If you’ve ever seen a cockroach in your home, apartment or office, chances are it was a German cockroach. These roaches are the most common species found in buildings across the U.S. They’re unable to survive in locations away from humans or human activity, making them annoying pests and the typical culprits for home infestations.
German cockroaches are serious pests that can put you and your family at risk. They spread disease and ruin food. These resilient insects are experts at scavenging for crumbs and leftovers. They’ll quickly build colonies in apartment buildings and houses if the resources are there.
Read on to learn more about their behavior, what attracts German roaches, and how to prevent them from invading your home.
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What Are German Roaches and What Does a German Cockroach Look Like?
The German cockroach is an aggressive cockroach species that infests homes in the United States, Canada, and across the world. It’s a very small cockroach, growing to around a half inch long (about the diameter of a penny). German cockroaches have wings but don’t use them to fly.
Unlike other common species like the smoky brown cockroach or Oriental cockroaches, German cockroaches are a light tan, light brown, or golden color. They also have a distinctive pair of dark, roughly parallel streaks that stretch along their back from its head to its wings.
The German roach isn’t the only small golden cockroach to skitter across your kitchen floor however. The less common but equally tiny Asian cockroach has nearly identical coloring and markings, and side-by-side you’ll have difficulty distinguishing the two.
German cockroach nymphs (the babies) look like smaller versions of their parents but don’t yet have wings. Nymphs also appear slightly darker in color, ranging from dark brown to black.
Where Do German Cockroaches Come From?
Originally thought to have been a European cockroach, the German cockroach is now believed to have come from Southeast Asia. And it likely spread here and elsewhere the same way it gets into homes now – by hitchhiking inside of things.
If you’ve found German roaches in your home, you probably brought them in inside bags or boxes, inside a suitcase, or inside used furniture or appliances. In warmer weather however, they may just make their way in from nearby apartments or homes.
Where Do German Cockroaches Usually Live?
German cockroaches live in close proximity to people worldwide. They thrive in locations where humans live and work; in fact, they need to live near people to access food and water.
They’re pickier than other roach species about their habitats, too. German cockroaches prefer areas that are warm and humid. These roaches tend to struggle in cooler temperatures but can spread quickly in structures with central heating.
Apartment buildings and hotels are prime locations for a German cockroach infestation because the pests can live in walls and move from room to room in search of food.
Life Cycle of a German Cockroach?
A German cockroach’s life cycle only lasts about 100 days from egg to adulthood. These roaches don’t breed in cycles like some other species; instead, they breed continuously, causing populations to increase extremely quickly. At any time, there could be numerous adults, nymphs and egg cases present in a home.
German cockroaches produce a large number of eggs each time they reproduce. Their egg capsules, called oothecae, contain 18-50 eggs, with an average of about 32. One female roach can produce as many as 400 cockroaches in its lifetime. These egg cases hatch in about a month.
Adult German cockroaches live for 20 to 30 weeks, on average. They reproduce and spread rapidly–faster than any other residential cockroach. In only a year, a German roach infestation can grow exponentially.
Where Do German Cockroaches Hide in Homes?
German cockroaches live anywhere there is easy access to food and water. Their search for food most frequently leads them into kitchens, where they hide around appliances and cabinets. They can move through pipes and enter a room through drains or small holes in a wall. Their flat bodies let them squeeze through even the tiniest cracks in your home.
Bathrooms are another favorite location because they’re often dark and humid. It is, unfortunately, not uncommon to spot a German cockroach in your apartment’s bathtub at some point.
German cockroaches are omnivorous. Since they eat a huge variety of things, their food sources range from crumbs and scraps to pet food, oil splatter and household objects–even book bindings and soap.
You’ll rarely see them during the daytime unless the population has grown so large that they’re being pushed out of their hiding spots. Usually, German cockroaches hide in crevices during the day and emerge at night to find food and water. These roaches are fast runners; although they don’t fly, they’ll quickly flee from humans.
Are German Cockroaches Dangerous?
German cockroaches are particularly dangerous pests because of their ability to access food items in cabinets and pantries and their tendency to carry serious diseases. These cockroaches contaminate leftovers and stored food with bodily secretions and droppings. Their droppings might also create an unpleasant odor, signaling contamination.
German roaches spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are carried on their legs and abdomens by walking across cooking surfaces, countertops, sinks and bathtubs. They’re especially dangerous in stores and restaurants where food is everywhere; a German cockroach infestation there can ruin a business’s reputation.
German cockroaches have been found to carry Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning. Their skins and droppings can also trigger an allergic reaction in people with asthma or other sensitivities. Bites from German cockroaches are extremely rare but not impossible. However, these and other roach species almost always flee from humans, so bites aren’t typically a concern.
