Cockroach Identification


Want to hear the joke about the flying cockroach? Probably not. Because if you’ve ever come face-to-face with one, as in literally face-to-face – you know the utter horror that a flying roach can bring.

Let’s look at the kinds of flying roaches, and then afterward – show you how to get rid of them for good.

Cockroaches That Fly and Cockroaches That Don’t

Some cockroaches fly. Others don’t. The first step toward solving your cockroach problem, is identifying the ones you have.

Cockroaches That Fly

American Roaches

American cockroach illustration with label: Flies only awkwardly and for short distances.
American cockroaches fly, but do so awkwardly – and only for short distances.

The American cockroach is the largest flying cockroach you’ll encounter in the United States. They prefer to live outside, but when they enter homes, they can cause big problems. They’re awkward flyers, but even so, an American cockroach flying around your kitchen can easily reach counter tops and upper cabinets.

American roaches love warm, dark places. Indoors, common hiding places include attics, cabinets and drains. Controlling them starts with identifying their entry points and targeting these hotspots with baits and pesticides.

Wood Roaches

Wood cockroach illustration with label: "Only males fly. Attracted to light."
Only wood roach males fly. They’re often attracted to nighttime light sources.

By the name, you can guess that flying wood roaches are usually found outdoors. They live in and around wooded areas, often inhabiting tree trunks, woodpiles, and decaying organic matter.

The males glide from trees or shrubs into nearby homes. They’re especially active at night during breeding season, and are attracted by nighttime lights. Preventing them begins outside by removing firewood and leaf litter from the area around your house.

Smoky Brown Roaches

Smoky brown cockroach illustration with label: "Flies at night toward lights."
Like wood roaches, smoky brown cockroaches are drawn to lights.

Smoky brown cockroaches are only slightly smaller than American roaches. They’re dark reddish-brown in color with long antennae and long wings.

This flying roach hangs out in gardens, woodpiles, and other humid environments, occasionally coming inside when temperatures cool down. You might accidentally bring them in with firewood from outside, or in boxes that were stored in the garage. Then, it’s important to control them quickly before they can reproduce and spread.

Australian Roaches

Auatralian cockroach illustration with label: "Excellent flying ability."
Australian cockroaches are prodigious flyers.

The Australian cockroach is a big flying cockroach that looks quite similar to the American cockroach, but carries characteristic yellow markings around its head and wings. Australian cockroaches are decent fliers and often live in tree hollows and other damp places.

If flying Australian cockroaches take hold in a home or business, they’ll hide near sources of water, such as leaking pipes or faucets.

Asian Roaches

Asian cockroach illustration with label: "Strong fliers.Will  fly through open doors."
Asian cockroaches fly well and are known for flying through open windows and doors.

The Asian cockroach is a tiny flying roach that lives primarily along the U.S. Gulf Coast, hiding and laying egg capsules in mulch, grass and other shady areas.

Light brown in color and about the size of German roaches (in fact, they’re nearly identical-looking), they’re strong flyers, and big fans of artificial light. If the lights are on and a window is open, they’ll fly straight inside to find it.

Cuban Roaches

Cuban flying cockroaches feeding
Cuban roaches are excellent, agile flyers. Image via Wikimedia

Cuban cockroaches are excellent, agile, and frequent flyers. They’re about an inch long and often inhabit elevated locations. They like hanging out in trees and shrubs and occasionally glide into homes through open windows.

If you live in an area where these green flying roaches are prevalent, it’s important to cover all open windows with screens, and keep your gutters clear of anything they’d want to eat.

German Cockroaches

German cockroach illustration with label: "Possess long wings but rarely fly."
German cockroaches are capable of flying, but don’t often do.

German cockroaches are one of the world’s most common indoor pests. If you’ve ever seen a cockroach anywhere, chances are it was one of these.

Do German cockroaches fly? Yes, they have the ability to fly, and that only makes them more of a risk to homeowners. Beyond climbing into buildings through holes and crevices in walls, they can also fly in through windows.

However– German roaches rarely fly; they’re quick on their feet and will usually crawl to where they need to go.

Cockroaches That Don’t Fly (But That You Might Also Have)

Oriental Cockroaches

Oriental cockroach illustration with label: "Short, under- developed wings."
Oriental cockroaches have wings that are underdeveloped and incapable of flight.

Oriental roaches are medium-sized bugs with glossy, dark bodies. They’re slower than other species and don’t crawl up steep surfaces very well. Although they do have wings, Oriental cockroaches can’t fly.

This means they’re primarily ground pests that look for ground-level ways into buildings. If your home has a few tiny holes in its exterior walls, these roaches have an easy way in.

Baby Roaches

Baby cockroach illustration with label: "Wingless, and unable to fly."
Baby cockroaches are unable to fly.

Do baby cockroaches fly? No. If you think you’ve seen a baby flying cockroach, it had to be something else. Baby roaches don’t have fully-developed wings until adulthood, and don’t fly (if they come from a flying species) until then.

How to Keep Flying Roaches Away

To keep flying cockroaches away, you’ll have to add a few steps to your normal cockroach prevention plan.

Air-Level Prevention

You’ll want to begin by installing screens on all the windows you tend to leave open. If windows and doors already have screens, great! Just make sure they’re intact, with no tears or holes that a persistent cockroach could climb through.

American roaches, Asian roaches and Cuban roaches (in some areas) are the most likely to fly in through open doors and windows. Other flying species are more likely to come in on foot.

Ground-Level Prevention

Keeping flying cockroaches away means protecting your home at ground-level, too. Outdoors, use caulking to seal gaps around pipes and wires that enter your home. Inside, block sink drains with stoppers to prevent cockroaches from crawling in through pipes.

Many flying cockroach species like to live outdoors in wet mulch or piles of leaves or wood. You should keep the area around your house clear of leaves, twigs and other materials. These kinds of debris give roaches perfect places to hide. You can also spread mulch more thinly so it doesn’t retain moisture and invite cockroaches to live in it.

