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Bug word of the day — “ootheca”

Technically, the term “ootheca” can refer to any insect egg case, but it’s usually associated with the egg cases produced by cockroaches and mantids.

By the way, the term is pronounced “oh-THEE-kuh” and the “THEE” part sounds like the “The” in the name “Thebes,” the city in Greece. It does not sound like “thee” as it appears in “I now pronounce thee man and wife.”

(Never let it be said that the BugWeek Web Team is not detail-oriented.)

Anyway, the typical cockroach egg case is dark brown, about a half-inch long and roughly the shape of a tiny eyeglass case, with ridges running down one of the long sides.

In some roach species, the female carries the ootheca around with her until it hatches. In other species, she drops it off in a safe place and goes about her business.

In either situation, empty egg cases are one of the most reliable indicators that a home has a cockroach infestation, or at least a cockroach presence. Look for these artifacts in the backs of kitchen cabinets, shelves and cupboards, if scouting for pests.

The typical praying mantis ootheca has a less definite shape, looking a little bit like a poorly made paper wasp nest. You’re unlikely to see one of these inside the house, of course. But if you do, you can probably kiss your roach problems goodbye.