Cockroaches are expert scavengers, admirable survivors and annoying pests. They crawl all over your counters and dirty dishes. They lay eggs in tiny crevices and contaminate food.

What’s worse than a cockroach crawling around your home? A cockroach flying around your home. So, do they? Do cockroaches fly?

Can Cockroaches Fly? Do They All Fly?

Yes, cockroaches can fly. That answer makes a lot of people unhappy. You’re already worried about them crawling around your floor, and now you have to worry about them flying, too?

The good news- sort of, is that not all cockroaches are capable of flying. Those that are capable of flight, have wings that are long enough and developed enough to sustain flight.

Roaches like the Oriental cockroach for example, do have wings, but they’re too short and stubby to be of very much use. (for more, also see “Cockroach with Wings? It’s Probably One of These“).

A cockroach’s ability to fly is also determined by its life stage, and sometimes gender. Immature cockroaches for example, can’t fly because they’re wingless. And females of certain species can’t fly – even though they have wings – because their highly effective legs do enough.

Why Do They Fly?

Illustration of three roaches on rooftop: Two in the gutter, and one cockroach flying away.

Flying isn’t really the preferred method of transportation for most cockroaches (and no, not because they’re afraid of heights). It has more to do with the design of their bodies.

While they can be very, very fast runners – moving as fast as 50 body lengths per second on the straightaway (the equivalent for creatures our size of more than 100 miles per hour) – flying isn’t easy for them, and they’re awkward in the air.

So why do roaches fly at all? There are a few reasons.

Self-Protection

Often roaches fly to escape a threat. Though much has been written about cockroach’s supposed invincibility, they have plenty of natural predators and creatures like you or your pets that would want to do them harm.

Mating

Some cockroach males become active flyers during breeding season, when they travel short and long distances in search of a mate. They become especially attracted to light during this time, and are known for their summer nighttime assaults against well-lit rural window screens.

Food and Shelter

Cockroaches also fly in search of food and shelter, which might include your home. Roaches living in a hollow tree for instance, might climb up its branches looking for food. Then take a short flight to the roof of your house to infest the decaying leaves in your gutter.

What Kinds of Cockroaches Can Fly?

Illustration of 8 types of flying cockroaches

There are several types of flying cockroaches, including these most likely pests:

  1. American cockroaches
  2. German cockroaches
  3. Pennsylvania woods cockroaches
  4. Brown banded cockroaches
  5. Smoky brown cockroaches
  6. Australian cockroaches
  7. Asian cockroaches
  8. Cuban cockroaches

These flyers live in a variety of environments and climates, though most prefer to live outdoors. They’re light brown, dark brown, reddish-brown, or golden in color, while the Cuban cockroach is a bright leaf-green.

The size of a cockroach doesn’t affect its flying ability. Both small and large cockroaches fly, and range in size from the huge, awkwardly flying American cockroach (up to 2 inches in length or more), to the tiny, occasionally flying German cockroach (which is smaller end-to-end than the face of a penny).

Where Do They Come From?

Flying cockroaches come from a variety of places, many of them the same as their non-flying relatives. They’ll enter a home in any way they can, from finding holes in exterior walls to following drainpipes into bathrooms and kitchens.

But flying cockroaches have a few more options available to them. They can come from trees, flying onto branches and then onto rooftops. Once on the roof, they can squeeze between shingles or through the gaps in an attic fan.

They can also come in through open windows and doors. They might be following the light of a lamp or a TV screen. If your window screens have tears in them, a cockroach might be able to climb through it.

Are They Dangerous?

Flying cockroaches are dangerous because they can carry bacteria from waste and decaying material into homes and businesses. This is true of all cockroaches. They feed on garbage and dead organic matter, making them a risk to your health if they start invading your home.

Many people think they’re being attacked when roaches fly towards them. But cockroaches don’t feed on our blood like other flying pests. They either fly toward you accidentally, or head in the wrong direction in their hurry to avoid getting squashed.

That said, there are certain circumstances that may draw them toward you…

The light you’re sitting under may attract them to you. And the light reflecting off your forehead or face can do it, too. Can cockroaches fly right at your face when that happens? You bet they can. You become irresistible!

What Areas of the Country Have Them?

Cockroaches live all over the world and flying ones aren’t picky.

From trees, mulch and sewers to alleyways and kitchen cabinets, flying cockroaches follow food sources anywhere necessary. They’ll fly around cities, farms, buildings and even into trees. Here are some of the areas across the United States that have them:

Florida

The infamous Florida palmetto bug (a.k.a. the American cockroach) is a type of flying cockroach that’s incredibly widespread in the state. It’s also one of the largest cockroaches around. A male palmetto bug’s folded wings are long enough to extend past the bottom of its abdomen. Female palmetto bugs also have wings, but they’re shorter.

Palmetto bugs mostly live outdoors and can fly short distances. They use their wings to glide from a tree onto your patio or porch. If your windows are open, they’ll just as easily swoop into your house.

Texas

Texas’s famous “tree roach” is yet another name for the American cockroach and you’ll find quite a few of them flying in and around Houston.