Regularly cleaning floors, counter tops and dishes is vital to keeping cockroaches away. Flying roaches eat much more than just crumbs (think paper, glue, garbage, pet food, and other insects) but reducing their access to easy food sources will make them think twice about staying.

How to Get Rid of Flying Roaches

If you’ve seen a cockroach flying in your house, it’s important to act quickly. While some species are greater threats than others, all pose health risks by contaminating food and spreading bacteria.

Though flying insect sprays containing pyrethroids (a common ingredient in household pesticides) are effective for killing roaches as you find them, they don’t solve cockroach infestations. For that, you need to target them at the source.

Taking Action

Start by identifying their hiding places in your home (see “Where do roaches hide?“), paying special attention to signs like cockroach droppings and discarded skin or shells.

Begin with areas that are dark, warm and humid, such as your cabinets, crawl space, attic and bathroom. Kitchen appliances offer perfect habitats–they produce heat and any roaches hiding beneath them are well protected. Plus, they’re usually right next to easy food sources.

You might not be able to pinpoint every area, but once you’ve identified the most likely ones, you can start taking action.

  • Distributing cockroach baits in these areas will kill any cockroaches that come out to feed.
  • A pesticide such as boric acid can be effective against cockroaches and other insects. Spray it carefully along walls or in cracks and crevices where you suspect the roaches are hiding.

Remember to carefully read all warnings when using pesticides and keep them far away from children and pets.

How to Get Rid of Flying Cockroaches Naturally

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is an excellent natural pest control product. It’s safe for people and pets but deadly for flying cockroaches. Sprinkling it in areas where these pests hide is an easy and effective way to get rid of roaches.

Sugar mixed with baking soda is another natural cockroach control solution that you can make with ingredients you probably already have. Baking soda is toxic to flying cockroaches when eaten. Applying a little of this homemade pesticide near the roaches’ hiding places both attracts and kills them.

When using any type of bait or homemade solution, you’ll have to replace it from time to time as the roaches eat it. If it’s working, the flying cockroach population will gradually decrease and your baits and sprays will last longer.


Flying roaches add another dimension to the threat of a pest infestation. Although most live outdoors, they won’t hesitate entering buildings when temperatures change or food becomes scarce. Indoors, cockroaches can trigger allergies and spread bacteria that cause food poisoning and other illnesses, so they’re best kept out and as far away as possible.

If you think you have a serious flying cockroach infestation, you should call a professional pest control service to inspect your home and create a comprehensive plan for elimination. Professionals can treat the inside and outside of your home with pesticides that kill cockroaches and prevent them from coming back.

With these tips and, if needed, the help of a professional, you can get rid of flying cockroaches in your house and keep them out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all cockroaches with wings fly?

No, not every cockroach with wings is capable of flight. Some female cockroaches have wings that aren’t developed enough for flying. Cockroach nymphs also don’t fly, even if their wings have begun to develop.

Why do cockroaches fly?

Cockroaches fly to escape from danger and to reach food and water. Some roaches will fly into gutters where leaves and twigs provide food and trap water.

Others fly toward lights, attracted by lamps and TV screens in homes.
Many flying cockroaches will take to the air when faced with danger. That danger could be you spotting it in your kitchen or a hungry predator hunting it out in the wild.

There are flying roaches in my house. How do they get in?

Flying roaches can fly through windows and onto roofs, giving them more opportunities to find their way inside. Some roaches can squeeze through gaps between roof shingles, then make their way into the attic–which is often a perfect cockroach habitat.

Since some roaches fly toward lights, it’s especially important to keep windows closed at night to avoid attracting flying roaches inside.


  1. Green Banana Cockroach/Cuban Cockroach. Texas State University System. Retrieved from http://www.tsusinvasives.org/home/database/panchlora-nivea
  2. Guthrie, Brinke (2016) 10 Ways To Keep Cockroaches Out Of Your Home. Simplemost. Retrieved from https://www.simplemost.com/ways-naturally-give-cockroaches-boot/
  3. What is a pyrethroid insecticide? (2018) Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Retrieved from https://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/ipm/ent-6003/
  4. Diatomaceous Earth General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html

Cockroaches are expert scavengers, admirable survivors and annoying pests. They crawl all over your counters and dirty dishes. They lay eggs in tiny crevices and contaminate food.

What’s worse than a cockroach crawling around your home? A cockroach flying around your home. So, do they? Do cockroaches fly?

Can Cockroaches Fly? Do They All Fly?

Yes, cockroaches can fly. That answer makes a lot of people unhappy. You’re already worried about them crawling around your floor, and now you have to worry about them flying, too?

The good news- sort of, is that not all cockroaches are capable of flying. Those that are capable of flight, have wings that are long enough and developed enough to sustain flight.

Roaches like the Oriental cockroach for example, do have wings, but they’re too short and stubby to be of very much use. (for more, also see “Cockroach with Wings? It’s Probably One of These“).

A cockroach’s ability to fly is also determined by its life stage, and sometimes gender. Immature cockroaches for example, can’t fly because they’re wingless. And females of certain species can’t fly – even though they have wings – because their highly effective legs do enough.

Why Do They Fly?

Illustration of three roaches on rooftop: Two in the gutter, and one cockroach flying away.

Flying isn’t really the preferred method of transportation for most cockroaches (and no, not because they’re afraid of heights). It has more to do with the design of their bodies.

While they can be very, very fast runners – moving as fast as 50 body lengths per second on the straightaway (the equivalent for creatures our size of more than 100 miles per hour) – flying isn’t easy for them, and they’re awkward in the air.

So why do roaches fly at all? There are a few reasons.


Often roaches fly to escape a threat. Though much has been written about cockroach’s supposed invincibility, they have plenty of natural predators and creatures like you or your pets that would want to do them harm.


