Roaches get sick

Cockroaches can transmit many pathogens and cause allergies

You always find a way. With sewage and district heating pipes, ventilation and garbage shafts, cracks and cavities - cockroaches, also known as cockroaches, are very agile and stubborn animals.

Especially the Lower Saxon community of Damme and the Brandenburg town of Bernau can tell a song about it at the moment. Hundreds of thousands of cockroaches crawl and crawl there in apartment blocks, cattle sheds, thermal power stations and company buildings - and cause immense damage. "In Damme, one in five of a total of 1,500 apartments and business premises is infested with cockroaches," said Vice Mayor Gerd Muhle. The head of the district health office, Hanns Rüdiger Röttgers, speaks of the highest concentration of cockroaches in all of Western Europe.

Foraging in sewers, rubbish bins and slaughterhouse waste

In Germany, cockroaches are one of the most unpleasant nuisances. "Because of their way of life, they are dangerous vectors of disease," explains Jutta Klasen, who is responsible for testing pesticides at the Federal Environment Agency. Cockroaches can transmit many bacteria, viruses and fungi, according to the German Green Cross. Contact with them can lead to diarrhea, colon cathars, hepatitis A, anthrax, salmonella, or tuberculosis. They can also trigger allergies through moulting residues. In rural areas, cockroaches are particularly feared because they can cause foot-and-mouth disease in stables.

"Cockroaches particularly like warm and humid places where there is enough food," explains Jutta Klasen. The omnivores find what they are looking for in sewers, rubbish bins, slaughterhouse waste or large kitchens and thus drag a lot of germs and bacteria around with them. Klasen: "Since they regularly vomit small crumbs from their goiter, they are a highly potent distributor of infections."

Michael Faulde, as a medical entomologist from the Central Institute of the Medical Service of the Bundeswehr, takes care of the hygienic conditions on site during missions abroad and knows the risks only too well: "Careless handling of infected organic materials such as hospital waste, urine, faeces and decaying leftover food is particularly dangerous and carcasses. " It is clear to Faulde that cockroaches are the cause of many salmonella infections in hospitals and large kitchens.

How high the costs for infestation, control and elimination are, cannot be precisely quantified, "but it is easily underestimated," says Rainer Gsell, Chairman of the German Pest Control Association. When the professionals come out with lethal injection and glue traps, about a third of the time they are called for cockroaches. "It is estimated that a third of the world's food production is destroyed by pests. It affects highly industrialized countries like the United States as well as developing countries," says Gsell.

In Damme, the cause of the cockroach plague is believed to be the "very warm summer 2003", as Mayor Muhle says. "It is possible, however, that the animals have already become immune to some poisons," suspects Jutta Klasen. In the neighboring district of Osnabrück, for example, such resistances have already been reported.

Cockroaches are one of the oldest species

Cockroaches, or cockroaches, are among the oldest animal species on earth. The oldest forerunners of the insects existed 350 million years ago and have not changed significantly to this day. Cockroaches reach a body length between two millimeters and ten centimeters, depending on the species. The largest specimens are found on the American continent. Most species are black or brownish in color. Pests in Germany are mainly of two types: the up to 13 millimeter large German cockroach (Blatella germanica) and the up to three centimeter large oriental cockroach (Blatella orientalis), also known as the kitchen cockroach. (ddp)