It’s midnight. You’ve gone to the bathroom and there, on the shower’s tile wall, you see it – a black spot, a bug… a cockroach. And not just any cockroach… a cockroach with wings.
What kind is it, what does it mean, and if there’s a problem, where do you need to begin?
Let’s look at what you’re dealing with, and what you need to do next, when you discover roaches with wings.
Do Cockroaches Have Wings?
There are plenty of winged pests. But do roaches have wings? Yes, though not every species does.
Those species that do (see specifics below), have either two or four wings depending on their size. Small cockroaches have two hind wings that let them fly in short bursts. Large cockroaches usually have four wings–two hind wings used for flying, and two forewings that cover and protect the hind wings when they’re folded against the roach’s body.
Those species that don’t either have little use for flying or gliding, or are young roaches (cockroach nymphs) which don’t develop wings until they mature.
Do All Cockroaches with Wings Fly?
It may be surprising to learn that not every roach with wings can fly.
In some cockroach species, wings are present, but are small and stunted. While in some others, the wings may be long enough, but only the males of the species have wings that actually function.
Also, flying might not be the best word to describe what some winged roaches do. A few species are great fliers: they can fly a hundred feet or more at a time. Meanwhile, others simply jump and use their wings like an emergency ejector seat, propelling them away from danger but without much actual control.
Are Winged Cockroaches Dangerous?
All pest cockroaches are dangerous to humans–just not directly. They won’t bite or attack you. They do, however, pick up dangerous bacteria from all the unpleasant places they live and feed in, then spread that bacteria inside the homes and businesses they infest.
Winged cockroaches might be a bit scarier than wingless ones, but they’re not any more dangerous to humans. There’s a slightly higher risk that flying winged cockroaches will enter your home and cause havoc – because they can fly through open windows or doors. They can also fly from tree branches to your roof and find gaps between shingles or siding.
Ground roaches, on the other hand, are stuck looking for holes in the lower parts of exterior walls and climbing through the gaps where pipes or wiring enters your home.
Types of Cockroaches With Wings
There are 8 main species of pest cockroaches that have wings:
- American cockroaches
- Oriental cockroaches
- German cockroaches
- Brown banded cockroaches
- Wood cockroaches
- Smokybrown cockroaches
- Australian cockroaches
- Asian cockroaches
- Cuban cockroaches
The American Cockroach
The American roach (also known as a “water bug” or “palmetto bug”) is a large cockroach that can measure up to two inches in length. It has long, reddish-brown wings that cover most of its back. A male’s wings extend past the end of its abdomen while a female’s wings are a bit shorter in length.
These cockroaches fly around shrubs, lawns and garages looking for food. They’ll live pretty much anywhere and might start flying around your home if they find a way in.
The Oriental Cockroach
The Oriental cockroach is very dark brown in color and has wings that are shorter than its body. It’s a species that doesn’t climb very well and is one of the winged roaches that can’t fly.
While males’ wings grow to cover about 3/4 of their bodies, females’ wings are not fully developed. They’re membranous on the inside and thicker on the outside (though not quite as thick as a beetle’s wings).
The German Cockroach
What’s that small cockroach with wings that you found in your kitchen? It might be one of the most wanted culprits for home invasions in the United States –the German cockroach.
German cockroaches do have wings but they’re such fast runners that they rarely use their wings to fly. Whether they climbed into your house or flew in, these bugs can quickly become a serious pest problem.
The Brown Banded Cockroach
The brown banded cockroach is a small roach that infests indoor spaces, particularly up high. Both males and females have wings, but only the males can fly – which it does only for short distances.
The Wood Cockroach
They sometimes fly into buildings through open windows. Luckily, wood cockroaches are primarily outdoor pests that usually stay outside.
The Smokybrown Cockroach
The smoky brown cockroach has long, mahogany-colored wings. A smokybrown roach’s wings cover its whole back and extend past the tip of its abdomen. They can seem more transparent at the ends. And among this species, both males and females can fly!
The Australian Cockroach
The wings of the Australian cockroach have unique yellow coloring on them that sets these roaches apart from similar species. Along the edge of each wing is a pale streak that appears yellow. You’ll see that coloring around the head, too.
The Asian Cockroach
The wings of an Asian cockroach cover the entire bottom half of its body. Unlike most other species of cockroaches, the Asian roach’s abdomen is white beneath its light brown wings. Because of this, the wings can seem white around their edges
The Cuban Cockroach
Cuban cockroaches are unique on this list for two reasons: they’re skilled fliers and they’re strongly attracted to light. Oh, and they’re green! Cuban cockroaches have long wings that they use to fly into trees and toward lights. Both male and female Cuban cockroaches can fly very well.
Getting Rid of Flying Cockroaches
Cockroaches are dangerous pests because of their tendency to feed on garbage and animal waste, picking up bacteria and spreading it wherever they go. It’s important to protect your home from a cockroach infestation and take steps to eliminate them quickly if they’ve already gotten inside.
Preventing and getting rid of flying cockroaches is very similar to controlling cockroaches without wings. There are a few details to consider, though.
Flying roaches can glide in through windows and doors, so one important step in keeping them out is making sure all openings are covered with screens.
You should also keep an eye on trees and tall shrubs growing near your home. If the branches are close to your roof, it’s an easy jump for winged cockroaches onto the shingles. There, they’ll look for entry points into your attic and crawl spaces, and lay eggs among items in storage.
There are several species of cockroaches with wings that can cause problems for homeowners. Some of them fly, some of them merely use their wings to jump farther, but all of them are better kept out of your home.
If you’ve seen cockroaches with wings around your home, it’s time to begin a pest control plan. Learn all about how to get rid of flying cockroaches so you can keep your house pest-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
In species of cockroaches that have wings, nymphs don’t grow wings until very late in their development. Most nymphs you see (if any–they’re very cautious when they’re young) won’t yet have wings. Only in the last two stages of growth do they start to grow wings.
Species of cockroaches that fly have either two or four wings. Other species don’t have any wings.
Large species, such as the American cockroach, have two sets of wings (four total). The two small fore wings are called tegmina. They aren’t used for flight. Cockroaches with four wings only use the larger hind wings to fly.
Smokybrown cockroaches and Cuban cockroaches are two examples of species in which the female roaches can fly. In many other species, the wings of female cockroaches aren’t fully developed. They might have wings but they can’t use them to fly.
- McCanless, Kim (2014) Oriental cockroach. Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/oriental_cockroach.htm
- Sutherland, Andrew M, et al. (2019) Cockroaches. UC: Pest Notes. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
- Larson, Jonathan. Wood Roach. Nebraska Extension: Community Environment. Retrieved from https://communityenvironment.unl.edu/wood-roach–0
- Brown, Wizzie, et al. (2012) Cockroach Biology and Management. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Retrieved from https://citybugs.tamu.edu/files/2016/07/E–359-Cockroach-biology-and-management–2012.pdf
- Cuban Cockroach (2019) InsectIdentification. Retrieved from https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Cuban-Cockroach