Some cockroach males become active flyers during breeding season, when they travel short and long distances in search of a mate. They become especially attracted to light during this time, and are known for their summer nighttime assaults against well-lit rural window screens.

Food and Shelter

Cockroaches also fly in search of food and shelter, which might include your home. Roaches living in a hollow tree for instance, might climb up its branches looking for food. Then take a short flight to the roof of your house to infest the decaying leaves in your gutter.

What Kinds of Cockroaches Can Fly?

Illustration of 8 types of flying cockroaches

There are several types of flying cockroaches, including these most likely pests:

  1. American cockroaches
  2. German cockroaches
  3. Pennsylvania woods cockroaches
  4. Brown banded cockroaches
  5. Smoky brown cockroaches
  6. Australian cockroaches
  7. Asian cockroaches
  8. Cuban cockroaches

These flyers live in a variety of environments and climates, though most prefer to live outdoors. They’re light brown, dark brown, reddish-brown, or golden in color, while the Cuban cockroach is a bright leaf-green.

The size of a cockroach doesn’t affect its flying ability. Both small and large cockroaches fly, and range in size from the huge, awkwardly flying American cockroach (up to 2 inches in length or more), to the tiny, occasionally flying German cockroach (which is smaller end-to-end than the face of a penny).

Where Do They Come From?

Flying cockroaches come from a variety of places, many of them the same as their non-flying relatives. They’ll enter a home in any way they can, from finding holes in exterior walls to following drainpipes into bathrooms and kitchens.

But flying cockroaches have a few more options available to them. They can come from trees, flying onto branches and then onto rooftops. Once on the roof, they can squeeze between shingles or through the gaps in an attic fan.

They can also come in through open windows and doors. They might be following the light of a lamp or a TV screen. If your window screens have tears in them, a cockroach might be able to climb through it.

Are They Dangerous?

Flying cockroaches are dangerous because they can carry bacteria from waste and decaying material into homes and businesses. This is true of all cockroaches. They feed on garbage and dead organic matter, making them a risk to your health if they start invading your home.

Many people think they’re being attacked when roaches fly towards them. But cockroaches don’t feed on our blood like other flying pests. They either fly toward you accidentally, or head in the wrong direction in their hurry to avoid getting squashed.

That said, there are certain circumstances that may draw them toward you…

The light you’re sitting under may attract them to you. And the light reflecting off your forehead or face can do it, too. Can cockroaches fly right at your face when that happens? You bet they can. You become irresistible!

What Areas of the Country Have Them?

Cockroaches live all over the world and flying ones aren’t picky.

From trees, mulch and sewers to alleyways and kitchen cabinets, flying cockroaches follow food sources anywhere necessary. They’ll fly around cities, farms, buildings and even into trees. Here are some of the areas across the United States that have them:


The infamous Florida palmetto bug (a.k.a. the American cockroach) is a type of flying cockroach that’s incredibly widespread in the state. It’s also one of the largest cockroaches around. A male palmetto bug’s folded wings are long enough to extend past the bottom of its abdomen. Female palmetto bugs also have wings, but they’re shorter.

Palmetto bugs mostly live outdoors and can fly short distances. They use their wings to glide from a tree onto your patio or porch. If your windows are open, they’ll just as easily swoop into your house.


Texas’s famous “tree roach” is yet another name for the American cockroach and you’ll find quite a few of them flying in and around Houston.

Cuban cockroaches are also fairly common flying roaches in Texas. These green bugs are usually outdoor insects. Unlike many other cockroaches, they’re excellent fliers and commonly live in trees. They’re also strongly attracted to lights, which can lead them to fly into homes and businesses through open doors and windows.

Asian cockroaches are also present in Texas. These twins of the German cockroach are relatively strong fliers, too. They’ve been seen flying up to forty yards at a time.

New York City

New York City is a well-known American cockroach hot spot. There’s enough garbage on the ground and in alleyways that they don’t usually have to fly in search of food, but in hot, humid summers such as the one in 2016 (when city scientists found them flying around in large groups), they become more restless and active.


Some of the most common cockroaches in Georgia are American, smokybrown, Asian and German cockroaches. You’ll notice that all four species of cockroaches are flying roaches! Being a southern state, Georgia has its fair share of giant flying cockroaches as well as some of the smaller species. A few of these roaches will be attracted to lights and could fly into open apartment windows or onto roofs to feed.


The most common cockroach found indoors in California is the German roach. These cockroaches rarely use their wings to fly, preferring to crawl around homes in search of food. The American cockroach also infests California. Warm temperatures in some parts of the state let them thrive outdoors, flying around and feeding on whatever they can find.


Yes, there are flying cockroaches in Hawaii. German roaches, American roaches and over a dozen other species are present on the island, invading homes, gardens and all of the usual places. Like their counterparts on the Gulf Coast, flying roaches there can be found outdoors and indoors. They’ll fly into and out of trees, through windows and straight past your head.

Las Vegas

Like all urban areas in the U.S., Las Vegas is home to a number of flying roaches, with German and American species the most common. Since both of these cockroaches can fly, it’s important to keep windows and doors closed or covered by screens at all times.


At least 25 cockroach species call Alabama home. These include many of the flying species listed above. Alabama faces the same cockroach problems as other southern states: not only do they crawl in through drains and holes but they also fly in through windows and find entry points in roofs.

North Carolina

There are a few flying species in North Carolina, including wood cockroaches and American cockroaches. Wood cockroaches aren’t very capable fliers; they can do it but only for short distances at a time. They’re much more of a risk to homeowners on the ground. These roaches live in forests and among shrubs but they’ll come inside when food is hard to find outdoors.


Where there are large urban areas, cockroaches often follow. That means Chicago residents are no strangers to cockroaches of both the crawling and flying kind. The ones in Illinois include American, brown banded and wood cockroaches. Whether you live in the city or somewhere more rural, you’ll have to protect your home against flying cockroaches making themselves comfortable inside or around it.


