches with parallel lines visible upon the pronotum. German cockroach nymphs are wingless and incapable of reproduction. Nymphs molt six to seven times and can develop completely within 100 days under optimal conditions.

Adult German Cockroaches

The adult stage begins with the last successful molting. At this point, German cockroaches are approximately 15 mm in length and are winged. Adult German cockroaches are nocturnal insects that hide during the day and scavenge at night. Despite their fully developed wings, German cockroaches very rarely fly.



American Cockroach

american cockroach

  • Appearance: American cockroaches are reddish brown with a yellowish figure 8 pattern on the back of their head.

  • Unique Facts: They are active when the temperature is 70 degrees or higher, but they can survive lower temperatures with the right conditions.

Brownbanded Cockroach

brown banded cockroach

  • Appearance: Brownbanded cockroaches are brown with pronounced banding across their wings.

  • Habitat: Brownbanded cockroaches tend to prefer warmer, drier, and higher locations than any of the other pest roaches. They are often found in upper cabinets or in galleys. This species often hides its egg cases in or under furniture.

  • Unique Facts: Brown-banded cockroaches get their name from the two lighter bands they have across their dark brownish bodies. The male's wings are larger than the female's wings.

German Cockroach

 german cockroach

  • Appearance: German cockroaches are light brown to tan with two dark stripes located on their backs. They are oval shaped with six legs and antennae.

  • Habitat: German cockroaches can be found anywhere but show a preference for warm and humid places. They are usually found in places with water sources, but infestations often occur in other areas where people eat and drink.

  • Unique Facts: The German cockroach is by far the most important and usually the most common of the cockroaches. In addition to being a nuisance, the German cockroach has been implicated in outbreaks of illness and allergic reactions in many people.

Oriental Cockroach

oriental cockroach

Appearance: Oriental Cockroaches are large very dark colored and shiny. Habitat: Oriental cockroaches are often found in sewers. They can also be found in leaf piles and firewood outdoors. Unique Facts: Oriental cockroaches are sometimes called "water bugs" because they come out of drains, and "black beetle cockroaches" because of their smooth, dark bodies. This species creates a strong smell and is considered one of the dirtiest of all the cockroaches.

10 FASCINATING ROACH FACTS (if you're in the mood!)

1. A cockroach can live for a week without its head. Due to their open circulatory system, and the fact that they breathe through little holes in each of their body segments, they are not dependent on the mouth or head to breathe. The roach only dies because without a mouth, it can't drink water and dies of thirst.

2. A cockroach can hold its breath for 40 minutes, and can even survive being submerged under water for half an hour. They hold their breath often to help regulate their loss of water.

3. Cockroaches can run up to three miles in an hour, which means they can spread germs and bacteria throughout a boat very quickly.

4. Newborn German cockroaches become adults in as little as 36 days. In fact, the German cockroach is the most common of the cockroaches and has been implicated in outbreaks of illness and allergic reactions in many people.

5. A one-day-old baby cockroach, which is about the size of a speck of dust, can run almost as fast as its parents.

6. The American cockroach has shown a marked attraction to alcoholic beverages, especially beer. They are most likely attracted by the alcohol mixed with hops and sugar.

7. The world's largest roach (which lives in South America) is six inches long with a one-foot wingspan. Average cockroaches can vary in size from ½"- 2" long.

8. Cockroaches are believed to have originated more than 280 million years ago, in the Carboniferous era.

9. There are more than 4,000 species of cockroaches worldwide, including the most common species, the German cockroach, in addition to other common species, the brownbanded cockroach and American cockroach.

10. Because they are cold-blooded insects, cockroaches can live without food for one month, but will only survive one week without water.


These facts prove that cockroaches are some of the most adaptable creatures on earth, which makes controlling and eliminating a cockroach infestation all the more difficult. Even the cleanest of boats can be prone to these little pests.  Diligence and observation are your first defense, but what can you do to eliminate them?  To get rid of cockroaches in your boat, keep food sealed and stored properly, particularly in the galley, which should be cleaned daily to prevent crumbs and trash from building up. Garbage should be disposed of regularly and stored in sealed containers. Try to seek out and seal all cracks and holes (if you have many cracks and holes in your boat, then cockroaches may be the least of your problems).  If possible fit mosquito nets to ports, this will help stop critters from crawling in as well as things flying in.  Cockroaches like to climb, mooring lines are always a problem, If possible spray or dust lines with insecticide (checking first that the chemical you use will not damage/effect your lines).

Cockroach control and management are important for health and safety reasons. If you suspect a cockroach infestation, DON'T PANIC, there are simple and safe ways of dealing with them.

