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american cockroach



If it weren’t for a few unfortunate details, you might have a different opinion of the American cockroach. It might impress you for its speed and street smarts or for its contribution to the ecosystem as it chews stuff up, breaks it down and turns it into fertilizer.

But the devil is in the details with these dangerous little pests. And if you’ve got them in your house, your restaurant or your business, you’re going to want to get rid of them before they do you any harm.

Let’s take a closer look at the American roach–its appearance, behavior and diet–and discuss how to deal with them if they’ve gotten too comfortable in your home or business.

A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches

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History of American Cockroaches

Though its name might make it sound homegrown, the American cockroach isn’t native to the U.S.

It first climbed aboard African slave ships in the 1600’s. It ventured far on these ships, spreading across southeastern coastal lands before moving westward, northward and to other parts of the world. It’s become an extremely successful cockroach in the United States, second only to the German cockroach for sheer abundance.

How to Identify an American Cockroach

American cockroach adult, nymph, and egg sac beside penny for scale
American cockroach size? Up to an inch-and-a-half in length (or even larger). Compared here next to a penny.

The first thing you’ll notice about an American cockroach is its size–because it’s big. In fact, at an inch-and-a-half or more in length (excluding the antennae), it’s the largest house-infesting roach in the United States.

It has two long antennae, six spiny legs, and both its wings and body are reddish brown in color. There’s also a cream-colored, cowl-like structure behind its head, with darker brown markings that look a little like a figure eight.

At the base of its body are a pair of short appendages called cerci. And if you’re looking at a male, he’ll have an additional, tiny pair of appendages called styli that jut out between them. He’ll also have slightly longer wings than the female, and a thinner abdomen.

Range and Habitats of American Cockroaches

American cockroach range across the United States
Range of the American cockroach across the Unites States (in orange). Data thanks to BugGuide.net

American cockroaches live seemingly everywhere. They’re known by many different names, depending on where you live; Palmetto Bugs, Water Bugs, Sewer roaches, Tree roaches and more.

They’re a hardy and adaptable insect. While they do best in temperatures between 68 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, they can survive in most areas of the United States simply by moving indoors. As long as there’s plenty of moisture and a fairly warm atmosphere, they’ll happily settle in and start causing problems.

What Do American Cockroaches Eat?

Eating is a full-time activity for an American roach. When living outdoors, they tend to eat fungi, wood particles, decaying leaves, algae and other insects. Inside, all bets are off–they’ll eat just about anything, including meats, grease, peanuts, sweets, paper, book bindings, cosmetics, leather, cloth, hair, wallpaper paste, pet food, dead insects (including their own kin!) and food crumbs of any kind.

The American Cockroach Life Cycle

Illustration of an American cockroach, nymph, and hatching egg sac

With a lifespan that can easily exceed two years, it’s a long-lived insect that you can expect to stick around for quite a while.

Its life begins as an egg, which the female deposits into an egg case, called an ootheca. The egg case typically holds 16 eggs as they incubate for about a month-and-a-half. Then, they hatch into young roaches known as nymphs.

American cockroach nymphs are white at first, but quickly darken as their new shells harden. Within hours, they look nearly identical to adults; however, they’re smaller and lack the adult’s familiar wings.

It takes 6-12 months for a nymph to become an adult. As the nymphs grow and mature, shedding their old skins as they outgrow them. Eventually, in the final stage, they grow wings and gain the ability to reproduce.

Altogether, female American cockroaches are able to produce more than 150 young over a lifetime, meaning that their numbers can multiply quickly.

How You’re Likely To Come Into Contact with American Cockroaches

Understand what American roaches need to survive and you’ll understand what might bring you into contact with them. These roaches need warmth, food, and water – and spend most of their time seeking those three things.

When the conditions are right, American cockroaches prefer to live outdoors, around shrubs, garages or alleyways. You’ll find them in flower beds, under rocks, inside woodpiles and under mulch, pine straw, or garbage. Their wide-ranging diet means they can feed on almost any form of organic matter, whether it’s from a plant, animal or the trash.

When food gets scarce or the climate becomes too hot, too cool, dries up or floods, American cockroaches quickly move indoors to find better conditions. Then, they create problems. Restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, schools, hospitals and homes are all at risk of American cockroach infestations. Their most common indoor habitats include boiler rooms, basements, crawl spaces, steam tunnels, and drains and sewers.

Mass migrations of American roaches are common: groups will frequently crawl into structures from sewers, making their way up through plumbing and drains. They’ll also fly in from nearby shrubs and branches, squeezing in through cracks and crevices in windows, foundations, and outer walls.

When they do infest indoor spaces, American cockroach populations can be enormous and gut-wrenching. In 2017, residents of one Philadelphia neighborhood witnessed thousands of cockroaches crawling out of a single sewer manhole and said that there were so many roaches, “you couldn’t see the ground.”

Are American Cockroaches Dangerous?

The American roach isn’t exactly dangerous. (it doesn’t sting or bite), but because it frequently lives, breeds, and feeds in filth of the very worst kind – the stuff inside sewers, rotting garbage, and decaying flesh – its body can pick up harmful bacteria, germs, and mold.

Then as it wanders in search of food or shelter, or simply defecates, the roach can deposit all of that into your restaurant, house, or apartment building. Scientists have found over 20 different bacteria, viruses, worms and other nasty things on American cockroaches.

American cockroaches contaminate any food or surface they come into contact with. They spread harmful allergens through the air, causing itchy eyes and sneezing. They also give off a strong smell that can permeate throughout a building when the population is large enough. If you detect a strange, unpleasant smell coming from boxes in storage or items in your garage, you’re probably smelling evidence of American cockroach activity.

American cockroaches deserve their place on your Top Ten Least Wanted list. They’re serious pests and if there are any around it’s important that you take steps to get rid of them quickly and prevent them from coming back.

How to Get Rid of the American Cockroach

Cockroaches are extremely resilient pests that’ll eat almost anything and live almost anywhere. They’re difficult to eliminate, especially if they’ve established a population in your home or business.

Pest control professionals often resort to insecticides to kill these roaches. You can apply insecticides to walls, woodpiles, crawl spaces and other locations where the roaches have moved in. It’s always important to read the instructions and be very careful when using dangerous chemicals.

Sometimes, using a residual spray or similar product can be an effective way to kill the cockroaches and prevent their populations from rebounding.

How to Safeguard Your Home and Prevent American Cockroaches

The most important aspect of your American cockroach control plan is a good defense. Give your home or business a thorough inspection and identify the areas that are most prone to infestation.

Make sure you seal any cracks or holes in the walls and foundation to keep roaches out. Don’t forget to pay attention to the area around your house, too: clear dead leaves and old wood; rake mulch into a thin layer to help it stay dry; and store firewood and garbage away from your house, if possible.

Finally, keep your house clean and tidy. Decluttering storage areas removes potential habitats. Cleaning up crumbs and spills frequently eliminates a roach’s easy food sources. Repair leaking pipes or faucets to take away a cockroach’s water supply.


American cockroaches are extremely prevalent and ruthless pests. It takes dedication to keep your house protected from these problematic insects, but you can do it. Start with small steps today, like cleaning and reorganizing, and you can keep your home or business cockroach-free in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do American cockroaches fly?

Yes, American cockroaches can use their wings to fly. However, they’re not the best fliers and will typically only fly away from danger. Most of the time, they move on foot.

What do American cockroach eggs look like?

American cockroach egg capsules are tiny–about 1/3 inch in length–and have a mahogany brown color. You won’t see their eggs because they’re inside of the egg capsule (as many as 16 eggs in each).

What’s the difference between a palmetto bug and an American cockroach?

There is no difference! “Palmetto bug” is simply another name for an American cockroach. If you’re from the southern U.S., you’ve probably heard this name used all the time to refer to American roaches. Don’t let the name fool you–whether you call them cockroaches or palmetto bugs, they’re dangerous pests.

Do American roaches smell?

Yes, badly. American cockroaches give off a strong odor. Apartment building tenants will know there’s an infestation based on the smell. In addition, these roaches will leave the smell on objects they come into contact with.

Can American cockroaches infest your home?

They don’t infest as intentionally as some other roaches do. But under certain conditions – such as when food becomes scarce or weather becomes difficult for them – they will enter your home, potentially in large numbers.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by James Miksanek, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

James Miksanek, PhD

James Miksanek, PhD.

Science Editor

James is an entomologist and adjunct professor of biology. His background is in biological control, and he has a passion for ecology and environmental science. His research has addressed a variety of topics including pest control and the management of invasive species. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. Jacobs, Steve Sr. (2013) PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/american-cockroaches
  2. Barbara, Kathryn A. (2014) American cockroach. Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/american_cockroach.htm
  3. American Cockroach. Plant & Pest Diagnostics. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/american-cockroach
  4. Perot, Rachael C. and Dini M. Miller (2010) American Cockroach. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/444/444-288/444-288.html

Many kinds of bugs can wind up in your home. But when you discover one that looks like it came in on purpose, you may begin to wonder if you have a cockroach problem.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to figure that out, starting with an easy question: how many legs do cockroaches have? Then, to narrow things down more, you’ll see a few other bugs that look like cockroaches so you can compare them. 

Finally, you’ll see what several kinds of roaches look like, and with some helpful links, learn how to get rid of them (along with all their friends).

Let’s get to it!

Roach Legs: What They Look Like and What They Do

Illustration of an American cockroach on orange. Label reads: 6 Legs
How many legs do roaches have? Six—two front legs, 2 middle legs, and 2 hind legs.

Like all insects, cockroaches have six legs. That alone doesn’t tell you exactly what your bug is, but at least you know it’s not a spider! (Those have eight legs. They’re arachnids, not insects.)

The Science of Cockroach Legs (Skip this section if you just need to identify the bugs)

Roach legs are slender, spiny and jointed. They come in three pairs, each of which is attached to a segment of the roach’s thorax—the “torso” part of its body.

The three pairs of legs serve different purposes and, thus, have different names.

  1. Right behind the head are the prothoracic legs, which the cockroach uses to slow itself down. They’re the shortest.
  2. In the middle are the mesothoracic legs, which help the insect adjust its speed, speeding up or slowing down as needed.
  3. At the rear are the metathoracic legs, the roach’s strong hind legs that propel it forward at speeds of up to 50 body lengths per second!

As a cockroach walks, it moves its middle leg on one side with the front and back legs on the opposite side. By alternating steps in this way, it gains incredible mobility on even the most difficult terrain.

Fun fact: When a roach is climbing upside-down on the ceiling, it takes slower, longer strides to better maintain contact and avoid falling off. This takes a lot of energy and care, so a roach runs much more slowly on the ceiling. 

Other Important Cockroach Characteristics

Illustration of 3 cockroaches side-by-side: Oriental cockroach, American cockroach, and German cockroach
Oriental cockroach (left), American cockroach (middle), and German cockroach (right)

In addition to its legs, you can begin to ID a cockroach by its color. Most are brown, tan, reddish-brown or black.

Roaches also have two long antennae, flat bodies, a small head, and wings (though in some species and sexes you can barely see them). If you were to examine a cockroach closely, you’d also find a pair of small tendril-like filaments called cerci at its base. If you were to discover a female cockroach carrying an egg case, you’d see the egg case protruding from behind, sometimes looking very much like part of the roach’s body.

Size is a less reliable characteristic since roach sizes vary widely. The very small German cockroach grows to only about 0.5 inches long. While the much larger American cockroach grows up to 2 inches in length.

Why You Might Not Always See Six Legs on a Cockroach

Realistic illustration of a cockroach that appears to have 4 legs.
Illustration of a cockroach missing a leg.

At first glance, you might see only four legs on the bug you’ve spotted, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Sometimes, a roach’s front legs are small enough to be hidden beneath its body, making it look like the insect has four legs.

Additionally, not every cockroach has six legs. A roach can live on after losing a leg or two as it scavenges and explores new environments. You might spot one with five or even four legs, hobbling along but refusing to leave you alone nonetheless.

One incredible part of the cockroach’s genome even allows these insects to regenerate lost legs! After enough time, that five-legged cockroach could return to its true six-legged form.

With the basics out of the way, we’re going to start narrowing down your suspect by eliminating some of the bugs that look like cockroaches.

How Cockroaches Are Different From Beetles

Comparison illustration of an American cockroach, Oriental cockroach, and Smoky Brown cockroach vs a Bor beetle

Most beetles have spiny legs, just like cockroaches. But beetles’ legs tend to be shorter than cockroach legs. On a ground beetle, an occasional household pest, you’ll notice that its mouth has pincers. You won’t find these on a cockroach.

You can also look at the wings (if it has any). Flying roaches have a single pair of long, thin wings, the top of which (the ones you’ll see) are leathery. Beetles usually have two pairs of wings, the top of which, the elytra, are hard and protective.

If the bug you saw was flying around your house and fluttered away as you tried to swat it, it probably wasn’t a cockroach.

Most roaches don’t like to fly. Even among the ones that can, they’re rarely very good at it. Roaches mostly use their wings to glide or “hop” to higher elevations. They like to keep their feet on the ground, where they’re fast runners.

How to Tell a Cockroach from a Cricket

Illustration of an American cockroach, a German cockroach, and a cricket in the foreground

With its huge hind legs, it’s hard to mistake a cricket for anything else. A roach’s six legs all look about the same, though they’re slightly different in length. But a cricket’s rear legs are much bigger than their other legs. They use them to make their signature chirping sound and to hop long distances.

