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elbanditoroso's avatar

Is there any reasonable way to calculate the number of cockroaches in the US?

Asked by elbanditoroso (15323 points ) October 2nd, 2012

Cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) generally live in warm urban environments and thrive in harsh conditions. They are incredibly hardy insects. And they are considered pests.

Although people recoil from seeing one in their home or apartment, they are largely communal insects and one roach is a good sign that others are nearby.

Is there any feasible way to determine (within a couple of hundred million) how many cockroaches are in the US?

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Not that I can think of. But on Bones last night, she said that we eat several coackroach eggs every day. Gross, huh?

“It is nearly impossible to calculate the number of cockroaches that exist worldwide due to the fact that so many already exist and are reproducing at such a fast pace. Scientists believe that there are over 4,000 species around the world and there are at least 40 different species that exist in America. One source suggests that 36,000 cockroaches exist per building in some parts of America.”

Hyper Textbook

wundayatta's avatar

This study from 2006 found detectable concentrations of cockroach allergen in 63% of American homes. If @marinelife‘s population estimate comes from this source, then it is actually a range estimate of 18,000 to 40,000 per apartment in poor areas.

I now know more about cockroaches than I ever wanted to. There are different populations in suburban homes compared to urban homes. They live all over the place: houses, other buildings, sewers, and in other outdoor places. I’m not going into their role in passing around diseases and as asthma allergens.

To answer this question, I need to know why you need the data. If this is just for fun, then make up a number. Anything will be believable because no one knows the relationship between the visible population and the hidden population. If you are working on a real health issue, then some of the studies on allergen prevalence will be more useful than population estimates.

If you want to make a serious population estimate, then do some research on insect biomass worldwide, and estimate the population in the US, adjusting for type of environment. You can triangulate that by using the various population estimates out there for urban and suburban and rural settings, multiplied by populations of those types of structures. You’d need to add an estimate for environmental population, as well.

So you’d do a top down and a bottom up estimate. See how close they are. Maybe take an average. But really all you have is a guess. So you might as well take a wild guess now and be done with it, unless, for some inexplicable reason, being accurate matters.

CWOTUS's avatar

For the reasons already given, I think the answer is, “No, there is no way to make a reasonable assumption of the cockroach population in the USA (or even in a single state, for that matter), ‘within 100 million or so’.”

But that hardly matters, since your numbers can’t be checked anyway. That is, if you make careful studies of cockroach populations in various types and ages and conditions of structures and in various environments in the country, then carefully count the structures (which is not so difficult to do) and categorize them by size, type, age, condition and so forth, and further break down what kind of environment the structure exists in, then you can make a reasonable and somewhat scientifically supportable calculation of a number within a certain range of probability. Given the methods that you use to arrive at the calculated number, you could defend that and even use your methodology to refine the number closer and closer to a “probable” number.

But since you can’t count all of the cockroaches even in one single structure of any complexity, then your number can never be fully tested to know how accurate your prediction is.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’m not doing scholarly work, @wundayatta – I was watching the movie Men In Black last night; towards the end Will Smith kicks a dumpster and several dozen roaches fall out of the rusty bottom.

That got me to thinking – if there are are a couple of hundred in a 10-foot dumpster, how many can there be in a big city, or in the whole US?

Amazing what thoughts a silly movie can engender.

CWOTUS's avatar

Take heart, @elbanditoroso: at least they’re not silly thoughts. This is how science is done.

“I wonder about…”

When you start filling in the blank, you’re doing science.

wundayatta's avatar

@elbanditoroso This is why I usually ask people why they want the information before I start researching. I’m not sure why this question tickled my fancy. I think I just wanted to see what I could find out quickly.

Well, I think there are trillions or quadrillions of cockroaches in the US. Lets say…. 73 quadrillion. Give or take a few trillion. Hows that?

gailcalled's avatar

Compute the numbers worldwide and divide by 17.

_Whitetigress's avatar

I would take the average found in high rise buildings, added to the average in apartment complexes of about 24 units, and knock out all the apartment categories then add to the amount average of homes and then add em all up?

Then there’s stores and such. pretty much all building types.

Coloma's avatar

Send every household a roach hotel and then calculate when recieved back with no vacancy. haha
Well..I live in cockroach free zone, and a flea free zone and a bedbug free zone. great huh? However, the trade off for all of these is rattlesnakes, lizards and frogs by the thousands. I had a tree frog pee on my face the other night when it launched off the porch light and peed in flight. lol

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Coloma That is crazy! Gross.

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