Do roaches fly?

Yes, and they can be dangerous to your home and family. They carry bacteria from all kinds of disgusting places and spread it on everything they touch, contaminating food and potentially triggering allergies. Flying ones pose an additional risk because they can easily fly through open windows and doors and find gaps between shingles that could let them into your attic.

If you’ve seen flying roaches in your space, it’s time to take steps to get rid of them. Learn how to prevent and get rid of flying roaches for good in the next pest control article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cockroaches fly towards you?

Although many winged cockroaches can fly, only a few fly well. Sometimes when they’re threatened, they’ll fly to escape– either from a predator or from a human who wants to kill them.
If they take off and fly straight towards you, they’re usually just frightened and not in very good control of where they’re headed. On the other hand, a light above or behind you could be attractive to certain species, in which case yes – they may try to fly right at you.

What are bugs that look like roaches but fly?

You might be thinking of palmetto bugs, the large insects found all over Florida and the surrounding states. Palmetto bugs are actually cockroaches–they’re members of the American cockroach species. Palmetto bugs can fly for short distances. They often use their long wings to fly into trees searching for food.

How high can cockroaches fly?

Cockroaches’ ability to fly varies based on their size and wing strength. Some of the strongest flying cockroaches can fly for a little over 100 feet at a time. However, they can’t fly 100 feet vertically – most cockroaches only fly as high as an average treetop.

Can big roaches fly?

Yes, American cockroaches are some of the biggest roaches commonly found across the U.S. and can fly short distances at a time. Their bodies can grow to 2 inches in length but their wings extend beyond their abdomens, allowing them to fly.


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  2. Drees, Bastiaan M. (2010) Texas A&M: AgriLife Extension. Retrieved from https://landscapeipm.tamu.edu/what-is-ipm/ipm-concepts/pest-identification/good-bug-bad-bug/neither/cockroaches/
  3. HowStuffWorks: Animals. Retrieved from https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/flying-cockroaches-behavior-target-face.htm
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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?

extreme closeup illustration of a winged cockroach flying right at you.

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:

  1. American cockroaches
  2. Oriental cockroaches
  3. German cockroaches
  4. Brown banded cockroaches
  5. Wood cockroaches
  6. Smokybrown cockroaches
  7. Australian cockroaches
  8. Asian cockroaches
  9. 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

The Wood cockroach has wings that are dark brown and about an inch long. The females have shorter wings that aren’t fully developed for flight. Males, on the other hand, can fly a few feet at a time.

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

Do cockroach nymphs have wings?

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.

How many wings do cockroaches have?

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.

Do female cockroaches have wings?

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.


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  3. Larson, Jonathan. Wood Roach. Nebraska Extension: Community Environment. Retrieved from https://communityenvironment.unl.edu/wood-roach–0
  4. 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
  5. Cuban Cockroach (2019) InsectIdentification. Retrieved from https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Cuban-Cockroach

Welcome to sunny Florida, where the beaches are open year-round and the palmetto bug is the house guest that nobody asked for, but everyone seems to have.

Floridians are bound to encounter palmetto bugs in and around their homes. It’s a fact of life in Florida. Palmetto bugs are everywhere and won’t think twice about making themselves at home, in your home.

We tackle the palmetto bug in several solutions elsewhere. But since Florida is a special case, let’s dive deep into the ever-present palmetto bug Florida is known for.

Three Species of Florida Palmetto Bug

Illustration comparing 3 cockroaches referred to as the palmetto bug
3 roaches known as palmetto bugs. The American cockroach (left), the Florida Woods cockroach (middle), and the Smokybrown cockroach (right).

For all the stir it can create, the “palmetto bug” doesn’t really refer to just a single kind of insect. Rather, it’s a southern-coined, catch-all term applied to several different bugs, most of which are roaches.

The most common palmetto bugs are the:

Of the three types of roaches, the American cockroach is easily the most common – and most despised.

Florida’s Palmetto Bug Problem: The American Cockroach

Palmetto bug hot spots in Florida highlighting areas in Fort Myers, Panama City, and Tampa
“Hot spots” of Florida palmetto bug sightings, via Google

About the American cockroach in Florida

For most Floridians, the American cockroach is the palmetto bug they really have to deal with. And it’s pretty much everywhere in Florida, with certain “hot spots” scattered across the state.

Over 37% of homes in Tampa and St. Petersburg have been found to have cockroaches including the American variety, they exist all over the state, and they’re such a part of Florida life that it’s not unusual to hear them (half) jokingly referred to as Florida’s state bird.

Growing up to 2 inches in length, they’re not only remarkably large, but most active at night – providing ample and ongoing opportunities to scare you out of your skin. Flick on a bathroom light and you won’t be able to miss the one skittering across your bathtub. Or unsee the one crawling upside down just above your head.

To make matters worse, a startled palmetto bug has more up its sleeve than just running. Because it does something even more horrifying.

Do Florida Palmetto Bugs Fly?

Illustration of a palmetto bug flying toward camera on porch

Oh yes.

The American cockroach has long wings that make it a strong, if not stylish flier. It’s among the fastest runners among Florida pests, but if you catch one in your home or startle a few in your yard, they’re just as likely to take off and fly away.

Florida Palmetto Bug Season

Illustration of an American cockroach, nymph, and hatching egg sac
Palmetto bug adult, baby, hatchlings, and eggs

American roaches are active all year in Florida but they’re especially prevalent in the late summer.

These are the hottest, most humid months in the southern U.S. They’re also right in the middle of Florida’s rainy season. That means palmetto bugs are thriving outdoors. At the same time, they’re getting flooded out of soil and mulch by the storms and searching for ways indoors to escape the rain.


Preventing Florida palmetto bugs is an ongoing battle that requires diligence and patience. Though they mostly live outside, they’ll go anywhere there’s food and water. Follow these expert tips for preventing them.