Cockroaches are known for their flat, oval-shaped bodies that allow them to squeeze through tiny crevices. Crickets aren’t as flat. They also tend to have bigger heads, while a roach’s head is tiny and almost completely covered by a cowl-like structure (it looks like armor behind its neck).

How to Correctly Identify a Cockroach

Cartoon illustration of an angry cockroach caught inside a sticky trap

It’s going to be hard to tell with 100% certainty that you have a cockroach problem without seeing the bugs up close. For that, you’ll need a few sticky traps. These pest control products are inexpensive but extremely effective at catching, killing and, most importantly, revealing the bugs that have invaded your house.

One of the most popular sticky traps is the roach motel. To catch the bugs, place one roach motel close to the place where you saw the bug. Choose a spot that’s relatively hidden or out of the way—cockroaches don’t like to venture out in the open.

Depending on the size of the room, place 1–3 more traps, focusing on areas near appliances, large furniture or holes in the walls. If you can, put them behind or under the appliances or furniture, where insects would most likely hide.

The traps will attract any nearby roaches. By the next morning, you should have one (or more) trapped specimens to examine up close.

For more tips on identifying cockroaches and determining which species you’re dealing with, check out our guide to the types of roaches with pictures.


We started with a common first question: “how many legs do cockroaches have?” But you have to look a bit further than the legs to truly distinguish cockroaches from beetles, crickets and other insects that might’ve wandered into your home.

If you do have roaches, welcome to your new favorite site! You’ll find detailed overviews and step-by-step guides on how to eliminate any type of cockroach inside and outside of your home.

Don’t give the roaches a chance to get comfortable. Start getting rid of cockroaches today!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many pairs of walking legs do cockroaches have?

A cockroach has six walking legs. Its legs attach in three pairs to its thorax. The front, prothoracic legs are its brakes. The middle, mesothoracic legs are for adjusting speed. And the rear, metathoracic legs are for pushing it forward.

How do cockroaches walk on walls?

The segment of a cockroach’s leg closest to the floor is called the tarsus, and it might be the most important part of the leg. Underneath each subsegment of the tarsus are tiny, adhesive organs that act like sticky pads, suctioning the roach’s feet to smooth or vertical surfaces. This allows it to scale vertical walls and even climb on ceilings.

Can cockroaches regrow legs?

Cockroaches can regrow legs. It has a stronger ability to regenerate limbs in its nymphal stage, but adult roaches can regrow lost legs, too.

Can cockroaches walk backwards?

Cockroaches can walk backwards but, like most animals, they’re not as fast or agile as when they’re moving forwards. Their smaller front legs simply aren’t designed to propel them as quickly as their large hind legs.

Written by Andrew Martin, Reviewed by Helene Steenkamp, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Helene Steenkamp, PhD.

Science Editor

Helene is a Namibian born South African citizen with a great love for nature and its intricacies. She completed a PhD in molecular phylogenetics at the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 2011, and has since worked as a postdoctoral researcher in this field at the University as well as the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa.

She has published several peer reviewed scientific articles with the use of genetic, taxonomic and phylogenetic tools, specializing in Entomology, taxonomy, zoonoses, epidemiology and bacterial & viral genetics.

These days, she is a stay-at-home-mother of two lovely boys, with whom she loves to explore nature from a different point of view. She also works as a freelance writer, editor and researcher for all things science.

You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. Wilson, Tracy V. Cockroach Anatomy and Physiology. HowStuffWorks. Retrieved from https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/cockroach1.htm
  2. Li, Sheng, et al. (2018) The genomic and functional landscapes of developmental plasticity in the American cockroach. Nature. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467–018–03281–1

To the surprise of no one who has ever lived in Texas, it’s one of the “roachiest” areas in the entire United States.

With multiple climates, many of which are pretty close to “cockroach heaven,” and weather events that are kind of like “cockroach hell” (floods and heat waves tend to drive roaches into nearby homes), Texas is not a place well suited to folks who can’t get at least a little used to having these bugs around.

Does that mean your home has to be stuck with a Texas cockroach infestation? Absolutely not.

Let’s take a look at roaches in Texas and nail down the best ways to get rid of them.

Types of Roaches in Texas

American Cockroach

American cockroach adult, nymph, and egg sac beside penny for scale
Known variously as a tree roach, palmetto bug, or wood roach, Texas has lots of these.


The biggest roach gets the most nicknames. Whether you know it as a tree roach, a palmetto bug, a wood roach, or Cockroach Rex (a current favorite of ours), the American cockroach is one monster of a bug.


If you were to hold a ruler to a random Texas cockroach and found it well, really big—this is the roach it would be.

American roaches are oval-shaped and flat, with spiny legs, long wings and long antennae. They’re reddish-brown in color and often feature a yellow ring behind their heads. With the distinctive color of their wings and their often massive size, American roaches are easy to ID.


American cockroaches don’t mind living outdoors most of the time, where they live comfortably in harmless places like compost, trees, and decaying logs, as well as some of the worst places—storm drains, city dumpsters, and sewer systems.

However, they’re quite happy indoors, too, where they’ll nest in basements, boiler rooms, kitchens, and other spaces with lots of moisture.


Illustration of a huge tree roach flying in an open window
The flying cockroach, Texas-style

While there are actually four kinds of flying roaches in Texas, the American roach is the one everyone remembers—and with good reason. With a wingspan up to four inches, the American roach looks huge mid-air, makes a flutter you can hear, and has a bad habit of flying right toward you. (sometimes landing right on you).

German Cockroach

German cockroach nymph, adult, and egg, compared to a penny for size
The German cockroach: Texas has them even in cooler, drier regions.


Of the various types of cockroaches in Texas, German cockroaches usually do the greatest harm. Like a video gone viral, once German roaches take hold somewhere, they’ll spread and spread until they’re everywhere.


Tiny and light brown, German cockroaches are among the smallest roaches, and partly because of that, often go unnoticed until an infestation is widespread.

Aside from its tiny size, you’ll know a German cockroach by the distinctive dark stripes running down its back. Most visible on the cowl behind its head, the markings appear bolder and thicker on younger roaches that haven’t yet grown wings to cover them.


German cockroaches can squeeze into tiny crevices with their flat bodies and leave behind dozens of eggs at a time. They prefer well-hidden, tightly confined spaces near lots of food and water. In most homes, that means a concentration of them in kitchen and pantry areas, with a seething, filthy nightmare often brewing in the spaces behind and underneath the fridge.

Most roaches actually prefer to live outdoors, but not the German cockroach. Texas droughts, floods, and searing temperatures never touch them because they always live indoors, and always inside human structures.

Though also technically a flying cockroach, Texas residents won’t see them do it often. What they will see is the damage this evil Texas cockroach does. They get into everything, defiling open food, and leaving cockroach droppings everywhere they go. They also spread disease.

Oriental Cockroach

Oriental cockroach identification: adult, nymph and egg capsule beside penny for scale


With its striking, shiny black exoskeleton, the Oriental cockroach is one of the most distinctive and easily identified roaches in Texas. With its seriously potent stink (you will smell them), it’s one of the strangest too.


At about 1.25 inches in length, Oriental roaches are mid-sized insects. They’re rounder than German or brown-banded roaches and have shorter antennae.

To identify the Oriental cockroach, first look for its jet black color, then look for wings. If wings are short or nonexistent (and it’s not a wingless cockroach baby from another species), you’re probably looking at an Oriental.


Oriental roaches live in cool, damp areas. You’ll find them in basements, garages, bathrooms, laundry rooms and along the perimeter of your house.

Much less agile than other species, slow-moving Oriental roaches feed on crumbs from the floor and find shelter under appliances. These bugs don’t fly or climb; you might catch one in the shower at night or as it explores your basement.


Brown banded cockroach adult, nymph, and egg case size comparison


Brown-banded cockroaches should head straight to East Austin because they’re the hipsters of the cockroach scene. Refusing to act like other roach species, they don’t like moisture, don’t like doing things at ground level, and regularly (if they’re males) fly to high-up hiding places.


The brown-banded roach is named after the signature set of brown bands that cross its back. Its body is light brown to tan in color while the stripes are typically dark brown.

These roaches are nearly as small as German cockroaches and can be just as nasty to find in your home.


Being the moisture-hating outliers that they are, brown-banded cockroaches enjoy drier areas of Texas and prefer higher elevations.

They’ll nest in ceilings and attics, hide beneath roof shingles and even attach their egg cases behind wall decorations.

Asian Cockroach

Asian cockroach adult, nymph,and egg case relative in size to a penny


It might sound like we’re about to describe the German cockroach all over again but this is in fact another cockroach species to watch out for in Texas.


About 1/2 inch long, light tan and featuring two dark stripes, the Asian cockroach looks so much like a German roach that researchers sometimes confuse the two species.


Although they look like German roaches, Asian roaches in Texas do mostly live outdoors.

They’re much stronger fliers than their German cousins—but not nearly the threat to your home. More of a nuisance pest than a homewrecking one, it’s their flying that gets under most people’s skin. Leave a window open in a well-lit room on a warm Houston evening and you might find yourself swatting Asian roaches for a good part of the night.

How to Solve a Texas Cockroach Problem

Getting rid of Texas cockroaches for good takes a multi-step cockroach control strategy that the pros call integrated pest management (IPM).

Sanitation and Exclusion

Start with the keystone steps—sanitation and exclusion—that hold up the rest of the plan.

Sanitation Tips for Texas Roaches

Sanitation cuts off roaches’ access to food and water, making them desperate to eat anything they can find.

  1. Use the vacuum to pick up crumbs, dust and dead and living roaches. Be sure to reach behind and under appliances and furniture.
  2. Wash the dishes every day and change the garbage bag as soon as it’s full.
  3. Store all of your food and ingredients in hard containers with tight-fitting lids.
  4. Repair leaky pipes, dripping sinks and loose hose faucets to remove water sources.

Exclusion Tips for Texas Roaches

Exclusion kicks them out of their hiding spots and makes it difficult for roaches to get in, get comfortable and get away from your traps.

  1. In eastern Texas and especially along the Gulf, battle moisture with dehumidifiers and fans.
  2. In western Texas, make sure your storage areas—especially in upper floors—are well-ventilated and decluttered.
  3. Cockroaches love a good cardboard box for nesting; use plastic containers to store things safely.
  4. Keep your landscaping clear of debris and avoid over-watering the soil. Look for the dark spots that signal trapped moisture around shrubs and trees and thin out the mulch.
  5. Seal gaps around water meter boxes, pipes, dryer vents and basement windows.
  6. It might be necessary to cover soffits with screens to keep out flying roaches in Texas.
  7. Texans already know to check their shoes for spiders and scorpions; you’ll want to check ‘em for roaches, too.

Texas Cockroach Control Plan

Once the roaches are desperate for food and displaced from their usual haunts, it’s time for a choreographed attack with the latest and greatest pest control tools.

  1. Traps – Use baited traps, like roach motels, or any of these great roach traps to start catching the pests ASAP. You’ll start to see where most of them are hiding and kill plenty along the way
  2. Gel bait – Use pea-sized drops of gel bait to target the colony—the heart of the roach infestation that’s hidden well out of reach. Insecticidal dust works well along with baits, killing any roaches that walk through it. You can treat wall cavities with dust to get as close to the colony as possible.
  3. Outside – Opt for a quality perimeter spray or granular bait to create an anti-roach barrier along walls and in mulched areas. This is especially important if you’re finding American or Oriental roaches in your home or business.

Need an exterminator?

If you’ve ID’d more than a few German, Asian or brown-banded roaches in your home, consider enlisting a professional pest control service. These bugs can explode into truly nasty roach infestations if they’re not controlled quickly and completely.

Since the climate and environment vary widely across Texas, research local exterminators that have experience treating homes in your area.

Ask about the specific products they use and inform them of any pets or other special conditions you might have. They should start with a walkthrough where you show them places where you’ve seen activity and they get an idea of how best to move forward with treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How common are roaches in Texas?

Texas is a huge state with plenty of pests and certainly no shortage of cockroaches. From the arid west to the Gulf Coast, roaches pose an ongoing threat to homes and businesses, spreading bacteria and contaminating food.

Are there flying roaches in Texas?

Yep! American roaches can fly, although they prefer to walk. Asian and brown-banded cockroaches are strong fliers that can cause problems in attics and ceilings. German roaches fly also, but prefer to crawl.

Why are roaches so bad in Texas?

It’s a combination of the climate, weather events, and the mix of urban centers and rural sprawls that makes Texas like one big cockroach hotspot.

The warmth and varying humidity make different areas ideal for different species of cockroaches. Put it all together and it’s a recipe for roach problems just about everywhere.

Texans, you’re not alone in the uphill battle against roaches—just ask anyone from Florida.


Roaches in Texas come in nearly a half dozen flavors but whatever the species, they’re disgusting bugs to find in your home.

With the details in this survival guide, you can identify the roach(es) you’ve seen and kickstart your plan to eliminate cockroaches for good.

Say goodbye to the Texas cockroach today!


  1. Brown, Wizzie et al. Cockroach Biology and Management: How to Control Them? Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Retrieved from https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/insects/cockroach-biology-and-management/
  2. Hurt, Harry III (1976) The World’s Most Despicable Bug. Texas Monthly. Retrieved from https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-worlds-most-despicable-bug/
  3. Wu, Gwendolyn (2019) Roaches are everywhere. How do I get rid of them? Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/houston-how-to/article/Roaches-are-everywhere-How-do-I-get-rid-of-them-14446305.php

Finding a cockroach, even a tiny one, can be enough to ruin your day. But what about a roach so big it casts a shadow? So big that someone in your family actually starts to scream?

