Maybe it’s the tropical air that makes the Cuban cockroach so different from other roaches, because different these roaches definitely are –

They take to the trees the way other roaches take to the sewers, have a different kind of diet, and reproduce in a different way. Most people don’t consider them house pests, and some people even keep them as terrarium pets.

Let’s learn all about these rule-breaking roaches and the many ways they’re unique.

Identifying the Cuban Cockroach

When we set out to identify a cockroach, we usually begin with color, which for cockroaches is typically some shade of brown, tan, reddish-brown or black. But Cuban cockroaches (the adults anyway) are remarkably different – a very leaf-like pale green.

Also called the “green banana cockroach” or the “green cockroach,” the Cuban roach, Panchlora nivea is fairly small (1/2 to 1 inch long) with long, transparent wings. It also has a softer body than most of its other cockroach cousins, making it a popular “feeder” insect for snake and reptile enthusiasts.

Where Do Cuban Roaches Live?

Cuban cockroach range as shown on a United States map
Range of the Cuban cockroach in the United States (in orange).

If you’ve been keeping track of other cockroach species, you know that their names often don’t represent where they’re from. American cockroaches aren’t native to the Americas and German cockroaches aren’t native to Germany.

Cuban cockroaches buck this trend, too—they’re native to Cuba. Today, they live on several Caribbean islands and along the United States Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas.

Cuban cockroaches are an outdoor species and prefer the great outdoors to any kind of building; they’re rarely found indoors. Their strong wings let them fly into trees to feed on fruit—hence the name “banana roach.” They also live among shrubs, gardens, piles of leaves, firewood, mulch and similar locations.

Cuban roaches also sometimes get into greenhouses, where they thrive in the near-tropical conditions and feed on the growing plants.

Life Cycle of Cuban Roaches

Cuban cockroach identification: adult and nymph beside penny for scale

Cuban cockroach nymphs don’t look at all like the adults. They’re actually similar in color to other cockroach species. They’re dark brown or black, wingless and tiny.

Most cockroaches produce egg cases that they carry for a time and then hide just before they’re ready to hatch. Again, the Cuban cockroach does it differently.

A female Cuban roach carries its eggs for up to two months while the eggs develop inside its abdomen. When the eggs hatch, the baby roaches emerge as nymphs. One female Cuban roach can produce up to 30 nymphs at a time.

The nymphs remain dark brown for about 100 days as they mature. They hide by burrowing until they develop their wings and take on the green color of the adults.

Cuban Cockroach Behavior and Diet

Cuban roaches are some of the strongest fliers of any cockroach species. They buzz around banana trees, flying into the tall branches to get to the fruit. Their wings mean they can easily access roofs too, but there’s little risk that they’ll try to come inside.

In some outdoor areas, Cuban cockroach populations can become dense. This puts shrubs, trees, and greenhouse plants at risk of being eaten and damaged. These roaches have few natural predators and their ability to fly lets them easily escape from danger.

Cuban roaches are mostly active at night, just when every homeowner is turning on their lights. And they are strongly attracted to lights, so they’ll fly toward anything shining nearby. That includes outdoor lights, headlights, TV screens and more.

You can make your lights less attractive to cockroaches and other bugs by switching to yellow bulbs. These bulbs reduce the blue light that’s most visible to insects. They won’t completely eliminate bugs, though. You’ll also want to make sure all of your window screens are intact so roaches can’t fly inside at night.

What Do Cuban Cockroaches Eat?

There’s a reason the Cuban green cockroach infests banana trees: they love eating sugary fruits and the sweet sap from tree leaves.

Of course, they’re still cockroaches and their diet is one area where they’re just like other species. They feed on all kinds of decaying material, from dead trees and leaves to food scraps, mulch, garbage and much more.

If you compost, you’ll have to be especially careful. Compost is like a dinner buffet for pests, Cuban cockroaches included. To keep roaches away, you should bury your compost pile or use a covered bin.

Are Cuban Cockroaches Dangerous Pests?

Cuban cockroaches don’t bite, sting or typically come anywhere near people. However, they do occasionally fly into homes and onto patios when attracted by bright lights. Since they don’t survive well or reproduce indoors (unless they’re inside a greenhouse), they aren’t considered serious pests for homeowners.

Most people still don’t want them hanging around, interrupting outdoor activities or potentially damaging garden plants. You can discourage them from living near your home by moving leaf piles, firewood and garbage away from your house and garage. You can also reduce moisture by spreading mulch thinly and making sure the area around your home has effective drainage.

If you’re seriously annoyed by lots of Cuban cockroaches flying around the shrubbery, trees and plants outside of your house, a pest management service can try to reduce their numbers by treating plants. However, unless they’re damaging plants, this probably isn’t necessary.

Cuban Cockroaches as Pets

Some people keep Cuban cockroaches as pets. Since they don’t bite or sting humans, they’re common pets in terrariums. They need tropical conditions to survive, so terrarium owners should keep the temperature warm and the humidity relatively high. And since the green roach can fly, a completely covered enclosure is a necessity.

Conclusion

Cuban roaches are really interesting insects. They stand out among other species of cockroach for their green color, the way they carry their eggs until they’ve hatched, and their skill as fliers. Even better, you can enjoy learning about these fascinating creatures without worrying too much about them infesting your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Cuban cockroaches attracted to lights?

Yes, Cuban cockroaches are strongly attracted to lights. They’ll flutter around lamp posts, go after car headlights and even land on TV screens.

They might even fly into your pool if the light is on. Inside or outside, lights attract these flying cockroaches from nearby trees and fields. Blue light is the most visible wavelength to insects, while yellow lights are more difficult for roaches to see.

Do Cuban cockroaches damage shrubs, trees and plants?

Cuban cockroaches are very fond of banana trees. If enough roaches are present, they can damage the tree by feeding on its fruit and leaves. Sometimes, Cuban roaches also infest greenhouses.

They love the tropical conditions inside and feed on the vast amount of plant material that’s available. In a greenhouse, Cuban roaches can multiply quickly and cause damage to young and delicate plants.

Sources

  1. Green Banana Cockroach / Cuban Cockroack. Texas Invasive Species Institute. Retrieved from http://www.tsusinvasives.org/home/database/panchlora-nivea

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