Cuban cockroaches are also fairly common flying roaches in Texas. These green bugs are usually outdoor insects. Unlike many other cockroaches, they’re excellent fliers and commonly live in trees. They’re also strongly attracted to lights, which can lead them to fly into homes and businesses through open doors and windows.

Asian cockroaches are also present in Texas. These twins of the German cockroach are relatively strong fliers, too. They’ve been seen flying up to forty yards at a time.

New York City

New York City is a well-known American cockroach hot spot. There’s enough garbage on the ground and in alleyways that they don’t usually have to fly in search of food, but in hot, humid summers such as the one in 2016 (when city scientists found them flying around in large groups), they become more restless and active.

Georgia

Some of the most common cockroaches in Georgia are American, smokybrown, Asian and German cockroaches. You’ll notice that all four species of cockroaches are flying roaches! Being a southern state, Georgia has its fair share of giant flying cockroaches as well as some of the smaller species. A few of these roaches will be attracted to lights and could fly into open apartment windows or onto roofs to feed.

California

The most common cockroach found indoors in California is the German roach. These cockroaches rarely use their wings to fly, preferring to crawl around homes in search of food. The American cockroach also infests California. Warm temperatures in some parts of the state let them thrive outdoors, flying around and feeding on whatever they can find.

Hawaii

Yes, there are flying cockroaches in Hawaii. German roaches, American roaches and over a dozen other species are present on the island, invading homes, gardens and all of the usual places. Like their counterparts on the Gulf Coast, flying roaches there can be found outdoors and indoors. They’ll fly into and out of trees, through windows and straight past your head.

Las Vegas

Like all urban areas in the U.S., Las Vegas is home to a number of flying roaches, with German and American species the most common. Since both of these cockroaches can fly, it’s important to keep windows and doors closed or covered by screens at all times.

Alabama

At least 25 cockroach species call Alabama home. These include many of the flying species listed above. Alabama faces the same cockroach problems as other southern states: not only do they crawl in through drains and holes but they also fly in through windows and find entry points in roofs.

North Carolina

There are a few flying species in North Carolina, including wood cockroaches and American cockroaches. Wood cockroaches aren’t very capable fliers; they can do it but only for short distances at a time. They’re much more of a risk to homeowners on the ground. These roaches live in forests and among shrubs but they’ll come inside when food is hard to find outdoors.

Illinois

Where there are large urban areas, cockroaches often follow. That means Chicago residents are no strangers to cockroaches of both the crawling and flying kind. The ones in Illinois include American, brown banded and wood cockroaches. Whether you live in the city or somewhere more rural, you’ll have to protect your home against flying cockroaches making themselves comfortable inside or around it.

Conclusion

Do roaches fly?

Yes, and they can be dangerous to your home and family. They carry bacteria from all kinds of disgusting places and spread it on everything they touch, contaminating food and potentially triggering allergies. Flying ones pose an additional risk because they can easily fly through open windows and doors and find gaps between shingles that could let them into your attic.

If you’ve seen flying roaches in your space, it’s time to take steps to get rid of them. Learn how to prevent and get rid of flying roaches for good in the next pest control article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cockroaches fly towards you?

Although many winged cockroaches can fly, only a few fly well. Sometimes when they’re threatened, they’ll fly to escape– either from a predator or from a human who wants to kill them.
If they take off and fly straight towards you, they’re usually just frightened and not in very good control of where they’re headed. On the other hand, a light above or behind you could be attractive to certain species, in which case yes – they may try to fly right at you.

What are bugs that look like roaches but fly?

You might be thinking of palmetto bugs, the large insects found all over Florida and the surrounding states. Palmetto bugs are actually cockroaches–they’re members of the American cockroach species. Palmetto bugs can fly for short distances. They often use their long wings to fly into trees searching for food.

How high can cockroaches fly?

Cockroaches’ ability to fly varies based on their size and wing strength. Some of the strongest flying cockroaches can fly for a little over 100 feet at a time. However, they can’t fly 100 feet vertically – most cockroaches only fly as high as an average treetop.

Can big roaches fly?

Yes, American cockroaches are some of the biggest roaches commonly found across the U.S. and can fly short distances at a time. Their bodies can grow to 2 inches in length but their wings extend beyond their abdomens, allowing them to fly.


Sources

  1. Brunskill, Amber, et al (2011) Common Urban Pests: Identification, Prevention, and Control. PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/common-urban-pests-identification-prevention-and-control
  2. Drees, Bastiaan M. (2010) Texas A&M: AgriLife Extension. Retrieved from https://landscapeipm.tamu.edu/what-is-ipm/ipm-concepts/pest-identification/good-bug-bad-bug/neither/cockroaches/
  3. HowStuffWorks: Animals. Retrieved from https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/flying-cockroaches-behavior-target-face.htm
  4. How to Recognize the Five Cockroaches Common in Georgia (2018) Retrieved from https://www.bredapest.com/news/how-to-recognize-the-five-cockroaches
  5. Sutherland, Andrew M., et al (2019) Cockroaches. UC Pest Notes: Cockroaches. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  6. Hawaiian Insects: Cockroaches. Instant Hawaii. Retrieved from http://www.instanthawaii.com/cgi-bin/hi?Animals.roach
  7. Holt, Courtney (2011) Insects of Alabama. Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1809

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