That my friend, is a giant cockroach, and yes—it’s real. The bad news? It’s not so much their size that’s the problem. It’s what they do.

They hang around in filth, and dirt, and sewers. And when they pay your home a visit, deposit germs and allergens that can make your household sick. If they decide they like your space, they’ll settle in. Then begin to multiply. Sometimes faster than you can imagine.

The good news? You can kill most roaches—even a giant roach, faster and more easily than you might think. Beginning with products that may be around your home right now.

Ready to say goodbye to giant roaches?

Let’s go!

What Exactly Is a Giant Cockroach?

American cockroach adult, nymph, and egg sac beside penny for scale
With its reddish brown body and a cream colored cowl behind its head, the American cockroach has a distinctive appearance, even beyond its size.

If you were to start poking around homes, yards, and sewers across the United States, you’d find several different species of cockroaches, some of them fairly large. None of them come even close however, to the size of a bug called the American cockroach, also known as the “palmetto bug” or “water bug.”

Tip: Is the above American roach not the one you saw? Also see these other large cockroach species: the Oriental cockroach, the smokybrown cockroach, the Pennsylvania wood cockroach, and the Australian cockroach.

With a body that grows well past 2 inches long, and antennae that equal its body length, the American cockroach is truly massive, sometimes unforgettably so, to people who see one for the first time.

And there’s something else to know about this monster bug: its long brown wings aren’t just for looks. They work—

Meaning that the giant flying cockroach isn’t just some bizarre and hideous internet meme. It’s an honest to goodness thing.

Illustration of a huge tree roach flying in an open window
Yes, the giant flying cockroach is a thing.

Though American roaches aren’t particularly good flyers actually, they use flight, along with impressive crawling and climbing skills (they mostly live outdoors), to make their way into homes in search of food, water, and a safe place to breed and lay their eggs.

Once inside, they’ll zero in on a few favorite haunts where they’ll eat, drink, and mate—typically at night or in the shadows. Then occasionally (and to your horror), they’ll pop up in places you can actually see them.

That’s when most people try to squish them, swat them, spray them down the drain, or suffocate them with anything that seems potentially lethal, or at the very least, handy. No luck.

There are better ways.

Let’s begin with (and rate) several products you may have around your house right now—some that can kill a giant roach almost instantly, others that take a little time:

Household Products That Can Kill a Giant Cockroach

Cartoon illustration of common household roach killers-sugar and baking soda- on a kitchen table.

#1 Soap, Detergent and Fabric Softener

Rating: 4/5 – Handy, fast, and cheap (but you’ll need a lot to kill giant roaches).

Surfactants might sound like a special pest control term but it’s really just a class of products like hand soap and detergent that can also kill a giant cockroach dead. Crazy, right?

Mix shampoo, dish soap or fabric softener with water in a spray bottle. Spray enough onto a giant roach and it’ll kick the bucket in under a minute!

Tip: Smaller roaches die more quickly from surfactants, and with less spray. To kill a giant cockroach with surfactant, you’ll need to seriously douse it. Be prepared to do a lot of squirting (and clean up a slippery floor)!

#2 Borax and Sugar

Rating: 4/5 – Easy to apply and effective.

If you keep a package of borax handy for the laundry, you’ve got a great weapon to use against giant cockroaches!

Borax is deadly poisonous to roaches that ingest it, and when you leave a wispy trail in areas they walk through, it will cling to them, then kill them later after they try to groom it off. Even if the roach doesn’t ingest the powder, it can pass through its exoskeleton, killing it that way, too.

You can also combine borax (or boric acid) with sugar or sprinkle it onto small dollops of peanut butter to make a bait. Placed in cupboards and behind appliances, the mixture will begin to slowly poison roaches before the sun comes up tomorrow.

For more simple recipes, check out our guide to killing cockroaches with borax.

Tip: Borates such as borax and boric acid may be natural products, but they’re not entirely harmless. Don’t let children or pets ingest the powder or any baits you make, and keep the powder stored away.

#3 Baking Soda

Rating: 4/5 – Easy to find, cheap and effective.

Chances are you’ve got a box or two of baking soda in the pantry. If you do, you’re in luck! This kitchen staple makes a deadly recipe for giant cockroaches.

Use some diced onion, a fragrant fruit peel or some fine sugar to bait these bugs to their doom. Simply place the powder in jar lids or on paper plates and leave them out for roaches to eat overnight.

#4 Duct Tape Trap

Rating: 3/5 – As simple as it gets; only catches 2–3 at a time.

Lay a strip of duct tape sticky-side-up and start catching roaches tonight! Not technically an instant-kill solution, it’s a near-immediate way to begin knocking roaches out of commission. Don’t forget to place a small piece of bait right in the middle. Set a dozen of these and if the bait is tasty enough, you’ll find at least that many roaches in the morning.

Tip: Poorer quality duct tape won’t be sticky enough, so use the good stuff. When you do, keep the strips well away from areas pets or small children travel. You don’t want to have to unstick a terrified pet or child.

#5 Glass Jar Trap

Rating: 3/5 – Requires some setup but it’s reusable and effective.

You can make a simple glass jar trap with just one mason jar and some petroleum jelly. Add a piece of bait to the bottom of the jar and spread the petroleum jelly all around the inside of the glass. Coat it well so even a giant roach has no chance of finding a foothold to climb out.

You can attach a straw or ruler to the side to form a ramp so it’s as easy as can be for the roaches to find their way in. In the morning, empty the jar into a sturdy bag and dispose of it outside immediately. Then reload and catch some more!

#6 Beer/Wine Bottle Trap

Rating: 2/5 – A bit steep and narrow for the biggest giant cockroaches.

The strong smells of beer and wine should be enough to attract roaches to this simple DIY trap. If you don’t have petroleum jelly handy, use cooking oil to coat the inside of the bottleneck as far down as you can reach. Roaches climb up, fall in and can’t get out.

Check out even more home remedies that you can whip together to kill roaches.

Commercial Giant Cockroach Killers

Cartoon illustration of a live cockroach and a dead one outside a roach motel.

While the common household products above can help you start the job, commercial ones generally pack a bigger wallop and have more certain outcomes.

#7: Bengal Gold

5/5 – As powerful as it gets (but not cheap).

The two active ingredients in Bengal Gold Roach Spray combine to make one of the strongest insecticide formulas available to non-professionals. This product is an odorless pyrethroid spray that delivers fast knockdown and a nearly instant kill. It’s pricey but with a can of Bengal at the ready, there’s no hope of escape for the next giant cockroach you see.

#8: Ortho Home Defense Max

5/5 – Super-effective! Doubles as a preventative spray.

Ortho Home Defense is one of the most popular names in cockroach control and their kill-on-contact spray is among the best. Another pyrethroid spray, it kills roaches quickly and leaves behind a residue that’ll keep taking down bugs for up to a year on hard surfaces. Use it to kill the next giant cockroach you see and spray it anywhere you think roaches are coming from to kill future invaders.

#9 Wondercide spray

4/5 – Skip harmful chemicals without sacrificing strength.

Wondercide Pest Control Spray is an all-natural way to kill giant cockroaches with just a few sprays of their cedar oil formula. Combined with a surfactant to boost absorption, this spray delivers a nearly-instant kill and leaves behind a fresh scent.

It’s rather expensive but it’s completely safe for homes with pets and small children. It’s naturally repellent, too!

#10 Zevo

3/5 – Works well but leaves a strong smell.

Want to rotate in another eco-friendly spray? Zevo makes a line of roach-killing products that use a combination of essential oils—cinnamon, lemongrass and geraniol—to knock down roaches in seconds.

#11 Roach Motels

5/5 – Don’t kill instantly but their success rate is top-notch.

Roach motels take the duct tape concept and turn it up to 11. Place them in kitchen cabinets, behind the fridge and in the bathroom, basement and closets to catch as many roaches as possible. By morning, they’ll be stuck for good and set for their date with the dump.

Make sure you buy the large size!

Roach-Killing Products That Don’t Work

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach triumphantly standing over a roach bomb.

As you might expect, not every commercial product or home remedy is what it’s cracked up to be. Here are some to avoid:

Vinegar (and Most Other Products That Would Make a Tasty Salad)

Lots of people think the strong smell of vinegar will either kill roaches or keep them away. Unfortunately, neither is true. Cleaning with it can’t hurt but don’t count on it to solve your pest problem.

Others claim lemons, lemon peels and lemon oils kill roaches but this is also a myth. Stick to lemon-scented pyrethroid sprays, instead.

Bug Bombs

Oh, and the possibly surprising thumbs-down? Bug bombs, roach foggers—whatever you call them, they’re not the solution. While they will kill a giant cockroach caught in the open and at just the right time, they won’t kill any of the dozens more that are hiding deep in cracks and holes.

After the Emergency is Over: How to Say Goodbye to Giant Roaches Forever

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach munching on a treat in a kitchen, a stop sign in the foreground.

Ok, you’ve got what it takes to kill the next giant cockroach that dares to cross your path.

But the real problem lies waiting in the walls in the form of who-knows-how-many cockroach eggs.

So how do you get rid of cockroaches forever?

With a strategic and proven battle plan, broken into 5 steps (check them out!):

  1. Sanitation to eliminate food sources
  2. Traps to kill some roaches and monitor progress
  3. Roach bait and insecticidal dust to take down the colony
  4. A solid prevention plan for keeping them gone for good.
  5. Exclusion to keep them out.


Let’s face it. Going toe-to-toe with a giant cockroach can be a special kind of horror. In the past, you may have lost that fight, but it’s one you can easily win.

Armed with a few simple weapons, you can solve even a giant roach problem. Then with a plan moving forward, make sure its solved for good.

Good luck!

There comes a time when you realize quick fixes won’t solve your cockroach problem. You’re fed up, tired, and just want to be done with the bugs for good.

If that’s you, it’s great news. Because there’s no better place to start. Effective, long-term cockroach control will treat the root of the problem and put you back in charge. It’s also easier than you might think.

Consider this your guide to a permanent, no-fail roach control plan—an introduction to the best tools and techniques (including home remedies) that control roaches, along with advanced advice for doing the job cheaply, safely, and well.

Ready to solve your roach problem? Let’s go!

Roach Pest Control: Do You Really Need an Exterminator?

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach exterminator and a shocked cockroach underneath a home's floorboards.

We’ve all taken on projects that at some point, became more than we could handle. Roach control can be like that too, when you underestimate what you’re facing.

A moderate cockroach infestation will leave you feeling pretty satisfied once you’ve cleared the critters out. But discovering a horror show pulsing behind your walls will make you wish you’d called a pro.

Before deciding to do the job yourself, try to make at least a general assessment of the infestation, judging its severity.

You may have a serious infestation if…

  • You’re seeing lots of roaches, even in the daylight. Roaches don’t usually come out during the day, so seeing them in broad daylight could be a sign that there are many roaches hiding.
  • You’re finding a lot of cockroach egg cases around your home. Roaches don’t like to leave eggs where predators (like you) can find them. Stumbling onto eggs with any regularity could be a sign that a roach population is ready to explode.
  • You’re seeing (and smelling) cockroach droppings everywhere. Roaches aren’t picky about where they do their business, but whatever droppings you see out in the open is nothing compared to what’s happening behind your walls.
  • You live in an apartment or condo where you have no idea what bugs are doing elsewhere in the building. For all you know, the roaches you’re seeing are the tip of the iceberg, and the ones enjoying your neighbor’s apartment will be headed for yours soon.

Tip: If you’re an apartment dweller, do make contacting your landlord or property manager the first task on your list. Legal responsibilities aside, they may already have a cockroach/pest control service under contract—which would make everyone’s lives easier.

If you do have a serious roach infestation—a truly ugly one, it may be smart to skip the DIY, and bring in a cockroach exterminator to clear it up.

Short of that, roll up your sleeves. Because the plan below has helped thousands, and will probably help you, too.

Part 1. The Roach Control Secret Weapon You Must Have

Cartoon illustration of an open book, turned to a page that discusses cockroach glue traps.

We live in an age of wonders, but many things that work best in life don’t come with a lot of sizzle. Cockroach control products are a case in point, with some that are chemical marvels and others that seem almost crude.

This “secret product” (secret because it’s sort of hidden in plain sight from consumers) is one of the crude ones. And besides being easy to use and gratifyingly cheap, it will also be a game changer for you. In fact, it’s one of the few products most professional exterminators simply couldn’t do without.

It’s the cockroach glue trap, a flat or folded piece of cardboard coated with glue and lure. If you’re like most folks who’ve dealt with roaches before, you’re probably familiar with sticky trap products like the roach motel, and you’re fairly satisfied with how they kill.

But killing isn’t the best thing sticky traps do. And if that’s all you know them for, you’re not benefiting as much as you could.

Because as it turns out, pest professionals don’t use use glue traps so much to kill roaches as to collect intelligence about them—to measure an infestation so they can make choices about the next steps to take.

If you’re serious about succeeding long-term with a roach control plan, you’ll want to use them that way, too. Doing it that way, you’ll place sticky traps throughout your home, then later count the catch from each one.

From that count, you’ll gain two important pieces of information:

  1. Where roaches tend to congregate.
  2. And where they tend to travel.

By starting your plan with sticky traps, you’ll learn where you needn’t waste your time. And where to hit roaches hardest.

Sticky traps are your secret weapon in this battle. Because you’ll know where to bring the fight.

Tip: Pick up a couple dozen sticky traps regardless of any other approach you use. They’re inexpensive, show you where to focus your efforts, and help to reduce roach populations, too. Use half your traps at the beginning of the job, and the other half when it’s done. The second set will alert you should any new roaches appear.