Always keep screens on doors and windows closed. Light attracts palmetto bugs and can draw them right through an open window. Like certain other species of cockroaches like the Oriental cockroach, they also crawl through pipes, so it’s a good idea to plug your drains.

Outdoors, palmetto bugs prefer moist sheltered areas, so live in piles of leaves, under rocks, or in beds of mulch. If your landscaping is full of decorative stones or cluttered with fallen leaves, you’re essentially inviting palmetto bugs to come and stay.

Florida palmetto bugs also feed on cardboard, so throw out those old, damp boxes in the garage or the back of kitchen cabinets. Also, make sure you’re sealing up any holes or cracks and crevices you find in the walls of your house. If you can see an opening, it’s definitely big enough to let in cockroaches.

How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs in Florida

It’s probably impossible to rid yourself completely of the palmetto bug. Florida natives consider regular sightings to be normal. However, you’ll still want to do your best to keep them out of your home and, especially, away from your food.

That means eliminating easy food sources by sealing food in hard containers and cleaning every day. The last thing you want to do is leave crumbs out as a midnight snack for palmetto bugs.

If you keep your house clean, organize your storage areas and use a dehumidifier to control the moisture in the air, you stand a good chance against them. All of these small steps add up to make your home less attractive to these pests and make it more difficult for them to survive.

Your best option for permanently getting rid of cockroaches in roach-dense areas like Florida is to call a professional pest control service. They’ll use sprays and roach baits to kill indoor roaches and create a perimeter to keep them out.


  1. Jacobs, Steve Sr. (2013) American Cockroaches. Penn State Extension. Retrieved from http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/american-cockroaches
  2. Sampson, Zachary T. (2015) No, that’s not a palmetto bug; Tampa and St. Petersburg ranked among nation’s roach-iest metro areas. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from https://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/no-thats-not-a-palmetto-bug-tampa-and-st-petersburg-ranked-among-nations/2239669/
  3. Orwell, Mark (2019) Types of Flying Insects in Florida. Sciencing. Retrieved from https://sciencing.com/types-flying-insects-florida–6105691.html
  4. Wilkinson, Jeff (2018) Here’s the truth about palmetto bugs — most importantly, how to kill them. The State. Retrieved from https://www.thestate.com/news/local/article219058160.html

If you grew up watching nature shows about Australia’s wildlife, you know it wins hands-down on the extremes. It makes sense, then, to expect the Australian cockroach to be bigger and scarier than most of its cousins around the world.

In fact though, it’s about the same size as the American cockroach and just as hesitant to interact with humans.

The Australian roach has a more colorful look than other cockroach species and tends to stay outdoors, but that doesn’t make it friendly. If you’ve seen these cockroaches hanging around your house or business, it could be only a matter of time before they venture in looking for food.

In this article, you’ll learn how to identify the Australian cockroach, what it eats, where it lives and how to keep it out of your home.

How to Identify an Australian Cockroach

Australian cockroach, adult and egg case compared to a penny
Relative size of the Australian cockroach and egg sac (compared to a penny)

Australian cockroaches are relatively large roaches, reaching between 1 and 1 1/2 inches in length. Their size and mostly brown color makes them easily mistaken for American cockroaches. But they’re easily distinguished from American roaches by distinctive yellow accents, particularly light yellowish stripes along the front edges of their wings.

If you wanted to distinguish a male from a female, you could also look to the roach’s backside, where in addition to a pair of appendages known as cerci (which both sexes have), the male has a pair of tiny appendages called styli that it uses during mating.

History and Distribution of Australian Cockroaches

Australian cockroach range, United States
Range of the Australian cockroach in the United States (in orange).

Like many other cockroach species, the origins of the Australian cockroach, Periplaneta australasiae, are not quite true to its name. It probably originated in southern Asia, then traveled to Australia and elsewhere on board ships transporting cargo across the world.

Now Australian cockroaches are worldwide pests, most common in the southern United States where temperatures are warmer year-round.

Habitat and Diet of Australian Cockroaches

The Australian cockroach is an outdoor species that lives in colonies. These creatures need warm temperatures to survive and often move indoors when temperatures become too cold. They usually inhabit locations with high humidity, such as tree bark and piles of wood or leaves.

Australian cockroaches are also called “greenhouse cockroaches” because of their tendency to infest greenhouses in cooler climates. They’re not really a crop pest but enough of them can hurt young plants.

Indoors, you’ll find Australian roaches in areas close to food and water: sinks, bathtubs, cabinets, drains and water pipes. Unfortunately, being so close to a food supply, your kitchen is a prime location to colonize. Apartment buildings, shopping centers, malls, and other large structures are also at risk of invasion by Australian cockroaches.

The Australian Cockroach Life Cycle

Illustration of an Australian cockroach and egg case
Illustration of a female Australian cockroach and egg cases

Australian cockroaches grow from egg to adult in about a year. The average lifespan of an adult cockroach is 4 to 6 months.

Females lay egg cases, which contain about 24 eggs each, in sheltered areas and in material such as moist wood. When it’s time for the eggs to hatch, the female will hide the tiny egg case out of reach. You probably won’t find cockroach eggs (or even nymphs) very often because the creatures are very careful at these stages.

Nymphs (baby cockroaches) molt several times as they grow, eventually developing their wings and before that, blotchy yellow spots along their backs. In 6 to 12 months, nymphs reach the adult stage and begin producing their own eggs. The adult lifespan of the Australian cockroach is about 8 months.

Where Might I Find Australian Cockroaches on My Property?

Australian roaches do enter buildings. If you find evidence of indoor cockroach activity, it’ll probably be in the kitchen or bathroom. It’s tough to identify the species based only on droppings or a glance at a fleeing roach, though. Look closely for the yellow markings to identify an Australian roach.

Since it’s an outdoor species, you’re more likely to find them in your garden or in the trees and shrubs around your house. Their need for humid conditions leads them to other places, as well. You might find a colony living under your pool deck or hiding around your hot tub.

