Depending on where you live, you might already be far too familiar with tree roaches. They’re troublemakers, flying straight at you when you flick the lights on for a late-night snack. Tree roaches are ugly. They’re scary.
They’re big enough, according to some homeowners, to “help you bring in the sofa when you move.”
And across regions like Louisiana and Texas, tree roaches are a source of infinite frustration where they’re abundant and all but impossible to miss.
Let’s explore what attracts these roaches to your home, then show you how to get rid of them for good.
What They Are and Where They’re From
“Tree roach” is a rather vague name (or actually a nickname) for a certain kind of roach that inhabits trees and shrubbery, terrorizes neighborhood yards and patios, and finds ways to sneak into houses, just to scare the poor residents even more.
It’s a regional expression used in a handful of mostly southern states, and when you dig a little, you’ll find that Louisiana or Texas tree roaches sound suspiciously similar to one of the biggest, scariest cockroaches on the planet—the formidable American cockroach.
So in most places (including most likely yours), tree roaches are American cockroaches, with one possible exception:
Tree Cockroaches vs. Wood Cockroaches
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention wood roaches, the other “roaches in trees” that many homeowners face in wooded areas year-round.
Unlike the American roach, species like the Virginia and Pennsylvania wood roach are somewhat smaller cockroaches that tend to hide in firewood and decaying logs, attack porch lights at night, and certainly like trees, too.
But they really don’t pose much of a threat as pests, and unlike the startlingly big American cockroach, don’t typically cause people to jump out of their skins. For those of you who came looking for solutions to a wood roach problem, you can learn all about them here.
Otherwise, let’s get on with clearing up your American tree roach problem.
The American tree cockroach is between 1 1/2 and 3 inches in length, huge for a cockroach and intimidating for many people when they’re faced with one in person.
Their reddish brown, hard-shelled bodies are flat, and when you flip them upside down to expose their bellies, more or less oval-shaped. Two long antennae protrude from their small heads. And, oh—the wings! You won’t soon forget them if you’ve ever experienced one of these bugs flying straight at you!
The Tree Roach in the Wild: Where They Come From
American tree roaches are fairly harmless as long as they’re minding their own business in the woods nearby—or a festering dumpster in the alley.
They nest beneath loose bark, especially in oak trees, and hide among the fallen leaves and rotting logs on forest floors. They also live in alleyways, drain pipes and sewers. Closer to home, they like to bed down in flower beds and gardens, depositing egg capsules and making lots of baby tree roaches to make our lives more complicated.
Why and How They Come Inside
Fortunately, these bugs are not quite the major problem that indoor cockroaches are. Being outdoor species, that’s where they mostly stay.
Unfortunately, changes in the weather or environment sometimes drive them inside, where they just can’t resist exploring for snacks, drinks, and possible mates. Though they’re less likely to spread than their indoor cockroach cousins (like the brown-banded cockroach or dreaded German cockroach), tree cockroaches can still contaminate food and irritate people’s allergies.
How They Get in
Isn’t it great throwing the windows open for a breath of fresh air? Tree roaches like it when you do that too, and their wings were made to take advantage of it.
They don’t actually fly very well, but their wings let them glide from tree branches to anything below. Couple that maneuver with an attraction to lights and your nice, bright living room invites them right in.
They’re not choosy about their mode of entry either, and since they spend even more time on the ground than they do in trees, they’ll take advantage of the gaps around pipes, entry points for cables, uncovered dryer vents and weep holes to make themselves at home.
Once they do get in, their favorite indoor haunts are the kitchen and bathroom, where they can count on plenty of cupboards, cabinets and heavy appliances to hide them as they set about the task of multiplying.
How to Get Rid of Tree Roaches
You didn’t buy your house intending to share it with tree roach roommates. Before they get comfortable, kick them out!
Here are 7 simple steps to get rid of them, from outside to inside.
1. Remove debris and clutter.
Battling tree roach invaders is an all-out war. These bugs can seem like they come in from everywhere, one or two at a time. To be successful, your defense strategy must begin outside—in their territory.
Start with the obvious: remove any piles of leaves, twigs or firewood that moisture-loving bugs could hide in. Then, rake mulch and pull weeds so it’s clean and evenly spread. Tree cockroaches like to nest beneath thick layers of mulch and overgrown plants that trap water and humidity.
You should also organize any boxes or equipment you’re storing outside. This is a great opportunity to do that spring cleaning you’ve been “going to get to next weekend” for the past 26 weekends!
2. Seal cracks, crevices and holes in exterior walls.
Now that you’ve cleaned and cleared the space around your house, you can take a close look at the walls to find the cracks and crevices that a committed tree roach could squeeze through.
Check for cracks in brick or siding, gaps around plumbing and wiring, holes in the foundation and spaces under windowsills. Once you’ve identified these weak points, you can use caulk, expanding foam, or copper mesh to seal off your home from these bugs and other critters.
3. Use diatomaceous earth as a natural barrier.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is an amazing tree roach killer!
It’s a natural insecticide that’s non-toxic so you can sprinkle it on the lawn, the flower bed and the mulch around your home without worrying about harming pets or other animal visitors. It’s easy to use and deadly for tree roaches—a powerful addition to your pest control arsenal.
4. Place sticky traps inside.
Once you’ve successfully barricaded the outside of your house, it’s time to work on the inside.
You don’t have to start smearing your whole house with toxic chemicals. Be strategic! Using sticky traps will help you narrow down where the bugs could be entering and hiding.
5. If you see them inside, use gel baits to eliminate them.
Gel baits are your most powerful weapons against tree roaches.
They attract the bugs, then deliver a lethal dose of pesticides when eaten. Because these bugs tend to hide in the same places indoors, there’s a good chance they’ll spread the pesticides to other roaches. It might take a few weeks but you’ll soon start to see the bait’s effects!
6. Repair leaks and replace screens.
A leaky faucet or pipe gives these roaches all the moisture they need to survive. Fixing drips will cut off their water supply, not only forcing them to die from thirst, but saving you money in the long run on pest control products or a call to the exterminator!
Big flying tree roaches take advantage of open doors and torn window screens to sneak inside. If you like to let in the fresh air, make sure you’ve installed window and door screens and replaced any that are ripped. Boost your seal by installing weather stripping on doors, too.
7. Keep your house as clean and organized as possible.
Finally, good cleaning habits are your permanent defense against tree roaches. Although they typically don’t come inside specifically looking for food, they might decide to stick around if they like what’s on the menu.
Crumbs, grease splatter and unsealed pantry items can feed a whole colony of these critters. You can change that simply by sticking to a daily cleaning routine: sweep or vacuum floors, wipe counters and the stovetop and wash dishes.
Find even more tips in our guide to preventing roaches.
No one should have to worry about pest infestations or frequent nuisance sightings. You have the power to get rid of tree roaches either on your own, or with the help of a pest control professional. And now that you know the basics, it’s time to take back what’s yours.
We’re rooting for you!