Part 2. Three Killer Cockroach Control Products That Eliminate Roaches Completely

Cartoon illustration of an open book, turned to a page that discusses three important roach control products- bait, dust, and IGR

Twenty years ago, cockroach elimination was a different, more troublesome story. Back then if you had an infestation and were committed to the cause, you’d rent a pump sprayer, lug it around your house or apartment, and pump lethal poison into every room.

The bugs would die dramatically—scores of them, right before your eyes. And while the carnage was sort of satisfying in its way, it wasn’t nearly as extensive as it appeared.

Because what you were really doing wasn’t solving the problem. You were doing what a cockroach bomb does today: killing all the dumber bugs, and sending the smart ones into your walls.

A few weeks later, your cockroach problem would be back. And you’d hire an exterminator to finish the job.

So much for the good old days. Because today’s cockroach control products are far better and go about killing in a very different way.

Gel Bait: Cutting Edge Poison and Lure in a Gel Matrix

Cartoon illustration of an open book, turned to a page about cockroach gel bait

Poison insect baits are nothing new in the cockroach world and have been used in one form or another for a very long time. They also weren’t particularly exciting killers—that is, until someone put them in a gel.

At their most basic, gel baits are just a matrix of lure and poison that kill roaches when they nibble. But the beauty lies in how they do it.

The gel matrix keeps the lure and active ingredient (the poison) moist, fresh, and tempting for up to several weeks. While the special poison does its job slowly—often leaving cockroaches to die in the heart of the infestation.

There, other roaches see its body as food, and get poisoned themselves when they eat it. When those roaches die, there may be enough poison in their tissues to kill still more. It’s an effective system that strikes the problem at its source.

Cockroach gel bait is sold in convenient bait stations, but syringe-based applicator products are the ones you’ll want.

To apply gel bait from an applicator, you’ll squeeze out tiny drops in areas your sticky traps have shown you they tend to go—inside and behind kitchen cabinets, around pipes, wiring and vents, under sinks, beneath appliances and in any cracks you find in walls.

Within a month of applying gel bait, you’re likely to see a lot of dead roaches, and then a dramatic (and satisfying) reduction in cockroach populations. Many people who try the product happily stop there and assume they’ve solved the problem.

But that’s typically a mistake.

Because roach problems respond far better to a multi-pronged attack, and can win out even over the power of gel bait if that’s all you ever use. To permanently beat roaches down, you’ll want to hit them with at least one, and possibly two more potent tools.

To learn more about using Gel Cockroach Bait, go to the guide here.

Silica Gel: Deadly to the Touch

Cartoon illustration of an open book, turned to a page about silica gel insecticidal dust

Roaches are not exactly sedentary creatures. To find food, water, and mates, they need to move around, which is what makes our next product—silica insect dust so effective.

Insect dusts are fine powders applied to the areas roaches travel. The dust sticks to their legs and bodies, either damaging their exoskeletons or passing into them. Roaches die eventually, succumbing to dehydration or internal damage.

You may already be familiar with insecticidal dusts like boric acid and diatomaceous earth (DE), but neither is as effective (or as safe) for cockroach control as silica gel.

Silica gel doesn’t grind into roaches like DE, and doesn’t poison them like boric acid. Instead, it soaks up their protective oils like a sponge, leaving them to fatally dry out. Silica gel is applied in the same way as boric acid and DE, but kills roaches faster and with fewer escapees.

Silica gel is packaged in the product CimeXa. In addition to being wildly effective, it’s one of the least toxic insecticides available, and is a great choice for homes with pets or small children.

To apply: Cimexa is applied with a special “puffing” tool called a hand duster. It’s also sold in containers that can be used in the same way. Spread a fine dusting across surfaces where roaches walk. It’ll keep working as long as it stays dry.

Production Freeze: Block Baby Cockroaches with an IGR

Cartoon illustration of an open book, turned to a page about insect growth regulator

Though gel baits and dust are effective, cutting-edge tools, they don’t destroy cockroach eggs waiting to hatch in your walls, your basement, or the back of your cupboards and drawers.

That means that even after you’ve wiped out every single living roach, you could still be in for a second wave.

An insect growth regulator (IGR) protects you from that wave, not by killing, but by stunting the growth of new roaches that emerge. Those roaches never fully reach full maturity, so don’t successfully breed, effectively breaking the next cycle of infestation.

You may not need an IGR to completely solve your roach problem, but it’s a great insurance policy against the sort of sneaky re-infestation that could ruin all the other work you’ve done.

To apply IGR: Spray it into cracks and behind cupboards or stick self-contained devices in areas roaches hang out. IGR’s can also be mixed with other insecticides and applied with a pump sprayer.

Part 3: Home Remedies for Cockroach Control

Blackboard illustration of a few cockroach control home remedies

Few home remedies even remotely compare for effectiveness against store-bought traps, bait, and dust. But if you’re short on cash or want to get started before more heavy-hitting products arrive, try these:

DIY Duct Tape Glue Traps

DIY sticky traps? Duct tape doesn’t work as well as store-bought traps, but does work. Tear off a couple 6-inch pieces and lay them sticky-side-up along baseboards, countertops, the bathroom floor and kitchen cabinet shelves. Stick a tiny piece of food to the center as bait. Replace daily or as needed.

Plaster Roach Bait

Have some leftover plaster in the garage? Mix it with cornstarch and spread it in cracks and crevices to give roaches a toxic snack. Or, if you have borax, sprinkle it onto a dollop of peanut butter.

Your Vacuum as a Roach Killer

Don’t forget to vacuum! An oft-forgotten but powerful tool is your vacuum. Use it to suck up dead and living roaches you might find out in the open. Just remember to discard its contents into the garbage can outside right away.

Interested in more home remedies for roaches? Click here.

Part 4: Natural and Environmentally-Friendly Cockroach Control

Cartoon illustration of a testy cockroach encountering a bottle of essential oil

If you want to control roaches without using man-made chemicals, there are alternatives that can help with mild to moderate infestations. You can also use them to supplement your other cockroach control supplies, so long as any strong scents (like peppermint) don’t cross paths with them.

Check out these easy eco-friendly alternatives:

Boric Acid and Powdered Sugar

A simple mixture of boric acid and powdered sugar becomes a deadly natural bait. If you have a bag of food-grade diatomaceous earth you’re using in the garden or as a supplement, that’ll also work as a roach treatment.

Essential Oils

Among the many essential oils that bring us calming relief and fresh fragrances, a few also kill cockroaches. Peppermint oil shows the strongest roach-removal potential.

Natural Sprays

You’ll find environmentally-friendly cockroach products online and in stores, too. Wondercide indoor pest control spray does the trick. Another effective roach control product, Zevo Roach Spray uses a different blend of oils to kill these nightmare pests.

Want more natural roach killers? Click here.

Part 5: Ongoing Roach Control Through Sanitation and Exclusion

Cartoon illustration of a small cockroach sneaking into a home's open window during the night.

While your roach control products are working in the background, you can prevent future roaches by cleaning, sealing and organizing your home.

If you’re thinking, Oh great, more chores, think of these as battle strategies, instead:

  1. Cleaning = starving roaches out by removing their food sources.
  2. Sealing up = eliminating roach entry points.
  3. Organizing = getting rid of nesting and egg-laying locations.

Anything roaches could possibly eat or drink: take it away from them. Every hiding place, entry point and escape route: close it off.

Focus on problem areas, like the kitchen, bathroom, basement and any other space that’s dark and cluttered.

Controlling Problem Areas

To Control Roaches in the Kitchen

Use your vacuum to suck up all the crumbs cockroaches would love to eat from behind the stove and under the table. Wipe the grease splatter off of oven knobs and clean cooking scraps out of the drain and garbage disposal. You should be washing dishes (and wiping down pet bowls) every night, too.

Kitchen cabinets, especially the ones where you store food, are high-risk targets for hungry cockroaches. They’re prime locations for placing gel bait or silica gel.

If you’re not already doing so, store foods and ingredients in glass or metal containers (that roaches can’t chew through). If there’s extra space in the fridge, take advantage of its tight-fitting seal to store some food products there.

To Control Roaches in Storage Areas

These pests love using cardboard boxes to hide and lay their eggs in (they’ll feed on cardboard and paper, too). Send them packing by switching to plastic bins with tight-fitting lids.

Controlling Roaches That Try to Make Their Way Inside

Several kinds of roaches live outside, but will invade your home when conditions are right. Take a notebook and inspect the entire exterior of your house for cracks and holes that they could use to enter. Make it a priority to seal them up with steel wool, caulking or insulating foam to stop them well before they become a problem.

Part 6: About Common Types of Roaches

4-Grid illustration of some common cockroaches- German, American, Oriental, and Asian.

Before you go, we’ve put together a quick guide to identifying the common types of cockroaches you might be dealing with. Check out each link for our full species overview.

German cockroaches are the tiny cockroach species that terrorize homes, grocery stores, restaurants and warehouses around the world. Light brown with two dark stripes, they spread quickly and thrive indoors, especially in apartment buildings.

American cockroaches are the big, reddish-brown ones—your classic ugly cockroaches that can be up to two inches long. They live outdoors and indoors, forming colonies of thousands in sewers and drain pipes.

Oriental cockroaches are glossy, black cockroaches that people often mistake for beetles. They’re mid-sized, winged but flightless. Oriental cockroaches live outdoors so, if you’re seeing them inside, focus on sealing up any exterior cracks and holes through which they could have entered your home.

Asian cockroaches are the German roach’s doppelgängers. They’re both yellowish-brown with dark stripes running down their backs. To separate them, you’ll have to look closely at its back: a German roach has brown coloring around its dark stripes while an Asian roach has white coloring.


When a roach problem hits home, you need to hit back with a cockroach control plan that puts you back in charge.

Identify your target areas, assemble the best modern tools, and get rid of roaches with methods that work for the long-term.

You can do this. And there’s no better time to start.


  1. Desiccating Dusts. Beyond Pesticides. Retrieved from https://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/safety-source-on-pesticide-providers/what-is-integrated-pest-management/desiccating-dusts
  2. Nagro, Anne (2019) Rethinking German Cockroach Control. PCT Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.pctonline.com/article/rethinking-german-cockroach-control/
  3. Potter, Michael F., et al. (2014) Silica Gel: A Better Bed Bug Desiccant. Retrieved from https://www.pctonline.com/article/pct0814-silica-gel-research-bed-bugs/
  4. Omg, Barb, et al. (2006) Cockroach Control Manual. University of Nebraska Extension.
  5. Potter, Michael F. (2018) Cockroach Elimination in Homes and Apartments. University of Kentucky Extension. Retrieved from https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef614

The worst part of your cockroach nightmare is waiting for it to end. You’ve seen them crawling around, you’ve caught them eating your food and you just want them gone.

How long do cockroaches live? As long as you let them.

We’re going to explore the cockroach lifespan from birth to death, explain what can shorten it and show you how to stop waiting and start getting rid of roaches today.

Ready? Let’s go!

The Roach Lifespan: From Egg to End

Early Life

Illustration of German and American cockroach eggs under a magnifying glass
Illustration of two cockroach egg cases: from an American cockroach (top), and a German cockroach(bottom).

The cockroach begins its life as a minuscule egg, one of as many as fifty held inside an egg case, called an ootheca. The female cockroach carries its egg case for 1 to 2 months until shortly before the eggs hatch. Then, it attaches the ootheca to a well-hidden surface.

Growing Up

Illustration of an American and German cockroach nymph against a piece of rotted wood.
Two cockroach nymphs, American and German.

The baby cockroach—called a nymph—goes through as many as 10 instars on its way to adulthood. During each of these phases, it sheds its exoskeleton and begins to grow a larger one. A newly molted nymph might appear translucent white before its brown or black exoskeleton develops anew.

All of this occurs over a period of months, which varies from species to species.

During its final, “young adult” stage, the cockroach nymph looks much like its parents. This is also where it earns—er, grows—its wings if it’s going to have any. By this point, it’s ready to join in with the adults… terrorizing homes.


Illustration of an American cockroach and a German cockroach in closeup, terrorizing a woman in her kitchen
Adult cockroaches: German left, and American right.

As soon as it reaches adulthood, the cockroach is ready to mate and reproduce. It’s also in the prime of its life, doing the maximum amount of exploring and scavenging for food anywhere it can—dumpsters, sewers, warehouses, bathrooms and kitchens.

A Day in the Adult Cockroach’s Life

An adult cockroach has 3 jobs:

  1. Hide. Roaches spend most of their time in hiding. Even fully-grown roaches can squeeze into coin-sized crevices and holes the width of a pen. Because they’re so good at hiding, it’s tricky to guess how many there really are. One or two roaches out in the open might mean dozens or hundreds hiding in the walls or beneath the floor.
  2. Eat. If a cockroach isn’t hiding it’s probably out looking for food. Roaches are primarily nocturnal and do most of their scavenging in the dark. They need very little food to survive but search daily for it, and eat just about anything, including paper, book bindings, fingernails, and hair.
  3. Breed. Finally, cockroaches are prolific breeders. Remember the ootheca with 50 eggs in it? Well, one female can produce 8 or more of these egg cases—a lifetime total of 300-400 offspring!

What All That Activity Means for You

For roaches, that daily grind is simply what cockroaches do. For you however, it can mean trouble.

Those sewer trips and sneaky dumpster runs leave bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa clinging to their bodies. Then when they show up back at your place to eat your food, they deposit it on your shelves, your drawers, and in your food itself.