If you find a large roach in your bathtub, it might be an Australian cockroach that’s climbed up from the drain. That could be a sign that there are more traveling along your water pipes. A leaky sink pipe can attract roaches to humid conditions inside the cabinet below.

Are Australian Cockroaches Dangerous?

Maybe their yellow markings make them look a little less ugly than other cockroaches. But if they invade your home, don’t be fooled by what they’re wearing–they’re not friendly guests.

Though outdoor cockroaches are generally less of an immediate threat than more prevalent indoor species, they’re still dangerous pests to deal with. They eat feces, garbage and other disgusting things. They also live in lots of unpleasant places and pick up bacteria from many sources.

Since they don’t wipe their feet, they’ll track that bacteria all over your kitchen counters, dirty dishes and leftover food. Any food they fed on or cooking surface they touched should be considered contaminated.

Australian cockroaches have been found to carry Salmonella and other pathogens. You definitely don’t want these pests taking a liking to your cooking and building a colony in your home. They can also damage plants when cool temperatures force them into a confined space like a greenhouse.

As if spreading bacteria weren’t bad enough, cockroaches produce allergens, too. Their molted skins and droppings can cause reactions in some people, especially those with asthma. Sneezing, skin irritation and trouble breathing are some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction caused by cockroaches.

How to Eliminate Australian Cockroaches Quickly

Getting rid of Australian cockroaches is difficult and might require professional help. But there are certain steps you can take:

The first step is to identify the source of the problem, beginning with where they’re hiding. You know to look in areas with plenty of humidity and easy access to food. You can use baits to attract and kill the roaches once you know where to put them.

You can also combat an infestation by sealing up the gaps where pipes enter your home and by closing any cracks or crevices in your kitchen or bathroom with caulking.

If you suspect there’s a large Australian cockroach infestation around your house or want to take no chances against these pests, call a professional pest control service. They’ll come up with plans of attack and defense that will help you control the problem and prevent it from returning.

Prevention tips

Speaking of defense, preventing Australian cockroaches from invading your house or business means taking an honest look at your habits and acknowledging that you might have some weaknesses: we’ve all left food out overnight or occasionally put off vacuuming for longer than we’d like.

Cleaning is one of the best ways to control Australian cockroaches because it takes away their food sources. Sealing pet food and pantry items in glass or plastic containers is also important. Roaches are resilient pests and excellent survivalists but, in the end, they still have to eat.

It’s also important to remember that Australian cockroaches need moisture. Leaky faucets and pipes create standing water and increase humidity. Keeping every part of your house dry and ventilated is part of a strong defense against cockroaches.

You should also do a regular check-up for holes and cracks that could let cockroaches and other outdoor pests into your home. That includes your garage and shed, where these pests could hide in boxes and be brought into your house accidentally.


Australian cockroaches have a unique style that sets them apart from other roach species. One thing they have in common with their relatives is that you don’t want them in your home or business. By following the tips above and staying alert, you can set up a good defense against Australian cockroaches and keep living your pest-free life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Australian cockroaches swim?

Australian cockroaches prefer environments with plenty of moisture but don’t live in water. They’re fast runners and can use their wings to fly away from danger. You probably won’t see them swimming in your pool, though.

You might’ve heard them mistakenly called “water bugs.” American cockroaches frequently get this name, too. However, true water bugs–which do, indeed, swim–are not cockroaches.

How can I tell the difference between Australian and American cockroaches?

It’s true that Australian cockroaches are similar to American roaches in size and shape. They both have wings and both are primarily brown or reddish-brown. The main difference you’ll be able to see is the presence of bright yellow stripes along the Australian roach’s wings.

What do baby Australian cockroaches look like?

Australian cockroach babies are called nymphs. They’re much smaller than the adults and don’t have their wings yet. You’ll still notice some yellow splotches along their backs. These patches of color become more pronounced as they enter their later nymphal stages.

Can Australian cockroaches fly?

Yes, Australian cockroaches have fully-developed wings that let them glide and fly. They’re not strongly attracted to lights like smokybrown cockroaches, but they’ll fly away from danger and glide short distances to find food.


  1. Jiang, Shiyao and Phillip E. Kaufman (2015) Australian cockroach. Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/URBAN/ROACHES/australian_cockroach.htm
  2. Australian Cockroach. OzAnimals. Retrieved from https://www.ozanimals.com/Insect/Australian-Cockroach/Periplaneta/australasiae.html
  3. Native Cockroaches. Australian Museum. Retrieved from https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/animals/insects/native-cockroaches/
  4. Cockroaches. Better Health Channel. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cockroaches
  5. Cockroaches: Key to Some Common Species Found in the United States. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/pictorial_keys/cockroaches.pdf
  6. Periplaneta australasiae (2014) CSIRO. Retrieved from http://www.ces.csiro.au/aicn/system/c_481.htm
  7. The Cockroach FAQ. The Kunkel Lab. Retrieved from http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/kunkel/cockroach_faq.html#Q54

The Asian cockroach is a relative newcomer to the United States, making its debut here only in the mid-1980’s. When they were first discovered, the pest control worker collecting them simply assumed them to be German cockroaches. Which when you see them is no surprise.

Because Asian cockroaches look nearly identical to German roaches. In fact, it originally took specialized testing for researchers to realize they were dealing with something new.

These tricksters aren’t your typical home invaders. They might look just like their German relatives but their behavior reveals stark differences.

Keep reading to find out more about these differences, learn about the Asian cockroach’s behavior and discover tips for keeping your home safe from these unusual little pests.

How to Identify an Asian Cockroach

Asian cockroach adult, nymph,and egg case relative in size to a penny

Asian cockroaches (Blattella asahinai) look so much like German cockroaches (Blattella germanica) that even a professional will be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Both species are small and brown-colored. Both have wings and dark bands running down from their heads along their backs.

