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How Did The Turkestan Cockroach Become A Household Pest In Arizona?

Given the extreme heat and excessively dry air in the Sonoran Desert, southern Arizona is home to an interesting array of insect pest species that most people living in all other areas of the country never encounter. This is just as well as far as most American citizens are concerned, as southern Arizona is home to some of the fiercest and most dangerous insect and arachnid pests that exist in the US. For example, of the more than 2,000 documented scorpion species worldwide, only a handful inflict stings that are considered medically significant, and the frequent indoor invader commonly known as the Arizona bark scorpion is one of them. While this species is almost never responsible for causing human fatalities in Arizona due to the abundance of antivenom available in hospitals and clinics in the state, numerous people living in northern Mexico succumb to this scorpion's sting every year.

In addition to the Arizona bark scorpion, western black widows, Africanized honey bees, highly venomous harvester ants, and a total of five recluse spider species (not counting the brown variety) can be found in Arizona. Each of these arthropod species are well documented as being potentially fatal to humans, but one of the most recent non-native insect pest species to be introduced into Arizona, the Turkestan cockroach, will not inflict bites or stings; instead, much like other roach pest species in the US, Turkestan cockroaches inhabit filthy conditions, making them potential mechanical vectors for disease within the homes that they infest. Luckily, however, the Turkestan cockroach is not considered to be as serious of a disease-threat to humans as German, American and Oriental cockroach species.

Although the majority of cockroach species in the world thrive in the humid and rainy tropics, a surprisingly large number of roach species thrive in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, including brown cockroaches, brown-banded cockroaches, Surinam cockroaches, and the four roach species mentioned above. The Turkestan cockroach was first discovered in the US when specimens were collected from a military supply center on the west coast. Since then, this roach species has migrated into Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Turkestan cockroach remains an understudied species in the US, but urban pest management professionals in Arizona have good reason to consider this roach an occasional indoor invader in the southwest due to the high numbers that have been captured in sticky traps in a public school in Phoenix.

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