And then there are the droppings!

Cockroach droppings are yet another way roaches bring dangerous bacteria into your home. All those tiny black specks you’ve noticed lately? They’re cockroach feces. And along with all the egg casings roaches leave behind, they can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks, too.

How Long Do Roaches Live; Or, WHEN DO THEY DIE?

Closeup illustration of two dead cockroaches on the floor, one an American roach, the other German.

Not soon enough…

The average lifespan of a cockroach is about 1.5 years.

But their lifespan depends heavily on food and water availability, climate and habitat. Some roaches freeze. Others fall into the mouths of predators. Most cockroaches die of dehydration or starvation.

What if you could take advantage of that weakness? What if you could get rid of cockroaches by taking away their food and water?

How long can a cockroach live without food and water?

These bugs can live up to a month without eating! That’s a bad sign for the starvation system.

However, they’re extremely sensitive to dehydration: a cockroach can’t survive longer than a week without water. Even a few parched days can make a roach too sluggish to get by.

When you take away their food and water, a cockroach immediately begins shedding weight.2 Its cells die at a higher rate. Mitosis—cell division—slows by up to 50% as part of the insect’s natural response to a lack of food and water. You’re winning!

Of course, you wouldn’t see this happening. Here’s what you would see:

  • Reduced cockroach activity: Without adequate food and water, cockroaches become weak and lethargic. They’ll stop scurrying around as much. If you were seeing a lot of roaches, you’ll notice a big difference within a few days. The change in a small infestation will be harder to notice but, after a couple of weeks, you’ll hardly see any living roaches.2
  • Dead cockroaches: A few roaches might kick the bucket on the floor or behind an appliance but most will die in their nest, out of sight and out of reach.

So, is it possible to starve roaches out?

If this sounds like a solution to your pest problem, remember that cockroaches eat almost anything. These insects have survived for over 300 million years because of their ability to scavenge food and find water almost anywhere.

Unless you’re sleeping in a lab, it’s practically impossible to starve them out. You’d have to eliminate every crumb, scrap of garbage and drop of water. And you’d have to keep it up for a month or longer!

Then there’s the problem of roach eggs—your sanitation won’t have any effect on the baby roaches already waiting to hatch in the walls or crawl spaces. They’ll grow up just when you think you’ve won and emerge as an even larger second wave facing an exasperated, exhausted enemy force.

Finally, there’s no way to know if you’re winning. You might not see any dead roaches, even if your plan is working.

It’s simply not worth the work, not when there’s a better, more powerful, proven and provable system at your disposal.

A state-of-the-art, professionally-inspired pest control system.

How long can cockroaches withstand an all-out attack?

Cartoon illustration on 4 grids of important tools for controlling roaches- Baits, Traps, Dusts, and IGR's.

We’re going to eliminate cockroaches using 4 state-of-the-art tools:

  1. Bait
  2. Traps
  3. Dust
  4. IGR

But it all begins with sanitation. Along with thorough cleaning, scrubbing and vacuuming, exclusion plays a vital role in eliminating roaches. You want to make sure they can’t find anywhere to get comfortable or, more importantly, lay their eggs.

Exclusion involves sealing up every potential entry point, crack and crevice that would allow roaches to enter and escape. That way, new ones can’t find any way to enter your home and existing ones can’t escape the doom you’ve laid out for them.

What happens when you clean, seal and organize?

Immediately, roaches will have to change their habits. Their normal food sources are gone, their pathways are cut off and they’re looking for new places to breed. Without easy access to water, they’ll start dying within the first week.

Now that they’re weakened, it’s time to roll out your cannons.

Baiting Roaches

Metaphoric cartoon illustration of a fisherman using bait to catch a cockroach.

Your main weapon against cockroach infestations is gel bait, or a set of bait stations.

When there’s no easy food around, the smell of gel bait becomes irresistible to hungry roaches.

It’s going to look like you’ve attracted even more roaches but those are simply the ones that were hiding.

It means the baits are working. You might even observe roaches limping out into the open to die. Baits will start to kill roaches within 1-3 days. Some infestations could be completely eradicated within 2 weeks.

Learn all about choosing and using roach bait.

Trapping Roaches

Metaphoric cartoon illustration of a cockroach sneaking into a spring-loaded trap.

Traps like insect monitors, roach motels, or sticky traps catch lots of roaches on their own. They’re baited with a food scent that will drive starving roaches crazy. Good traps can kill roaches overnight but eliminating an infestation takes longer.

Read up on 15 of the best roach traps.

Dusting for Roaches

Metaphoric cartoon illustration of a cockroach sitting glumly with a pile of insecticidal dust on its foot.

A strategic sprinkling of insecticidal dust in the places where your traps caught the most cockroaches will kill any that managed to escape.

Anywhere roaches travel, sprinkle CimeXa, boric acid or another deadly dust that will stick to their legs.

The insecticide poisons the cockroach while it grooms itself. A cockroach won’t survive longer than a day after walking through the dust.

Get our step-by-step guide to using insecticidal dust.

IGR to stop reproduction

Metaphoric cartoon illustration of a cockroach inside a lab beaker, next to a ruler, shaking its fist.

An insect growth regulator (IGR) prevents cockroach nymphs from reaching full maturity (and in some cases, prevents eggs from hatching). Any nymphs that absorb the IGR will have their growth stunted and their strength weakened.

More importantly, these roaches can’t have babies. While your other control methods kill as many adult roaches as possible, an IGR ensures that any that survive (for the time being) aren’t able to lay any egg cases to surprise you later.

IGR-affected roaches probably won’t survive more than a few weeks. These weakened insects will bumble around until they fall prey to a trap, bait or dust that’s left after the initial extermination.


How long do cockroaches live? Left to their own devices, they’ll survive about a year.

But there’s one factor that can affect the cockroach lifespan more than anything else: you.

If you heed the advice above and follow our comprehensive guide to killing cockroaches, you could be enjoying a roach-free home this time next month.

Be patient. Be determined. Be brave.

You can do this!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the German cockroach lifespan?

From hatching to death, the German cockroach lifespan is only about 100 days. But these bugs are the worst of the worst. During that short time, one female can produce hundreds of offspring. Their population growth is exponential.

What’s the American cockroach lifespan?

The American cockroach is one of the hardier roach species, with a lifespan from hatchling to death of 2 years or more. Females produce an average of 150 young over their lifetimes.

What’s the Oriental roach lifespan?

The Oriental cockroach lives for up to 2 years but its adult lifespan is just 6 months under ideal conditions.

How long can a cockroach live in the cold?

any cockroaches don’t survive well in cold environments (finally, some good news). For example, the German cockroach struggles to live through cold winters in homes that lack central heating.

The lifespan of a cockroach decreases drastically in a cold environment. It also reproduces less frequently in the cold.

How long do roaches live in the freezer?

Roaches won’t survive 24 hours in a freezer. Sub-freezing temperatures kill these resilient pests after just a day of exposure, effectively shocking their cold-blooded bodies.

Obviously, you can’t plunge your whole house into subzero temperatures! But if you’ve got a couch or other piece of furniture that’s infested, placing it for a few days in a garage or shed where it’s below zero will kill the bugs inside.

How long do cockroaches live without air?

In a total vacuum, most cockroaches will be dead in minutes (though some can go for as long as 45 minutes). If you’ve found cockroaches in your clothes and thought about sealing them in a vacuum storage bag overnight, the results might disappoint—a normal vacuum won’t remove all of the air.

They won’t suffocate, but so long as there’s no moist food inside, they will die of dehydration in a week or so!

Pro tip: While you have the vacuum out, use it to suck up every roach you can find—dead or alive. Then empty the chamber or discard the vacuum bag into a sturdy garbage bag you can seal. Freeze it overnight or place it immediately in the dumpster, far from your home.

How long do roaches live after professional extermination?

After a professional exterminator has sprayed, fumigated and baited your home, how long do you have to wait until the roaches are finally gone?

If you’re lucky, you’ll see noticeable results within 3 days of the treatment. In most cases, you’ll start seeing fewer roaches after 1 to 2 weeks. After a month, all but the most severe infestations should be dead and gone.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Science Editor

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. German Cockroach: Biology, Identification, Control. (2013) North Carolina State Extension. Retrieved from https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/german-cockroach/
  2. Reynierse, James H. et al. (1972) The Effects of Hunger and Thirst on Body Weight and Activity in the Cockroach (Nauphoeta Cinerea). Animal Behavior.
  3. Park, Moon Soo and Mario Takeda (2007) Starvation suppresses cell proliferation that rebounds after refeeding in the midgut of the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana. Journal of Insect Physiology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jinsphys.2007.10.011
  4. Park, Moon Soo, et al. (2009) Starvation induces apoptosis in the midgut nidi of Periplaneta americana: a histochemical and ultrastructural study. Cell and Tissue Resesarch. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00441–008–0737-y
  5. Valles, Steven (2017) German cockroach. University of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/german.htm
  6. Omg, Barb, et al. (2006) Cockroach Control Manual. University of Nebraska Extension.
  7. How Long Can Cockroaches Live Without Food? (2019) PFHarris. Retrieved from https://pfharris.com/how-long-can-cockroaches-live-without-food/
  8. Hahn, Jeffrey (2018) Cockroaches. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.umn.edu/insects-infest-homes/cockroaches#pennsylvania-wood-cockroach-137714
  9. Wilson, Tracy V. V. How Cockroaches Work. HowStuffWorks. Retrieved from https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/cockroach2.htm

Some things in life you go looking for. Others come looking for you.

When you have a cockroach problem, you may not know exactly how they found you, but you’ll be darned if they stick around for long.

What kills cockroaches instantly? We’ve got answers that may surprise you, along with a plan to keep them away for good.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Kill them Fast, But Also Kill Them Slow

Chart illustration using a fast vs slow gauge depicting cockroaches killed with fast methods vs. slow methods

Want roaches gone fast?

You should. They’re nasty, dirty bugs that can destroy everything you own. They’ll use your home as a dinner plate and a toilet, spreading germs and allergens everywhere they go.

The truth is, roaches can be killed very quickly. At the snap of a finger really, with a number of effective products—some of them off-the-shelf, and some of them homemade.

But there’s also a problem with all these products that their marketing won’t tell you:

If you’re looking for more than a temporary fix (which you really should be), you’re going to have to supplement them with something else.

Sure, you can bomb or spray roaches to oblivion. You’ll see them die in droves.

But these products rarely deal a fatal blow to roaches’ secret weapon—their deeply protected nest. Instant killers aren’t designed for it (no matter what bug bomb pamphlets say). And if you rely on them exclusively, you’ll find yourself in a common cycle: no matter how many roaches you kill, they’ll keep endlessly coming back.

Luckily, there’s a solution. One that kills roaches instantly—just like you need it to, but also kills them thoroughly, so you don’t have to face them again and again . It’s called the fast/slow method, and it combines an instant roach killer with a handful of slow-acting ones designed to remedy the problem at its source.

It gets roaches out of your face right now, and leaves your home roach-free in about 30 days or less.

Sound like a plan? Let’s take a look at the instant roach killers:

What Kills Cockroaches Instantly: Home Remedies and Powerful Pyrethroid Sprays

1. Pyrethroid-Based Sprays: The Big Guns

Cartoon illustration of a shocked cockroach being sprayed on a kitchen counter with a can of pyrethroid spray.

Ah, pyrethroids. Where would all those dead bugs be without you?

Medicine has penicillin. Basketball has Michael Jordan. And pest control has the amazing family of pyrethroids, chemicals naturally and synthetically derived from chrysanthemums that clock roaches with a mighty wallop.

Mostly safe for humans (but less so for some pets—read up to understand the cautions), pyrethroids attack insect nervous systems, stopping (known as “knockdown”), and quickly killing roaches in their tracks.

In use since the 1940’s, you’ve probably already used or been helped by pyrethroid sprays. Popular products like Raid, Combat, Black Flag, and Ortho sprays have long relied on pyrethroids to do the job.

Is every pyrethroid spray you find an instant killer? Yes. Pretty much. Unless you find some sort of off-brand (and there aren’t very many of them), you can be confident that most any pyrethroid-based spray is going to be fairly lethal.

There are differences in formula however that make certain pyrethroid-based products more effective. And as you might expect, the most effective ones tend to be the most expensive.

At the high end, you’ll find professional products you may not even be able to get your hands on as a consumer. While a notch or two below, higher-end consumer products, like Bengal Gold (which has gained a sort of cult following among its users) are widely sold.

Beyond their near-instantaneous roach killing abilities, pyrethroid sprays provide an important side benefit—”residual” properties that make sprayed surfaces toxic to roaches for days or weeks depending on which formula you buy.

2. Essential Oils: Natural Cockroach Killers

Cartoon illustration of an angry cockroach, shaking its fist at a bottle of essential oil.

For those unfamiliar with the science behind essential oils, you may be surprised to learn how intensely studied they’ve been across numerous different fields. Pest control is one of them, and the research has been impressive.

Certain essential oils have been found to be effective against roaches. Some have repellent properties, some kill roaches on contact, and some do both depending on how much of them you use. While the toxicity of essential oils is lower than conventional insecticides, they may still be very effective in certain situations.

In practice, delivering a high enough dose of the oil in a high enough concentration is key, as is your ability to either hit the roach directly (to kill it), or get it into areas the roach travels (to repel it from those places).

Most off-the-shelf essential oil products aren’t going to do that for you. Aromatherapy candles and diffusers deliver an airborne dose that’s far, far too weak. And if you plan on using a spray, you’ll generally need anywhere from 2% to 10% to do it, depending on the oil.