The most simple method is BORIC ACID, use bottle tops, equal amounts of boric acid, water and sugar.  Place the 'tops' inside cupboards, drawers, even in galley stowage areas.  Boric Acid is no more harmful to us humans than salt.  Cockroaches are attracted to the water and sugar, they ingest the boric acid at the same time, this 'bungs' them up, rendering them unable to consume more water, thus they die of thirst.  Boric acid can be purchased in pharmacies, and is very cheap.

Roach traps can be bought in most countries.  Place them in cupboards, lockers, corners.  However, they contain poison, if you have any pets on board, there is a possibility that the poisoned roach could be consumed by your pet.

Bombs (not the nuke variety).  This is a fairly radical approach.  Having let off a bomb in your boat you will have to vacate for a while, and remember that when you return, everything will be covered with a thin layer of insecticide - always read the instructions in these cases.

If leaving your boat for any length of time, the bottle top approach is probably the best, remember to keep the 'tops' topped up with water from time to time and check them when you return.

Once you've manged to rid yourself of them, keep a control up for a few days.  A jam jar (one with an overhanging lip on the inside), some beer, vaseline and a piece of bread is all you need.  Fill the jar up to about one quarter, put in a small piece of bread.  Now smear the inside of the jam jar lip with vaseline  (so that they can climb in, but not out.   You will need to create a little ladder for any visitors here, a piece of kitchen towel taped to the lip is perfect.  Leave this jar in an area where you believe you have had any cockroaches.  If you get any in the jar, then you still have a problem, if after a few days the jar is roach free, then you have successfully managed to rid your boat of the problem. 

Remember cardboard is a big no no on a boat, even polystyrene packaging makes great homes for these critters.  Second hand books might seem like a good idea, but unless you know where they come from you might want to think twice.  If concerned, place the book(s) in a plastic bag and spray with a little insecticide, seal the bag up and leave overnight.  It is possible that insects can be brought on-board via your shopping, check all provisions before stowing, especially items such as: potatoes, onions, cauliflower etc...  Remove the outer cardboard packaging of items such as cereals, rice, pasta etc...  Yes, it's all a bit of a hassle, but being cockroach free is what's important.


Research has found that some essential oils—especially peppermint oil—are effective at repelling roaches. Peppermint oil can also be used as a natural insecticide. Leaving mint oil out or spritzing it around won't kill roaches that come in its path, rather, it'll just keep them away. But if you spray a peppermint oil on a roach when you see one, it can be an effective and natural alternative to using commercial roach sprays. To repel them, try mixing two parts water with one part white vinegar and 10 drops of peppermint oil to a spray bottle, and spritz it around the affected areas.

Strategically Place Catnip.  That's right, your feline friend's favorite herb is actually a natural roach repellent. Roaches are sensitive to the chemical nepetalactone, which is the active ingredient in catnip. (Catnip is also a member of the mint family, so this should come as no surprise!) Placing small satchels of catnip around the areas of your boat where you've seen roaches should keep them at bay. Catnip won't kill roaches, but it's a great option for preventing them from coming back after you've finally gotten rid of them.


A few more pests to make you itch...

Stored Product Pests

Some times these critters get a helping hand to smuggle themselves aboard, inside bags of dried goods.  Keep a close eye on your stored products.

Indian Meal Moths

Indian Meal Moths

The Indian meal moth was given its name after an insect scientist found it feeding on corn meal, also known as Indian meal. From wing tip to wing tip, adult moths measure from five-eighths of an inch to three-fourths of an inch long.


Merchant Grain Beetles – Grain Beetles &
                  Other Pantry Pests

Merchant Grain Beetles

Merchant grain beetles are typically not found in grain products, but instead like to attack cereals, cake mixes, macaroni, cookies and chocolate. Merchant grain beetles are dark brown and have six saw-like teeth on each side of their bodies. They can grow to be one-eighth of an inch long and have very flat bodies.

Bed Bugs


Bed bugs likely get their name from their habit of feeding on humans while they sleep in their beds. They are found in virtually every place people tend to gather, including boats.

If you do identify bed bugs on your boat, take the mattress outside into the sun, thoroughly clean the cabin, ensuring that there is no dust left, and vent the area.  Keep an eye on dust levels in general, as these little critters love nothing more than snuggling up in your dead skin for the night.



A far more serious issue than cockroaches. 

Termites date back more than 120 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. They are known as "silent destroyers" because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected.  If you have a lot of wood in your boat, check regularly.  Should you be at all concerned, contact a specialist immediately.


Everything that you always wanted to know about ants - but were too afraid to ask!  If these little critters don't give you nightmares then nothing will.  There are many types of ant powders on the market, as with any insecticide, keep away from children and animals.