The details that distinguish the two species are fine: If you look very closely (much more closely than a living cockroach will let you) you can see that the border of an Asian cockroach’s abdomen is white while that of a German roach is colored.

Where Do Asian Cockroaches Live?

Asian cockroach range -United States
Range of the Asian cockroach in the United States (in orange).

The first U.S. Asian roaches were discovered in 1986 in Lakeland Florida, most likely having hitched a ride here in goods imported from Japan. By then, they’d already built up a significant population and spread across the state. Since then, the species has expanded to other states, massing in huge populations in many outdoor areas.

They’re most prevalent in southern states, including Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. In some areas around Tampa, FL, these cockroaches live in incredibly dense groups–as many as 250,000 per acre!

The Asian cockroach is an outdoor species that most commonly lives in shaded areas. They especially like living in mulch and grass, where their numbers can rise into the ten thousands. They’ll also infest compost piles and feed on the organic material inside.

Asian cockroaches rarely invade homes and other buildings. However, since they’re attracted to lights, they sometimes fly through open windows and doors to land on the lights and television screens inside. These cockroaches aren’t the ruthless home invaders that German roaches can be, but there’s still a risk that they’ll multiply rapidly once they’ve come indoors.

The Life Cycle of Asian Cockroaches

Asian cockroach illustration: Egg case and female
Asian cockroach female and egg case

An average female Asian roach lays 4 egg cases over its lifetime with several dozen eggs in each. Asian cockroach nymphs are smaller than German nymphs; their egg cases are smaller, too. Their life spans are relatively short–only between 100 and 175 days.

Asian cockroaches are fairly seasonal. You can expect to see larger populations of adults in the spring and late summer. Nymph populations are at their peak during the summer months as they grow and molt.

Will You Come into Contact with Asian Cockroaches?

Asian roaches are nocturnal and become most active just after the sun sets. They’re quick to fly around outdoors and indoors. While they’re flying, you might mistake them for moths because of their size. Meanwhile, their “twins,” the German roaches, can’t fly very well at all.

Asian cockroaches have a strong attraction to every kind of light and even fly toward lightly colored surfaces. When they enter homes they’ll land on lamps, TVs, porch lights and more. These roaches are so strongly attracted to lights that they’ll fly from room to room as the lights are turned off in one and on in another.

Asian roaches can fly as far as 120 feet at a time. It can be pretty startling to see groups of them fly away at the same time. You might disturb a large number of them when tending to landscaping or mowing the lawn and, suddenly, find yourself surrounded by flying bugs. Don’t panic!

Luckily, Asian cockroaches won’t bite. They’re almost certainly flying away from you because you’re a dangerous threat. Of course, these flying cockroaches can still be frightening, especially in places where they gather in the thousands!

Asian Cockroaches Are Dangerous Pests

Though they’re less likely than other cockroach species to invade your house and become a huge problem, they’re still dangerous pests to have hanging around your property. Asian cockroaches have a similar diet to their relatives–that means garbage, decomposing waste and other unpleasant things.

Their unsavory diet leads them to pick up all kinds of bacteria that they could potentially carry into your home. Even outside, they’ll contaminate any surfaces they touch, including garage equipment, countertops and gardening tools.

Asian cockroaches have also become a threat to lettuce producers in Florida. Though they don’t eat lettuce, their huge numbers can force many crops to be discarded when cockroaches (living or dead) are found in them.

How to Get Rid of Asian Cockroaches

Asian cockroaches are tricky pests to control. It’s difficult to target them with pesticide sprays or baits because they can spread across large areas of land.

Their tendency to fly into houses (instead of climbing in through holes or cracks) also means standard perimeter sprays won’t work. These bugs go after the lights–especially bright white lights and yellow incandescent bulbs–and don’t enter through any specific pathways that can be blocked.

The most effective methods of controlling Asian cockroaches include bait in the form of pellets because it can be spread widely outdoors, covering gardens and lawns. Controlling a large population will be a long-term battle involving regular applications of the bait and careful monitoring of how the cockroaches respond.

If you have concerns about Asian cockroaches around your home, it’s probably best to call a pest control professional. They’ll be able to assess the problem and decide how to treat it going forward.

Tips for Preventing Asian Cockroaches in Your Home

Preventing Asian roaches mainly involves keeping the area around your house tidy and unattractive to these insects. By removing damp piles of leaves and keeping grass short, you can take away some of these insects’ potential habitats.

Researchers have found that oak leaf litter and rubber mulch are especially attractive to Asian cockroaches. Clearing litter and choosing another type of mulch could be effective parts of your cockroach-prevention plan.

Comprehensive cockroach control involves keeping the inside of your home clean, too. Dirty dishes and crumbs can provide easy sources of food for cockroaches and other pests. Though Asian roaches typically stay outside, you’ve already discovered that they’ll fly into houses when lights are on. You don’t want them to take a liking to your home once they’re inside.

Wash dishes and wipe counters each night to remove spills, crumbs and cooking leftovers that could attract pests. Change garbage bags as soon as they’re full to remove strong smells. Don’t forget to sweep and vacuum your floors, too.

It’s important to keep storage areas organized so pests have fewer places to hide. Practicing good cleaning habits and keeping a tidy home and garage are good general pest prevention tips that apply to Asian cockroaches and other roach species.


Asian cockroaches are primarily outdoor pests that can multiply into huge populations in grassy areas and gardens. They’re unwelcome insects and difficult to control, especially once they’ve established themselves as the primary pest in the area. But with a strategic plan (and, in some circumstances, help from a professional) you can keep these cockroaches away from your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Asian cockroaches have wings?

Yes, Asian cockroaches have fully formed wings that enable them to fly long distances. Their ability to fly lets them spread out quickly across fields and lawns, forming large populations. You might be startled by a group of them flying away if you’ve started mowing the lawn or sprayed the garden mulch with a hose. Don’t worry; they’re more scared of you and won’t stick around.