The oils that work? Peppermint, clove, cinnamon, rosemary, and thyme have been found to have lethal properties. You can either make your own “instant roach killer spray,” or use a packaged product like Zevo or Wondercide.

To learn more about essential oils for roaches click here.

3. Sticky Traps: Eliminate Cockroaches Overnight

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach on a kitchen counter, stuck down with sticky glue.

Less dramatic than instant cockroach killer sprays, sticky glue traps may not kill roaches instantly, but they often do it overnight. Depending on the severity of your problem, you could set up these unassuming killers before you go to bed, and find them full of roaches by morning. They’re highly respected in the pest control world, and for good reason: they work.

When using sticky traps for general purpose killing, you’ll want to place them where you suspect cockroaches have been crawling and congregating—along baseboards, behind appliances, under furniture and in pantry areas. Then check them every once in a while for what they’ve caught.

You’re probably familiar with roach motels, which are fine for this approach. We’ll tell you another trick with sticky traps in the next section, because they’re an excellent slow-kill pest control tool, too.

For more about using sticky traps, click here. To learn more about roach motels, click here.

4. Foggers and Bombs: Forget About Them!

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach laughing at a defused roach bomb

Roach bombs and foggers. Who doesn’t love them? Are they fast? You bet they are! Full of drama and excitement? Oh yeah—the kind that sells lots of products.

Unfortunately, they don’t work too well, so seriously—don’t fall for them. They’ll impress you with the scores of dead bugs they leave behind, but those massive clouds of pesticide? They’re far from laser-guided and won’t penetrate the hard-to-get-to nooks and crannies you’d definitely need them to.

To learn more about cockroach bombs and why you may want to choose something better, click here.

What Kills Roaches Slowly: The Long-Term Prescription

Here’s the most basic fact about getting rid of cockroaches: They’re easy to kill individually, but hard to completely wipe out. They’re little survival machines, not so much as individuals, but in their ability to rebound against you as a group.

That means roaches are sneakier and more trickier than you might think. And to truly wipe them out, you’ll need some trickery of your own, including several tricks up your sleeve to completely finish them off.

Professional exterminators know this. That’s why over the last couple decades or so, they’ve moved more and more away from fast-kill interior sprays, toward the slower-acting products described below.

These products may not leave roaches sputtering around your kitchen within seconds. But they do kill with a thoroughness and level of safety that was never possible before.

Having learned what kills cockroaches instantly, let’s move on to the ones that used together, slowly wipe them out:

1. Sticky Traps: Useful for Slow-Kill, Too

Sticky traps aren’t just effective killers. They’re peerless information-gathering tools. By setting them out systematically and then counting the roaches that you’ve caught, you’ll learn not only how bad the problem is, but where it’s worst. Which tells you where to hit the bugs the hardest.

The technique is known as “monitoring,” and it’s the first best way to take control of a cockroach problem. To use sticky traps this way, you’ll need to also do some simple record-keeping (as in recording where you’ve placed them).

You’ll also want to buy sticky traps sold in larger packs (which end up being cheaper), and that make examining contents and recording information easier.

Learn more about finding cockroach hiding spots by clicking here.

2. Gel Baits: Wipes Out the Colony Over Weeks

With a week or so of “monitoring” various places in your home, you’ll know where to place a game-changing product known as cockroach gel bait.

Sold in syringes and plastic bait stations, gel baits can be astonishingly effective. They lure roaches with a powerful attractant, then kill them with a slow-acting insecticide after they eat it.

The slowness of gel baits works to your advantage because roaches have time to return to the highly populated nest. As they die there, other roaches will begin to eat the toxins they vomit or expel in their feces, getting poisoned, too. Over time, many roaches will die from a single tiny dose of poison, and possibly the entire nest.

Learn more about using cockroach gel bait here.

3. Insecticidal Dust: Applied Once, Lasts for Years

The third slow roach killer is a fine powder called insecticidal dust. Sold in natural and man-made forms (like silica gel, diatomaceous earth, and boric acid), “dust” is puffed deeply into cracks and crevices with a tool called a “hand duster.”

When roaches crawl through the light dusting, it sticks to their bodies and slowly destroys their shells. Like gel bait, the slow acting nature of insecticidal dust makes it more effective, because roaches never learn that it’s something to avoid.

Dusts don’t expire or degrade, so a single application could begin killing roaches right now, then help protect your home as long as the dust stays dry.

You can learn more about insecticidal dust by clicking here.

4. Insect Growth Regulator (IGR): Stops Future Roaches

Insect growth regulator (IGR) isn’t exactly a killer. Instead, it prevents young roaches from becoming fertile, halting future generations. Since baits, dusts, and traps are so effective, it could be considered an optional product, but if you have a true cockroach infestation, you should plan to pick some up.

5. Outdoor Products: Killing Roaches Before They Get Inside

Have outdoor roaches?

Outdoor products are mostly similar to indoor ones, but hold up better in outdoor conditions. There are slow-acting outdoor baits made specially for lawns, and a variety of outdoor liquids for the perimeter around your home. One of the advantages of these liquids (which are applied with a specialized pump sprayer), is the ability to mix products for simultaneous slow and fast-acting results.

Using Slow and Instant Cockroach Killers Together

Keeping Products from Working Against Each Other

If you’ve decided the fast/slow method is better than simply reaching for a can of spray (it is), you may already be making a purchase list. Good for you.

You can go ahead and order your slow-kill products. But before settling on the instant one, one suggestion:

Some instant cockroach killers leave a repellent residue behind. And while that may be great for keeping roaches away from your cupboards when you can’t stand the sight of them, it’s lousy when the little monsters begin avoiding your dusts, baits, and traps.

To keep your slow-kill products working the way they’re supposed to, you’ll either want to avoid products that contain repellents, or limit them to areas well away from your slow-kill products.

Tip: It’s also possible to strategically use repellent products to drive roaches toward your baits, dusts, and traps

Which products have repellent properties? Virtually all essential oils do, as well as some sprays. So before smashing the buy button, you should do a little quick label-reading (most product labels are available online) to see what’s coming in the can.

Hitting Problem Areas


There are certain problem areas you may need super fast results. Drains are one.

If roaches are truly coming up your drains from the sewer (not as common as you might think), you should first make sure that the little bend beneath your sink (called the P-trap) is filled with water. It provides a barrier that keeps roaches and other things out. Drain covers will serve that purpose, too.

For an instant kill, use bleach or a foam drain killer, but be extremely careful about mixing up your own potions, which could damage your pipes or worse—poison you along with the roaches, in a homemade toxic cloud.


While there’s nothing like a little murder spree to get you started, it’s only half the way to win the war. Because the real battle against roaches isn’t won quickly—it’s won slowly. With the right approach and a few of the right tools.

You’ve learned what kills roaches instantly and what kills them slowly. Now go ahead and get rid of them for good.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by James Miksanek, PhD.

Disclaimer: This page is strictly for informational use. When using insecticides, keep in mind—the label is the law. Insecticides should be applied correctly and safely when needed, and according to the laws of your state or country.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

James Miksanek, PhD

James Miksanek, PhD.

Science Editor

James is an entomologist and adjunct professor of biology. His background is in biological control, and he has a passion for ecology and environmental science. His research has addressed a variety of topics including pest control and the management of invasive species. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. Kato, Yuki, et al. (2019) Measurements of the Hansen solubility parameters of mites and cockroaches to improve pest control applications. Heliyon. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844019336060
  2. Ramsay, Kris. Common Household Products That Contain Nonionic Surfactants. Hunker. Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13420814/common-household-products-that-contain-nonionic-surfactants
  3. Appel, Arthur G., et al (2001) Repellency and Toxicity of Mint Oil to American and German Cockroaches. Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University. Retrieved from https://www.ortho.com/en-us/products/bugs/ortho-home-defense-max-ant-roach-spider1

Found a small cockroach in your kitchen cabinets? Or even (shudders)… lots of them? You already know small roaches can mean trouble. But what sort of situation are you really facing? And what do you need to do?

Grab a cup of coffee and get ready to take some notes, because you’ll need a plan to take care of these tiny homewreckers, and you’ll want to do it fast.

First, we’ll answer a few important questions about small roaches. Then show you how to get rid of them—and be free of them forever.

Let’s dive in!

I. Identifying a “Small Cockroach” Problem

Lots of cockroaches, adults and babies
Small roaches in kitchen cabinets… can be a big problem.

On a certain level, small roaches don’t make a whole lot of sense. Though tiny compared to much larger cockroach species (like the massive American cockroach, aka water bugs), they typically pose a bigger problem.


Because unlike larger common roaches that actually prefer to live outside, small roaches seek out human homes. They’re also more tenacious visitors, and the most common small roach—the one you’re most likely dealing with—breeds with astonishing speed, producing dozens of offspring at a time.

Once inside, this little monster multiplies and takes over, ravaging your food, damaging everything it touches, and spreading allergens and bacteria that could potentially make your family sick.

This is the deceptively small German cockroach. Let’s look at it (along with a few other possibilities) to identify exactly what’s gotten into your home:

What Do Small Cockroaches Look Like?

The German Cockroach (the Cockroach You’re Most Likely Facing)

German cockroach nymph, adult, and egg, compared to a penny for size
Dangerous and deceptively small: the German cockroach nymph, adult, and egg sac.

German roaches are the second smallest of the indoor cockroach species, growing to little more than 1/2 inch long as adults. Light brown, yellowish, or golden colored, they’re thin, very flat, and have long, transparent wings folded across their darkly striped backs.

These small skinny roaches are expert hiders—and also lightning fast. They stay on the ground most of the time, but can fly when they sense danger or want to reach food on a counter top.

The Brown-Banded Cockroach (Another Common Pest)

Brown banded cockroach adult, nymph, and egg case size comparison
The brown-banded cockroach, one of three small cockroach types.

Though less common than German roaches, you could also be dealing with the tiny brown-banded cockroach.

Slightly smaller than its German cousin (under .5 inches in length), this small brown roach sports two distinctive horizontal bands across its back. Brown-banded roaches infest less aggressively than German roaches, but still need to be taken seriously.

The Asian Cockroach (A Tiny Impersonator)

Asian cockroach adult, nymph,and egg case relative in size to a penny
The Asian cockroach: A small flying cockroach that can easily be mistaken for German.

Nearly identical in appearance to the German cockroach but far less dangerous, the Asian cockroach is a cockroach problem child found mostly in southern states, particularly South Carolina.

If you’re being overwhelmed by small flying roaches outside, this one’s the culprit. More of a nuisance than a pest, Asian roaches don’t really want to come inside. To deal with them, you can learn more about them here.

Baby Roaches or Nymphs (Also Highly Likely)

Closeup illustration of a wingless baby palmetto bug in a natural habitat
A small red cockroach may be an American cockroach nymph.

One final possibility, especially with really, really small roaches—you saw a cockroach nymph:

  • Was it a small red roach? It may be a baby American cockroach, an outdoor species that can cause problems when it gets inside.
  • Was it a small black roach? It’s probably a baby German cockroach because the nymphs can appear quite dark. Also keep in mind: if your small black cockroach is indeed a German nymph, it’s not a good sign. You may be facing a well-established, growing infestation.

Tip: Very small round roaches are likely to be German nymphs as well. They don’t grow wings until adulthood and their wingless bodies appear quite squat.

If You’ve Got German Roaches

Unfortunately, if you’ve found small roaches in your house—and they’re multiplying fast—they’re probably German. Which means that you’re facing a tough, tenacious, formidable adversary.

Bug sprays aren’t going to kill them all, roach bombs will waste your money, and roach motels (at least by themselves) will only take you so far.

What will work? Knowledge:

You’re going to turn German roaches’ over-sized behaviors against them.

II. Small Cockroach Behaviors (That You’ll Use Against Them)

Fanciful cartoon illustration of a cockroach criminal on a law enforcement rap sheet

Outsmart these bad bugs by learning their habits and cutting off their basic needs.

How Small Cockroaches Get In

It’s a strange, unhappy fact: German roaches not only seek out human buildings—they don’t live outside at all.

So if German roaches don’t live in your trees or lawn, how did they get into your house?

It could have happened in many ways:

Apartment buildings are notorious for widespread German cockroach problems. With few barriers between units, the tiny bugs easily crawl through walls from unit to unit and floor to floor. Small roaches in apartment buildings have little trouble finding food, water and mates. And when they do, they just move on to another unit.

So if you live in an apartment, yes—you can blame your neighbors. But consider this: you could have brought them in, too!

A piece of second-hand furniture might’ve come with more than just a few tiny blemishes. Your dry cleaning or a load from the laundromat might’ve come with a couple of six-legged hitchhikers. And your groceries or a takeout order could have brought a pair of stowaways straight into your kitchen.

It matters how your cockroaches found their way into your home, so take a moment to consider how it might have happened.

Infestation Hotspots

Once they’re in, German roaches have predictable behaviors that you can use against them. Their hiding spots are especially important, with two areas in particular:

The Bathroom

Unfortunately, the bathroom is one of the hotspots for small cockroach activity. Nothing like flipping the bathroom light switch at 2 a.m. and seeing small roaches in the sink!

They’re there for the same reason as the small roaches in the shower: these bugs dive into the drains for a drink and slip through the gaps around plumbing to return to their nest in the wall.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is undeniably a German roach’s favorite hangout. As soon as the lights are out, these pests start scavenging for crumbs on the floor, scraps in the sink, food in the garbage and leftovers on the counter.