Acrobat Ants

Acrobat Ants

Acrobat ants get their common name from their ability to acrobatically raise their abdomen over their thorax and head, especially when disturbed. There are various species of this light brown to black ant found throughout the United States, even at altitudes of up to 8,000 feet.


Argentine Ants

Argentine Ants

Argentine ant colonies can grow to monumental size. A single colony can contain several hundred thousand workers with the colony borders sometimes cover entire habitats. These dark brown to black ants give off a musty odor when crushed. 


Carpenter Ants - Ant Identification

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants get their name because they excavate wood in order to build their nests. Their excavation results in smooth tunnels inside the wood. These are large ants ranging in size from one-quarter inch for a worker ant to up to three-quarters inch for a queen.


Crazy Ant Prevention & Control

Crazy Ants

Crazy ants get their common name from the workers' habit of running in an erratic, jerky manner when searching for food.



Field Ants

The common name of the field ant comes from its preference for nesting outdoors. The field ant is the largest genus of ants found north of Mexico. Field ants are also known by many other names such as thatching ants, red ants and wood ants.



Ghost Ants

Ghost ants get their common name from the fact that they are very hard to see due to their pale color and tiny size. They are a tropical species, probably of African or Asian origin. In the United States, ghost ants are found primarily in central and southern Florida and Hawaii. This type of ant is unable to survive in the northern states except in greenhouses and heated spaces.


harvester ant

Harvester Ants

The harvester ant gets its common name from its behavior of collecting seeds. There are 22 species of harvester ants found in the United States. The most common types of harvester ants are the California harvester ant, Florida harvester ant, red harvester ant, black harvester ant and the Western harvester ant. All are limited to west of the Mississippi River except the Florida harvester ant.


Leafcutting Ants

Leaf cutting Ants

Leaf cutting ants get their name from their habit of cutting leaves into small pieces. There are only two species in the United States, which are found in Arizona, Texas, western Louisiana and southern California. Mature nests of leaf cutting ants may contain in excess of one million individuals, but only one queen who is long-lived. Some very old colonies may occupy the same area for 60-70 years.


little black ant

Little Black Ants

The little black ant gets its common name from its very small size and black coloration. Colonies are moderate to very large and contain many queens. 



Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants get their name from the mistaken belief that they were one of the plagues of Egypt during the time of Pharaohs. This species is thought to be native to Africa, but is currently found throughout the Unites States.

piramid ant

Pyramid Ants

The pyramid ant gets its common name from the pyramid projection on top of the thorax. Mature pyramid ant colonies are usually small to moderate in size, each containing one or more queens and up to a few thousand individuals. 


Red Imported Fire Ants

Red Imported Fire Ants

Red imported fire ants (RIFAs, for short) get their common name from their ability to inflict painful bites and stings. These dark reddish-brown ants are an invasive species found throughout the southern part of the U.S. 


                      Ants - Ant Identification

Thief Ants

Thief ants get their name from their habit of nesting very near other ants, which they then rob of food and brood (larvae and pupae). Colonies tend to be smaller than those of other species, but can contain many queens and several thousand workers. Thief ants are also known as grease ants and are often confused with pharaoh ants, although they differ in characteristics.


whitefooted ant

White-footed Ants

White-footed ants get their common name from their very light-colored feet. Mature colonies can range from 8,000 to 3 million individuals, with as many as 33 percent being reproductive.



Yellow Ants

The yellow ant gets its common name from the yellow coloring of its body. Yellow ants are also referred to as citronella ants because of the citrus or lemon-like odor they give off when crushed. The most important structural pest species in this group is the larger yellow ant, Lasius interjectus, which is found from southern New England westward to Washington and southward to Florida and Mexico

Happy hunting - it's open season!

But here's the GOOD NEWS

Anyone in the mood for fried caterpillars? Roasted silkworms? Braised crickets? You might be blanching, but according to a group of Oxford researchers, certain bugs are more nutritious than our favorite meat staples.

In a recent study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the nutritional profile of six commercially available insects – crickets, honey bees, silkworms, mealworms, mopane caterpillars and palm weevil larvae – to chicken, beef and pork using two different scoring systems that tracked variables like protein, fat, sodium, vitamins and minerals.

The result? When the two scoring systems were taken together, “every single insect the researchers examined came out on top,” reports Medical Daily. The researchers note that crickets, mealworms and palm weevil larvae were “significantly healthier.”

In other words, instead of slaving over Cricket à la King for dinner, try folding a little protein-rich cricket flour into your next batch of bread or cupcakes.

Now wasn't that fun!