Turkestan Cockroach


The Turkestan cockroach (Shelfordella lateralis) also spelled Turkistan, is an invasive species that made its way into the United States in the late 1970´s from Central Asia via military equipment but because of internet sales, it is now found throughout the southwest.

The Turkestan cockroach is sold as food for people´s pet reptiles. It is quickly displacing the ever-present oriental roach. Both roaches tend to live outdoors in the same type of urban environment, however, the Turkestan cockroach breeds faster, leaving entomologists to believe the increase in numbers is why this roach is taking over our urban outdoors.

Female Turkestan Cockroach

Female Turkestan Cockroach (Shelfordella lateralis or Blatta lateralis)

Another name for Turkestan roach is “red runner” or “rusty red” cockroach. It looks similar to the oriental roach except the female Turkestan has cream-colored markings and the male Turkestan appears slimmer than the male oriental roach.

Oriental roaches

Oriental roaches in various stages; also referred to as “water bugs.” Note their dark
coloring in comparison to the cream markings on the Turkestan roach.

Origins / Habitat

Turkestan cockroaches are believed to have originated in Central Asia, making their way to America via military personnel and equipment. This species was first found in 1978 at Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrope, CA. Like oriental roaches, Turkestan roaches embrace the city life by making their home in water meters, irrigation systems, and electrical boxes. They also live in cracks of concrete and hollow block walls as well as leaf litter, ground cover, compost piles, and potted plants. In tropical climates, Turkestan cockroaches are known to be an indoor pest.

Map of the origins of the Turkestan cockroach

The Turkestan cockroach, believed to have originated in Central Asia, made its way into the U.S. in the 1970´s via military personnel and equipment. It was first sited on an Army Depot in Lathrope, CA.

Ecological Threat and Biology

Turkestan roaches breed quicker than oriental or other roach species. Because of their fast breeding capabilities, Turkestan cockroaches are being sold over the internet as food for reptile owners. This is quite possibly the first pest distributed across the ocean and on land in this manner. Presently, Turkestan cockroaches stretch across the southwestern United States from southern California to Texas.

Turkestan cockroaches eating

Turkestan roaches raised for reptile food are being purchased via internet
causing an infestation here in the U.S., especially in the southwest.

According to some of the websites that sell Turkestan roaches (search word used often is “Turkish” roaches), they are easy to take care and females can´t climb out of aquarium-type containers (males can fly if they want to). Turkestan roaches are easy to feed, they don´t smell like crickets do, females lay more eggs than the oriental roach causing them to multiply so fast that they provide more “food for the money” when it comes to feeding people´s pets. Cities in which the Turkestan cockroach is present are concerned about water contamination and the spread of disease. Like oriental roaches, Turkestan roaches can live in sewers and are known to carry disease.

Male and female Turkestan cockroaches

Male Turkestan roaches are more slender than the females and have longer wings.

Management of Turkestan Cockroaches

Like most roaches, Turkestan cockroaches are nocturnal and feed at night. There are approximately 33 kinds of bacteria spread by these type of roaches. They feed on all kinds of things, crawl through sewage and decaying matter, picking up germs on their legs, etc. It takes a professional to get them under control once an infestation has occurred. Homeowners can take some preventative measures against both Turkestan and oriental roaches by making sure there´s no standing water on the property, repairing leaking irrigation systems, clearing out any unnecessary debris, and practicing good sanitation.


Entomology Society of America. (2013, December 9). “Turkestan Cockroach is replacing the Oriental Cockroach.” Retrieved from http://www.entsoc.org/press-releases/turkestan-cockroach-displacing-oriental-cockroach-southwest National Pest Management Association. (2014). “Oriental Cockroaches.” Retrieved from http://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/cockroaches/oriental-cockroaches University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources. (2007, June). “Cockroaches.” Retrieved from http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html