Folks who live under the southern sunshine are no strangers to the prevalence of Florida roaches.
It’s almost a rite of passage to flick on the lights in your kitchen or bathroom and watch a roach skitter away under the fridge or behind the sink.
These bugs are dirty, smelly and ugly… and, unfortunately, they love the Florida weather as much as tourists do.
Ready to solve your Florida cockroach problem?
We’ll introduce you to the most common types of roaches in Florida and kickstart your pest control battle plan with some pro tools and tips.
Let’s dive in!
Types of Roaches in Florida
Anyone native to the south, knows this roach as the “palmetto bug,” and indeed, it’s a fact of life in the humid Florida climate. The nickname might sound friendlier than cockroach but it’s still just that—the imposing, and to strangers unforgettable American cockroach. This big bug can create big problems for homes and businesses.
The American roach measures between 2 and 3 inches long, making it one of the largest pests in Florida. If you see a huge, reddish-brown bug flee under the fridge when you flick on the lights, you can be fairly sure that it’s an American roach.
Look for six spiny legs, long antennae thin as strands of hair, and importantly, long dark wings which it sometimes (though awkwardly) puts to use.
The American cockroach is in fact one of several flying roaches in Florida, and has a way of startling even long-time residents as some will occasionally fly right at you.
American roaches are peridomestic pests—they mostly live outdoors in dark humid places like wood piles, mulch, dumpsters and storm drains but they can thrive indoors, too. They feed on decaying organic material, refuse and food scraps.
Florida Woods Cockroach
The squat, beetle-like Florida woods cockroach is known for its putrid defense mechanism—a potent stench it releases to deter predators. Find a few of these insects in your bathroom or closet and you’ll discover why people call them “stink roaches”.
Dark brown with a reddish-mahogany hue, the Florida wood roach grows to about 1.5 inches in length. It’s wingless and stout, like a tiny armored bug with a serious stink.
Sometimes, you’ll notice yellowish stripes along their sides. The easiest way to distinguish them from American roaches is the lack of wings.
These detritivores love living in gardens and piles of firewood where they can feed on the fallen plant parts and decaying logs. You’ll also find them in palm trees and under the eaves of your roof.
Florida residents often uncover colonies of dozens of these bugs living under rocks or in the mulch outside their homes.
They’re not well-adapted to survive inside, so they don’t pose the same threat as American or German roaches. They’ll stink and they’ll startle you in the bathroom at 2 am but they’re not likely to become a huge indoor infestation.
Smokybrown cockroaches are some of the most prevalent flying roaches in Florida. They’ll flutter around patio lights and fly from palm branches onto your roof looking for a nesting place that’s warm, humid and safe.
These cockroaches are a darker shade of brown (think mahogany) than Americans. At about 1 inch long, they’re slightly smaller than the previous two species, with shorter, curved antennae. They’re also slimmer than Florida woods roaches and shiny.
You won’t find tan or yellow markings on smokybrown roaches. They have long wings that reach beyond their bodies when folded.
Smokybrowns are fliers—they’ll use their wings to fly into planters, gutters and trees. These roaches nest in peculiar locations, like inside water meter boxes and beneath shingles. They often choose high-up locations that are protected from wind and rain.
Have an attic? Smokybrown roaches could be a serious problem.
One other thing about these flying roaches—they’re strongly attracted to lights. If you find one in your house it’s probably because it flew in through an open window at night.
Of the various types of cockroaches in Florida, the German cockroach is arguably the most destructive. It’s a strictly indoor, domestic roach and that makes it all the worse.
At about 1/2 inch long, it’s the smallest roach you’ll face in Florida. These bugs are light brown or tan with small semi-transparent wings and two dark vertical stripes along the cowl-like area behind its head.
Saw a tiny but wingless roach? It could be a baby German cockroach. Look for the dark stripes along its back and molted exoskeletons lying nearby. Baby cockroaches are bad news—it means the colony is growing.
Being an indoor species, German cockroaches will multiply out of control once they’ve made it into your home. They like the dark and the damp, so the state’s humidity makes spaces like garages and crawl spaces perfect nesting grounds.
Like the other species we’ve mentioned, German roaches are most active at night when the lights are off and the party’s moved out to the backyard. Someone walks in for the cheese plate, flips the light switch and there it is—a tiny German roach beat them to it! Yuck.
And unlike their activity in other, cooler places where they can’t survive in homes without heat, German roaches in Florida can pop up just about anywhere, and at any time of year.
Think the roach you saw was something else? There are other roaches out there, but these three Florida cockroach species are worth a special look:
How to Solve a Florida Roach Problem
To eliminate any of the roaches above, take an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. That means addressing the problem with a combination of tools and techniques to target the colony, not the individual insect.
Sanitation and Exclusion
Florida roach control starts with two key concepts: sanitation and exclusion. With one, you take away their food and water sources, making them desperate to feed. With the other, you remove their entry points, escape routes and, most importantly, nesting places.