Tips to Rid Your Home of German Cockroaches
The first step in any pest control effort is inspection. It’s important to identify the potential location and size of your cockroach problem. Roaches usually hide quite close to their food sources, so you can start your inspection by focusing on areas within about 10 feet of food.
German cockroach droppings look like dark brown or black specks or tiny cylinders, depending on the size of the cockroach. You’ll find roach droppings anywhere roaches were present, from counter tops and tables to sinks and cabinets.
You can also use cockroach traps to discover where the roaches are concentrated. Sticky traps are effective, though you might have to change them frequently… and using them will probably mean handling dead cockroaches, which is never fun.
Traps are best used as a way to identify the sources of a roach problem. Cockroach gel baits, on the other hand, are a method of control that uses a poison to attract and kill cockroaches. The roaches eat the bait and return to their hiding place, where they die. Though this method of control requires less effort, it could also result in a large number of dead cockroaches in certain areas of your home (depending on the size of the problem).
If you have more than a few German cockroaches in your home or apartment, you’ll probably want to enlist a professional to eliminate them.
Professional pest control companies can use insecticides in the form of dusts or sprays to safely target roaches at the source. A professional will also be able to point out cockroaches’ access points and treat your home to prevent future problems. They’ll have the knowledge and tools ready to handle a pest problem efficiently and effectively.
For a detailed plan read: “How to Get Rid of German Roaches Step-by-Step“
How to Prevent Future Cockroach Infestations
German cockroaches are serious pests that you definitely don’t want to find in your home. It’s essential that you take pest management steps even before you’ve ever seen a cockroach to avoid attracting them and keep them out of your house or apartment.
Developing thorough, regular cleaning habits and rigorously eliminating sources of water is perhaps the best way to keep cockroaches away. Without food and water, they’ll quickly look for the next place that provides them crumbs, leftovers, and moisture.
Make sure you clean up food and wipe counters each night. It’s also important to sweep and vacuum frequently. Even old spills and splatter around your stove can feed and provide a drink to a cockroach, so take an extra minute and wipe these areas carefully.
It’s easy to let dirty dishes stack up in the sink if you don’t have a dishwasher. However, that’s like leaving a buffet with free drinks for pests. Clean dishes at least once per day and keep them organized in your cabinets to reduce potential hiding spots.
Small German roaches can get into a surprising number of pantry items, even if you think they’re closed. Cardboard boxes and plastic bags are often not enough to keep determined roaches out. Instead, store pantry goods, such as cereal, sugar and flour in tightly sealed plastic or glass containers. These precautionary measures can go a long way in deterring hungry roaches.
Your inspection probably revealed at least a few cracks or holes that could let roaches in. You should use caulk to fill these entry points and seal any other cracks or crevices you find. Look for gaps where pipes pass through the wall, focusing especially on the kitchen and bathrooms.
The German cockroach is one of the most pervasive and problematic pests worldwide. It’s found almost everywhere humans are and can cause serious problems for homeowners and business owners.
Take steps today to prevent German cockroaches and avoid a potentially costly problem in the future. If you’ve found one or more roaches in your home, it’s important to act quickly. The most effective solution is also the one that requires the least amount of work on your part: call a professional. They can best diagnose the problem and implement a cockroach control plan.
Don’t let cockroaches invade your personal space. Take preventative measures now to ensure a pest-free home in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
German cockroaches rarely bite humans. They can, but they’ll usually run away instead. Only in extreme circumstances (very large infestations) have German cockroaches been known to bite people.
German cockroaches can’t fly even though they have wings. They’re fast runners but mostly stick to their feet. While other roach species are known for flying or jumping, German cockroaches are known for running quickly and hiding–they spend up to 75% of their lives in hiding.
German cockroach droppings can collect and give off an unpleasant smell. If you notice a strange odor coming from a container of food, heed this warning! It might have been contaminated by cockroaches and you definitely don’t want to eat that.
You can use a jar trap to catch German cockroaches by placing some food in the bottom of the jar and coating the inside walls with vaseline. Once the roaches crawl inside, they won’t be able to climb out. You can also use a Borax mixture or mix equal parts baking soda and sugar. The baking soda will react with a cockroach’s stomach and kill it.
Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, 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 writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.
Rae Osborn, PhD.
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.
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- German Cockroach: Biology, Identification, Control. (2013) NC State Extension. Retrieved from https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/german-cockroach/
- Jacobs Sr., Steve. (2013) German Cockroaches. PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/german-cockroaches
- Valles, Steven. (2008) German cockroach. University of Florida: Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/german.htm