It’s a free buffet for small cockroaches. In the kitchen, they have easy access to food, water and shelter, often hiding in cabinets, under the sink, or inside narrow gaps in kitchen counters. Even a dripping garbage disposal is enough to satisfy a cockroach, which can go a month without eating.

Now that you know what they need and where they get it, we’re ready to answer the million-dollar question: How to get rid of small roaches?

III. How to Get Rid of Small Roaches for Good

A simple, straightforward small cockroach elimination plan for big results.

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach surrounded by the 4 elements of a cockroach elimination game plan.

Phase 1: Deprive Roaches of What They Need Through Cleanup

It’s a myth.

Your home doesn’t have to be dirty to have a “small cockroach” problem.

But every bit of dirt, mess, and clutter makes it easier for roaches to infest. That’s why cleaning is such a powerful weapon against these disgusting little bugs. It deprives them of things they need to survive.

Any kind of cleaning is helpful, but the most effective cleanup focuses on removing sources of food, places to hide, and the ability to communicate with other roaches.

Besides the fact that it works so well, cleanup is also great because you usually don’t need to buy much beyond a vacuum cleaner bag or two, and more importantly—it’s a way to do something right now to begin to solve your problem.

Vacuum Up Food Sources

Plug in the trusty vacuum and suck up all the dust, dirt and crumbs from everywhere you can reach: kitchen, hallways, living room and bedroom. Utilize attachments to reach under appliances and furniture, into cabinets and along walls.

Vacuum up every living and dead roach you see, too.

What you’re doing (besides suctioning up living bugs as you see them) is eliminating food sources, and possibly cockroach egg sacs on the verge of hatching.

Deprive Roaches of Hiding Spots

Call it “pest control for the soul.”

Next, you’re going to make it more difficult for cockroaches to hide, lay their eggs, and breed. And you’ll do it by decluttering.

Decluttering isn’t only good for pest control—it helps you take back your space. Take an honest, thorough look through the attic, basement, closets, and cupboards, and get rid things you don’t really want or need.

As you simplify your space, you’ll also be eliminating cockroach habitats, too—piles of paper, boxes, cardboard, and whatever other junk cockroaches have settled into (or might settle into in the future).

As you work, also take note of humidity in your home and of poorly ventilated rooms. If you can afford it, purchase a dehumidifier, or bring in a fan and open some windows. German roaches thrive in humid conditions, so creating a drier space will create an environment less friendly to them.

Wash Away Scent Trails

Roaches don’t communicate through sounds or gestures. They do it through pheromones and bacteria in their feces. That’s unhealthy for you and your family, and terrible for keeping roaches away.

You’ll want to eliminate those trails by cleaning up or tossing everything roaches have come into contact with, beginning with roach-damaged food.

Head to the kitchen, open your cabinets, dig out everything, and throw out every package of food you suspect has been contaminated or touched by roaches.

Do the same with foods that have been left open, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and even recent bags of snacks. If you think a roach might have touched something—anything, it’s time to let it go.

Next, fill a bucket with water and a mild, minimally-scented cleaner like dish soap (the stronger stuff will send roaches deeper into walls) and start wiping and scrubbing down surfaces with any sort of dots, specks, or smears—those are likely to be roach droppings and you’ll want to get them up.

Follow-up with a disinfectant spray, and use a mop and bucket with mild cleaner to clean your hard floors.

Eliminate Water Sources

The last important cleanup task has to do with eliminating water sources—all the drips, drops, and puddles that small cockroaches depend on to slake their thirst. You’ll need a flashlight to do a proper inspection and should plan to poke around.

Follow your bathroom, kitchen, and basement pipes with your fingers, especially where they meet or enter into the wall. Feel any moisture, including areas of condensation? You’re going to want to fix what needs fixing and tightly wrap any surfaces where condensation occurs.

Look for puddles everywhere and create a system for mopping them up as they occur. Small cockroaches love kitchen sinks, dish drainers and bathroom or shower floors. They love, love, love your open drains, so buy drain stoppers to keep them out.

For more on Phase 1, read our step-by-step Roach-Free Recipe: Prevent Roaches Through Sanitation, Part 1

Phase 2: Killing Roaches with Baits and Dusts

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach with a foot covered in diatomaceous earth powder

Pest control has come a long way since the days of dousing rooms with chemicals, or setting off a bunch of useless roach bombs.

Today you can kill more roaches with less effort using tiny amounts of poisons—sometimes no poisons at all.

The best of these products are typically applied where you can’t see, smell, or touch them. They’re known as “cockroach baits” and “insecticidal dusts.”

Gel Baits

Gel baits are powerful pest control products that attract roaches with a specially-formulated lure, then kill them with a tiny dose of insecticide. Because the active ingredients in gel baits are designed to attack the whole colony, they’re often the single best way to begin treating a “small cockroach” population.

You apply gel baits in the tiny cracks and crevices small cockroaches are drawn to, using modest, pea-sized drops. Drops are spread several feet apart, focusing on cracks and crevices, holes and gaps around plumbing, wiring, vents, and other areas small roaches travel.

For more on Phase 2, read our guide to Choosing and Using Gel Baits.

Dry Flowable Bait & Insecticidal Dusts

It’s just not possible to apply gel bait in deep, tiny crevices or other inaccessible voids. For these situations, there’s “Avert Dry Flowable Cockroach Bait.”

In addition to helping you reach difficult spaces, Avert won’t dry out and stop working. You can apply it and leave it to work for a year or longer.

You’ll apply Avert straight from the tube, squeezing puffs across surfaces and hard-to-reach places.

Similar to dry bait in that they’re also powders, insecticidal dusts kill small roaches by clinging to their bodies as they crawl through them, penetrating their protective exoskeletons and causing them to dehydrate (to death).

There are “natural” insecticidal dusts such as boric acid and diatomaceous earth you may already be familiar with, but a “man-made” product called CimeXA is both safer and more effective.

To apply insecticidal dusts properly, you’ll need a separate applicator product called a “hand duster” which “puffs” measured amounts of dust into cracks, crevices, and voids, usually with a selection of plastic-fitted tips.

Bonus option: To get rid of roaches when a roach infestation is heavy, drill an inconspicuous hole through the drywall so that it creates an opening into the wall cavity. Then, use the duster’s tip to squeeze the dust into the cavity.

Phase 3: Exclusion

While the Cleanup Phase aims to starve cockroaches and take away their water supply, exclusion is about keeping them from ever getting in. It’s also about adopting habits that make your home less attractive to cockroaches when they try.

Walk the rooms in your home with a tube of caulk, sealing every small crack or hole that a roach might use for shelter. Apartment dweller? Small roaches in apartment buildings don’t just hide in cracks and holes. They get in this way from other units, so sealing up is especially important for you.

Invest in sturdy glass or plastic containers with tight-sealing lids, then store your food inside. Take advantage of the roach-safe storage areas in your fridge (with its conveniently sealing doors), and chuck your flimsy Ziploc bags for anything cockroaches could get to, because they can chew right through.

Limit eating to one room to limit the spread of crumbs (and the amount of cleanup you have to do later). In the kitchen, change garbage bags often and never leave them unsealed once full. Wipe down your pet’s bowl each night, too.

And the most important tip?

Be vigilant about what comes into your home!

Check grocery bags and food deliveries before bringing them inside. Never bring home yard-sale furniture or other used items without checking them for roaches. Leave kids’ backpacks outside the door if a playmate’s house could pose a roach problem, and then inspect their clothes.

Phase 4: Monitoring for Success

If all goes perfectly, you’ll make it to Phase 4 and never have to fall back to any other phase!

This last step is all about monitoring your home for any signs of a comeback and hitting the roaches hard if you see anything suspicious.

Glue traps are great for this because they kill cockroaches, provide a simple visual gauge for how many other roaches are around, and remain effective for long periods. Roach motels make for good small roach traps because they’re easy to place, easy to clean up and fit lots of the little bugs before you have to replace them.

Finally, keep up the good cleaning habits!

If you see signs of increasing roach populations in the weeks after you thought you’d defeated them, it doesn’t necessarily mean failure. There might’ve been egg cases buried deep in a wall that hatched and will have to be dealt with. Follow the steps above and stay determined until your home is roach free!


Dealing with a small cockroach infestation can be a scary and overwhelming experience, especially if it turns out to be a large infestation. But with the tools and tips here, you can eliminate small roaches and win back your pest-free life.


  1. Sutherland, Andrew et al (2019) Cockroaches Management Guidelines. University of California IPM. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  2. Cockroaches. Illinois Department of Health. Retrieved from https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/structural-pest-control/cockroaches
  3. Kraft, Sandra and Larry Pinto (2016) German Cockroaches: 10 Key Facts to Remember. Pest Control Technology. Retrieved from https://www.pctonline.com/article/german-cockroaches-10-key-facts-to-remember/
  4. Talis (2015) 5 Signs of a German Roach Infestation and How to Get Rid of Them. Brody Brothers Pest Control. Retrieved from https://www.brodybrotherspestcontrol.com/5-signs-of-a-german-roach-infestation-and-how-to-get-rid-of-them

Killing cockroaches can’t be that hard, can it? They’re just bugs and bugs can be squished!

Besides the fact that cockroaches can survive up to 900 times their body weight in crushing force, squishing a few (or even a few dozen) cockroaches isn’t going to stop them from multiplying, spreading and making things much, much worse.

We’ll show you how to kill cockroaches and take down the whole colony so that they never come back!

Remember, when using insecticides, the label is the law—read and follow the instructions carefully, not only for your own safety, but to make sure each treatment is as effective as possible.

How to Kill Roaches Part I: What You Need Before You Go to War

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach terrified as it looks at an explosion

Key points:

  1. Act fast, be thorough and don’t give up.
  2. It’s about eliminating the whole colony, not killing single roaches.
  3. Use a combination of tools and rotate your treatments for the best chance of success.
  4. Knowledge is power. The more you learn about cockroaches and how to control them, the better off you’ll be!

If it’s so easy to kill a cockroach you find crawling along the floor, why is it so hard to get rid of these pests for good?

It all comes down to 3 cockroach adaptations:

  1. They can survive on almost nothing.
  2. They have a lot of babies, all the time.
  3. They spend most of their time hiding, so people often don’t notice them until the problem has gotten out of hand.

The Stages of Infestation

The problem starts with one or two adventurous roaches, mucking through the mulch and leaves, following the path of a sewer line, hiding inside a grocery bag, or hitchhiking in the trunk of your car, until eventually… they get in.

That first stage is infiltration. From there, those few roaches reproduce rapidly, search the house for food, and spread to any dark, hidden places they can find.

The best time to have killed them would have been the moment they got in. But since that didn’t happen, the 2nd best time is right now.

Let’s get to it!

Part II: The Right Weapons for the Job

Explore your options, stock up your arsenal and start killing not only the cockroaches but the colony.

Cartoon illustration of cockroach killers: Poison, Trap, Dust, and Vacuum Cleaner

If you’ve been trying and failing to kill roaches for a while now, you might simply be using the wrong tools. It’s tough to know what works, especially when the advertising promise of “Quick-and-Easy!” has you looking at less effective products.

4 Important Don’ts of Cockroach-Killing Tools

Rule 1: Don’t waste your time on stuff that doesn’t work. Question: how do you kill roaches with ultrasonic pest repellers? You don’t! Regardless of the marketing shtick, they just don’t work. The same goes for roach bombs and other products that blow smoke out of a can. They promise plenty, but the marketing is a bunch of guff.

Rule 2: Don’t mistake what’s handy for a solution. Sure, go ahead and hit that ugly brown roach with a blast of bug-killing spray. But don’t count on a can of spray to take down the other, possibly hundreds of roaches that may be seething behind your walls.

Rule 3: Don’t rely on a single technique or product. Are there some excellent products out there? You bet. But what exterminators know, and you’ll learn below, is that products work best in combination.

Rule 4: Don’t dive in without a plan. Before buying and using products, know exactly what you need and how you’re going to use them. Yes, you can defeat cockroaches, sometimes more easily than you think, but it’s unlikely to happen without a focused, systematic plan.

Weapon 1: A Notebook, Pen, and Piece of Chalk

You’re going to need a notebook of some kind, a pen or pencil, and a piece of chalk. Nothing fancy, and available at the dollar store.

Weapon 2: Vacuum Cleaner and Cleaning Supplies

We’ll get to the importance of vacuuming shortly but at this stage, make sure your vacuum is working properly, that it has brush and crevice attachments, and that you’re stocked up on bags.

You’ll also want a bucket filled with a gentle, non-smelly cleaner like dish soap (which won’t drive cockroaches into the walls), a mop, and a sponge or rag.

Weapon 3: Traps

The most popular roach traps are sticky glue traps—what professional exterminators call insect monitors. Professionals use these to track roach activity, measure the size of the infestation, locate its hot spots and kill some roaches along the way. Inexpensive and effective, they’re indispensable to this plan.

Pro tip: Squeamish? Roach motels are a sticky trap that partially obscures its victims. Great for killing roaches, but somewhat less so for cockroach monitoring.

Weapon 4: Gel Bait

Professional pest controllers love gel roach bait, and why? Because it works!

Gel bait spreads from one roach to another, killing multiple roaches per treatment with little work on your part, other than setting them down.

Many pros also use an IGR, or insect growth regulator in combination with gel bait. IGR’s prevent cockroaches from reproducing, attacking parts of the colony the bait might have missed.

Weapon 5: Insecticidal Dust

Roach-killing dusts break down the cockroaches’ exoskeletons, eventually killing them through dehydration.

