A cockroach that looks like a beetle
The Egyptian cockroach is one of about seven species of cockroaches that are found in the Maltese islands.
The males and females of this species are very different from each other and one would not be blamed for assuming that they are two different species.
The male looks like a black American cockroach (wirdiena ħamra) which is more common and familiar, while the female resembles a wingless black beetle.
The Egyptian cockroach is one of the species that lives close to humans but is not very common and most people never actually see one.
In Maltese, it is known as wirdiena sewda, but the male and female are often called patri (monk) and soru (nun) respectively.
The Egyptian cockroach is found around the Mediterranean, especially along the southern shores. It prefers warm, moist environments such as caves and cellars, where it can find plenty of debris and organic matter on which to feed.
In large territories, it prefers to live in coastal areas but on a small island like Malta, there would probably not be much difference in the number of cockroaches present between coastal areas and the central parts of the island.
About 4,000 species of cockroaches have been described worldwide. Most live in tropical areas and feed on decaying wood and leaves and are important components of the ecosystem as they help to convert organic matter into nutrients.
Thirty or so species live in association with man, but of these, only four can be considered as pests.
Species such as the American cockroach usually become pests in countries where they are not indigenous. Despite its name, this cockroach is indigenous to Africa.
It crossed the ocean on slave ships and in the past it was often associated with slaves. It has now travelled to other parts of the world and has become a cosmopolitan species.