If eliminating food sources for a bug that eats seemingly everything seems like a tall order, break the task into sections.
- Clean the kitchen – Sweep and vacuum for crumbs, wash dishes daily and change the garbage frequently.
- Clean the pantry – Seal all foods in hard containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Clean the bathroom and patio – Try to fix dripping faucets and hose bibbs where roaches could get a drink. Check under sinks, where a leaky pipe could create ideal conditions for a roach nest.
Next up, exclusion:
- Try to reduce moisture with dehumidifiers and fans, especially in attics, kitchens and laundry rooms.
- Seal off any gaps around windows, doors and lanai screens that could let roaches in. Use screens wherever possible, including laundry vents and the attic fan. Repair damaged weatherstripping.
- Trim shrubs and palm trees away from your roof.
- Check any firewood or boxes for roaches before you bring them in from the garage or outside.
- Don’t leave your car’s windows open for extended periods. Cockroaches infest cars, too. Or, they’ll sneak into your purse or backpack and wind up in the house.
Florida Cockroach Control Plan
Once sanitation has made them hungry and exclusion has displaced them, it’s time to strike with heavy-duty roach-killing tools.
- Start with traps such as food-scented roach motels or read our guide to buying and building roach traps.
- Then, treat those high-activity areas with gel bait and insecticidal dust.
- Use granular bait products outside to treat landscaping, garden soil and mulch.
Tips for Working With an Exterminator
Hiring an exterminator takes the work out of your hands and ensures it’s done right.
Look for a pest control service that’s fairly local so you know they’ll be familiar with the most common pests specific to your area. When you call, ask for the details of their service plans. How often do they schedule treatments? Do they guarantee extra appointments if pest activity increases?
Since most of Florida’s common cockroaches are peridomestic, expect your exterminator to treat outside and inside the house.
If you’re concerned about pesticides and other chemicals, inquire about their commitment to the environment. Some companies offer eco-friendly treatments.
If you find a dead cockroach or manage to kill one with a spray or some soapy water, use gloves to place it in a zip-closed bag. Keep it in the freezer until you can show the exterminator so they can I.D. it.
For more on this topic, read our full guide to hiring a professional exterminator.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cockroaches are more than a nuisance in Florida—they’re seemingly everywhere. Roaches aren’t the only pests in Florida but they’re certainly some of the worst to have in your home. Many homeowners in the sunshine state simply accept that cockroaches thrive in the warm, humid climate outside and it’s only a matter of time before a few wander inside.
It is! There’s no getting away from roaches, even with a nicer nickname. Typically, a “palmetto bug” is an American cockroach. But people use the name to refer to any of the big outdoor cockroaches that they’ve seen climbing in palm trees and flying around their patios.
Some cockroaches are attracted to palm trees as nesting places. Florida woods roaches and American roaches like the safety provided by palm tree branches. They can find a sturdy shelter atop the tree’s crown, where they’re out of reach of most dangerous predators.
In severe cases, a Florida renter can break their lease because of roaches.
Before taking that step, though, contact your landlord and request pest control service. A professional exterminator should be able to eliminate all but the most severe problems in 1–2 months.
If they decline, you might have grounds to break the lease.3
The key legislation is Florida Statute 83.51:
“The landlord … shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for: > 1. The extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants…
If your landlord refuses to “make reasonable provisions” and you’re still dealing with a serious pest problem, the landlord might be in violation of this statue. In that case, you should provide them with a written notice that, in 7 days, you intend to vacate.
Per Florida Statue 83.56:
If the landlord materially fails to comply with s. 83.51(1) … within 7 days after delivery of written notice by the tenant … the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.5
The most important thing is documenting the problem in as much detail as possible.4 Take lots of time-stamped photos and videos and record everything in writing. If your landlord’s not cooperating with your pest control needs, there’s a decent chance they won’t willingly cooperate with your desire to break your lease, either. You’ll want good evidence to back up your claims.
For so many people, enjoying the Florida lifestyle means living with Florida roaches. It doesn’t have to be that way!
You’ve met the most common types of roaches in Florida. Now, use the roach control tips above to start eliminating these pests and keep your home clear of cockroaches for good!
You can do it!
- Koehler, P. G. et al. () Cockroaches and Their Management. University of Florida Extension. Retrieved from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig082
- Cockroach Prevention Tips for Lake Worth Homes & Businesses. NozzleNolen. Retrieved from https://www.nozzlenolen.com/blog/post/cockroach-prevention-tips-for-lake-worth-homes-businesses
- Latham, Kate (2020) Can I Break My Lease Because of Roaches? Insect Cop. Retrieved from https://insectcop.net/break-lease-because-of-roaches/
- Morley, Miranda (2017) How to Break a Lease Due to Cockroaches. Sapling. Retrieved from https://www.sapling.com/11399631/break-lease-due-cockroaches
- 2011 Florida Statutes. The Florida Senate. Retrieved from https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/83.51