CimeXa is one highly effective example used by many exterminators.

Other roach killer dusts include boric acid, borax and diatomaceous earth (DE).

Tip: You can apply gel baits alongside dusts, as long as they’re used behind appliances or in closed, still rooms. Also, insecticidal dusts vary widely in terms of safety for children and pets. You’ll learn the safest ones further below.

The Ultimate Roach-Killing Battle Plan

Cartoon illustration of an angry cockroach beside a Cockroach Battle Plan
“How do I kill roaches when they seem to just come back?” With a battle plan!

This step-by-step plan of attack works for most roach infestations. Below, we’ve included some alternatives for specific situations.

Let’s get to work!

Step 1. Inspect, clean, and lay down sticky traps

You just don’t realize what vile creatures cockroaches are until you begin looking for, and cleaning up, all the crap they leave behind.

They feast on things that would make you cringe: bits of garbage, forgotten spills and crumbs—even feces. They lay their eggs in or near that debris, and leave pheromone trails on floors and walls that tell other roaches where the food is. And that they’re available to mate.

Your job is to get rid of all of that.

You’re going to go through your home room-by-room, cleaning up all the gunk roaches have left behind and suctioning up living roaches. When you finish with each problem area, you’re going to place a sticky trap there, jot down the location in your notebook, and leave a mark nearby with a piece of chalk (so you can easily find the trap later).

So grab your vacuum cleaner, nozzle attachments, mop, sponge and bucket, and head into the kitchen, where you’ll begin by pulling the refrigerator away from the wall.

Any roaches dash out from underneath? Vacuum the little buggers up. Any on the walls, in the corner, on the refrigerator’s coils or around the motor area? Don’t let them get away.

Vacuum up every roach you see, and then suction up the debris—the loose powdery granules, cockroach bodies, egg casings, and body parts. Use your crevice tool to get deep into cracks and gaps, and your brush tool to dislodge and suction up some of the stuck-on muck.

After you’ve vacuumed up everything you can, mop and scrub the area, removing every speck, stain, and pheromone-laced smear you find. Use a magic eraser or a plastic putty knife for stuck-on spots, and being nasty stuff, change your bucket water often.

When you’re done, take one of your sticky traps and place it in the problem area, preferably against a wall, then record its location in your notebook and leave a mark nearby with chalk. It will help you find it later.

Work in this way through the corners, undersides, backsides, and recesses of your kitchen, vacuuming up gunk, suctioning up roaches, cleaning off surfaces, and finally, laying down sticky traps. Where you don’t find signs of roaches, but do find any kind of dirt or mess, clean those areas, too. And then mop the entire floor.

Move on to the bathroom in the same way. Then other rooms.

And on a side note, this work is hard, but for many people, feels good. You may not have realized how cockroaches made you stop enjoying your home. Well, now you’re taking it back.

Once you’re finished, empty the vacuum into a sturdy garbage bag, seal it, and if there’s any chance your pets or outdoor critters could get into it, pop it in the freezer overnight. It will kill the bugs inside.

Also be aware that you may be faced with escapees whenever you turn the vacuum off. How do you kill cockroaches before they make their move? There’s no easy way to do it, really. Instead, try plugging the vacuum’s nozzle with a rag between sessions.

At the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back. The next steps are a piece of cake.

Step 2. Identify your targets

Unless you have lots and lots of roaches, you won’t need to check your traps for a couple of days. When you do, you’ll learn some vital information about how and where to treat your roach problem.

Collectively, the traps will tell you what type of cockroach you’re dealing with (see below for a few ways to adapt the plan to certain species). They’ll also tell you how bad the infestation is—or whether you have an infestation at all.

Individually, they’ll tell you where the cockroach hot spots are, and that’s important because those are the areas you’ll want to focus on in the next two steps:

Step 3. Attack with gel bait and an IGR

Having found the areas you’ll hit hardest (with sticky traps), open a tube of gel cockroach bait such as Alpine or Advion and apply pea-sized drops all-around your target rooms, 2–3 feet apart.

You can place these drops on the floor, in crevices, under furniture and anywhere you think roaches will want to walk. If you’d prefer, put the drops on index cards or tissues so you don’t have to wipe off any excess once it’s eaten.

Only use tiny amounts so the roaches don’t avoid it. Keep using sticky traps to measure the effects of the bait. If you’re still monitoring with sticky traps (and you should be), you should notice fewer roaches in the traps within 1–2 weeks if it’s working well.

A round of IGR is optional, but it will help you to accomplish even more. IGR is used much like gel bait, but works differently and doesn’t need to be eaten to work. Besides helping to reduce roach populations on their own, some IGR’s are formulated with a feeding stimulant that encourages roaches to eat more bait, resulting in a more widespread kill.

Tip: As a cleaner and even simpler alternative, you can purchase bait stations, which hide the poison inside a plastic container but still let roaches crawl inside.

Step 4. Dust and trap

Dusts can kill plenty of roaches on their own but they’re also great alongside gel bait. Combining and rotating techniques and products is a great way to prevent avoidance—when cockroaches get used to a trap or bait and stop falling for it.

To kill roaches with CimeXa, boric acid or another finely powdered insecticide, use a duster to lightly coat surfaces under and around appliances, in cabinets, behind toilets, under sinks and even inside wall cavities.

If you’re using dust alongside Advion or a similar gel bait, you can apply it to a notecard or napkin and bait in the center so roaches have to step through the dust before reaching the bait.

Safety tip: Keep in mind that while these powders are relatively safe, they can be irritants or, in the case of boric acid, make you sick if you ingest it. So make sure not to coat surfaces like countertops or anywhere you might eat off of.

Step 5. Begin monitoring

As the weeks go by, you should notice fewer and fewer roaches. Then, depending on where you live (in some climates, you’ll never be completely roach-free), possibly no more roaches at all.

This is when you switch your battle plan over to monitoring.

With monitoring, you’ll ease up on the aggressive elimination tactics you’ve been using, and instead just make sure there are functioning sticky traps laid down.

You’ll check your sticky traps from time to time to check for any significant increase in roaches (catching a few from time-to-time is normal), but other than that, you’ll pretty much return to the way you lived before there was a problem.

And by the way, congratulations on a job well done. Let’s look at some special situations.

How to Kill Roaches of Different Types

Killing German Cockroaches

German cockroaches are among the worst types of cockroaches.

Yet, research has shown that they can be defeated with a strategy that begins with gel bait. Even in severely infested apartments, gel bait took down German roaches in just days.

If you’re seeing more than a few of these bugs, be aggressive. Combine gel bait, dusts and glue traps for all-around cockroach-killing action.

Replace baits as soon as they’re empty. Change traps as soon as they’re full.

Add an IGR to prevent even more baby German roaches from starting the infestation over just when you thought you had it under control.

It’s a game of perseverance against these super-resilient pests but the battle plan works against them well.

For a complete, step-by-step guide to “How to Get Rid of German Roaches” click here.

Killing American Roaches

American cockroaches often live outdoors but they get by just fine indoors, too. Eliminating them takes a combination of roach-killing weapons and a strategic defense.

For these bugs, you’re going to need a bigger sticky trap, and if you use them, a larger bait station. American roaches grow up to 2 inches long so smaller traps and devices will fill too quickly or have openings too small to let them in.

Consider adding a perimeter spray to your arsenal, too. And while you’re out there, you should check for any gaps or openings you think the bugs might be getting in from, and seal those up. Since these pests come from outside, a strong line of defense will help prevent future invaders.

Read our Roach-Free Recipe for even more tips: Getting Rid of American Cockroaches Like a Pro

How to Kill Roaches with a Pet-Safe Strategy

Pet owners have important concerns about roach-killing products. So, how do you kill cockroaches in a way that won’t harm your pets? By using the same battle plan, but taking care to select products that have either very low toxicity—or none.

Most roach control products are safe for pets, but some you may want to avoid. Whatever you choose, carefully read and follow the label for warnings and instructions. You’ll not only protect yourself, your family, and your pets, but do a better job.

Pet-safe baits

For gel baits, it’s not that the products are poisonous (the amount of poisons applied in these products are very small), but that an animal could potentially chew up or gulp down a gel baits’ plastic housing (if it’s that type), potentially causing a blockage.

Regardless of the bait you choose, baits should be placed in areas that are inaccessible to pets and children. Proper placement is one of the best things you can do to keep your household safe.

Pet-safe insecticidal dusts

For insecticidal dusts, the concerns are a little more serious:

Diatomaceous Earth: Pets could gobble up food-grade diatomaceous earth and not have a problem, but you don’t want them eating the non-food-grade DE you use for your pool—and you don’t want them (or you and your family) inhaling either kind, because DE can be damaging to the lungs.

Borax and Boric Acid: You definitely don’t want your pets eating any homemade baits you made with borax or boric acid since both are toxic enough to hurt them.

Man-made Insecticidal Dusts: You may be surprised to learn that the least toxic insecticidal dusts are the man-made ones. CimeXa, for example, an amorphous silica gel is even allowed as a food additive.

Even so, CimeXa can irritate your eyes. And like all dusts, shouldn’t be inhaled, used around food or anything that comes into contact with food, and kept away from kids and pets.

Pet-safe sticky traps

Sticky traps don’t contain any poison and their insect attractants won’t cause your pets any harm. A dog could swallow one down however, and face the same problem a bait housing could pose. And any pet could get one stuck to its fur. That’s not going to kill them, but could be wouldn’t be too much fun.

Prevention Tips: Sanitation and Exclusion

Even with a pack or two of sticky traps lining your walls and corners, roach problems may flare up. You can certainly repeat the battle should you need to or (far better), simply prevent them from happening again.

There are two additional weapons you can use to do that: sanitation and exclusion, and both work by depriving roaches of certain things they need. Here’s how they work:

You already did some of that when you cleaned up food sources and pheromone trails. Now you’re going to do it as a way of life.


Sanitation as a pest control method is about depriving roaches of the 2 things they need most to survive: food and water. Take those away and roaches either die or leave.

You already took some sanitation steps in “How to Kill Cockroaches Step 1.” Now you’ll put some simple sanitation practices into place ongoing.

Food sources

Roach-proof your trash area by using garbage cans with tight-fitting lids, and regularly wiping them down. Keep the floor and walls around them clean, and throw bags away frequently to cut down on (to roaches) attractive smells.

Invest in a set of glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, and keep all your dry foods and ingredients inside. Keep the outer surfaces clean and free of any smears of food that could continue to be a food source, and resist the temptation to store food in plastic bags. Roaches can chew right through them.

Crumbs and spills are a major food source for cockroaches, and while there’s no way to completely avoid them, there are some handy tricks to reduce them.

Create a new family rule: all eating is done in the kitchen and/or dining room, limiting the crumbs roaches are able to find throughout your house. If you have pets, keep their bowls in the kitchen as well—pet food is also roach food!

You’ll also want to have a rigorous vacuuming and wipe-up routine, possibly more than other people. A single crumb is a meal for a cockroach, and to this point they’ve somehow been getting them.

Water sources

Water sources attract roaches, and the variety of them you probably have in your home may surprise you. Those cockroaches in your drains? They probably didn’t paddle up through the sewers. They probably found your drains looking for water, and figured they were a moist, cozy place to stay.

So buy a cover for your drains to keep roaches out of them, fix leaky faucets, and make a habit of mopping up even the tiniest of drips and puddles. Grab your flashlight and poke around your under-sink areas looking for leaks and even condensation.

Keep a towel by the shower or tub to soak up water at the base, and when showering, turn on the bathroom fan to reduce humidity faster. Pour out the water under your dish drainer when you’re done with it, and turn it on its side to let the last of the water drip out.


Cockroaches make it inside in a number of ways.

Indoor roaches will hide in grocery bags, in thrift store finds, and hand-me-downs. They’ll also crawl in through your walls if you’re lucky enough to live in an infested apartment building.

Outdoor roaches will crawl in through cracks and gaps in your home’s exterior. They’ll sometimes be carried in with firewood.

To keep roaches out, you’ll need to think through how the last batch must have made their way in, then take action to seal their entry points. That may mean inspecting groceries or your kids’ backpacks before they come through the door. Or investing in a supply of caulk and wire mesh to seal cracks and crevices around the house.

How to Know When to Call the Pros

There might come a time when the best course of action isn’t to continue your nightly assault but to hold back and wait for reinforcements.

When the weapons just don’t seem to be working, when the traps aren’t showing signs of success, when there are just too many of them… it’s time to call in the pros.

A professional exterminator has the tools and knowledge to get rid of roaches, even when they’re a seemingly insurmountable force. That’s a valuable ally to have.


Congratulations! You’re up against a resilient enemy but, now, you know exactly how to kill cockroaches and stop them from bouncing back.

So grab your weapons of choice, start planning your attack and take down cockroaches once and for all!

Good luck!

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by James Miksanek, PhD.

Disclaimer: This page is strictly for informational use. When using insecticides, keep in mind—the label is the law. Insecticides should be applied correctly and safely when needed, and according to the laws of your state or country.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

James Miksanek, PhD

James Miksanek, PhD.

Science Editor

James is an entomologist and adjunct professor of biology. His background is in biological control, and he has a passion for ecology and environmental science. His research has addressed a variety of topics including pest control and the management of invasive species. You can learn more about our contributors here.


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  2. Nagro, Anne (2019) Rethinking German Cockroach Control. PCT Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.pctonline.com/article/rethinking-german-cockroach-control/
  3. Murphy, Rachel (2019) Insider. Retrieved from https://www.insider.com/how-to-kill-a-cockroach–2018–3