Do Asian cockroaches fly?

Yes, Asian cockroaches are strong fliers. Unlike German cockroaches which rarely fly, and American cockroaches which simply glide, these pests can fly over 100 feet at a time. Sometimes, they fly into homes and buildings toward light bulbs, TV screens and other light sources.

Do Asian cockroaches bite?

Asian cockroaches don’t bite humans (or pets). They’re quick to fly away from people and other animals. Indoors, it might appear that these flying roaches are following you from room to room. In fact, they’re simply following the lights–as you leave one room and turn off the lights, they’ll fly to the next room’s lamps and ceiling lights.


1. Richman, Dina L. (2017) Asian Cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo. IFAS Extension. Retrieved from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in277

2. Retrieved from https://urbanentomology.tamu.edu/cockroaches/asian-cockroach/

3. Williams, Larry (2013) Asian Cockroach – Is it a Pest of the Home or the Garden? IFAS Extension. Retrieved from http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2013/08/12/asian-cockroach-is-it-a-pest-of-the-home

4. Trap Assisted Scouting for Asian Cockroach Management. (2018)

5. Snoddy, Edward T. and Arthur G. Appel (2013) Mulch Preferences of the Asian Cockroach. Journal of Economic Entomology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1603/EC12032


If it weren’t for a few unfortunate details, you might have a different opinion of the American cockroach. It might impress you for its speed and street smarts or for its contribution to the ecosystem as it chews stuff up, breaks it down and turns it into fertilizer.

But the devil is in the details with these dangerous little pests. And if you’ve got them in your house, your restaurant or your business, you’re going to want to get rid of them before they do you any harm.

Let’s take a closer look at the American roach–its appearance, behavior and diet–and discuss how to deal with them if they’ve gotten too comfortable in your home or business.

History of American Cockroaches

Though its name might make it sound homegrown, the American cockroach isn’t native to the U.S.

It first climbed aboard African slave ships in the 1600’s. It ventured far on these ships, spreading across southeastern coastal lands before moving westward, northward and to other parts of the world. It’s become an extremely successful cockroach in the United States, second only to the German cockroach for sheer abundance.

How to Identify an American Cockroach

American cockroach adult, nymph, and egg sac beside penny for scale
American cockroach size? Up to an inch-and-a-half in length (or even larger). Compared here next to a penny.

The first thing you’ll notice about an American cockroach is its size–because it’s big. In fact, at an inch-and-a-half or more in length (excluding the antennae), it’s the largest house-infesting roach in the United States.

It has two long antennae, six spiny legs, and both its wings and body are reddish brown in color. There’s also a cream-colored, cowl-like structure behind its head, with darker brown markings that look a little like a figure eight.

At the base of its body are a pair of short appendages called cerci. And if you’re looking at a male, he’ll have an additional, tiny pair of appendages called styli that jut out between them. He’ll also have slightly longer wings than the female, and a thinner abdomen.

Range and Habitats of American Cockroaches

American cockroach range across the United States
Range of the American cockroach across the Unites States (in orange). Data thanks to BugGuide.net

American cockroaches live seemingly everywhere. They’re known by many different names, depending on where you live; Palmetto Bugs, Water Bugs, Sewer roaches, Tree roaches and more.

They’re a hardy and adaptable insect. While they do best in temperatures between 68 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, they can survive in most areas of the United States simply by moving indoors. As long as there’s plenty of moisture and a fairly warm atmosphere, they’ll happily settle in and start causing problems.

What Do American Cockroaches Eat?

Eating is a full-time activity for an American roach. When living outdoors, they tend to eat fungi, wood particles, decaying leaves, algae and other insects. Inside, all bets are off–they’ll eat just about anything, including meats, grease, peanuts, sweets, paper, book bindings, cosmetics, leather, cloth, hair, wallpaper paste, pet food, dead insects (including their own kin!) and food crumbs of any kind.

The American Cockroach Life Cycle

Illustration of an American cockroach, nymph, and hatching egg sac

With a lifespan that can easily exceed two years, it’s a long-lived insect that you can expect to stick around for quite a while.

Its life begins as an egg, which the female deposits into an egg case, called an ootheca. The egg case typically holds 16 eggs as they incubate for about a month-and-a-half. Then, they hatch into young roaches known as nymphs.

American cockroach nymphs are white at first, but quickly darken as their new shells harden. Within hours, they look nearly identical to adults; however, they’re smaller and lack the adult’s familiar wings.

Over the next 600 days or so, the nymphs grow and mature, shedding their old skins as they outgrow them. Eventually, in the final stage, they grow wings and gain the ability to reproduce.

Altogether, female American cockroaches are able to produce more than 150 young over a lifetime, meaning that their numbers can multiply quickly.

How You’re Likely To Come Into Contact with American Cockroaches

Understand what American roaches need to survive and you’ll understand what might bring you into contact with them. These roaches need warmth, food, and water – and spend most of their time seeking those three things.

When the conditions are right, American cockroaches prefer to live outdoors, around shrubs, garages or alleyways. You’ll find them in flower beds, under rocks, inside woodpiles and under mulch, pine straw, or garbage. Their wide-ranging diet means they can feed on almost any form of organic matter, whether it’s from a plant, animal or the trash.

When food gets scarce or the climate becomes too hot, too cool, dries up or floods, American cockroaches quickly move indoors to find better conditions. Then, they create problems. Restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, schools, hospitals and homes are all at risk of American cockroach infestations. Their most common indoor habitats include boiler rooms, basements, crawl spaces, steam tunnels, and drains and sewers.

Mass migrations of American roaches are common: groups will frequently crawl into structures from sewers, making their way up through plumbing and drains. They’ll also fly in from nearby shrubs and branches, squeezing in through cracks and crevices in windows, foundations, and outer walls.

When they do infest indoor spaces, American cockroach populations can be enormous and gut-wrenching. In 2017, residents of one Philadelphia neighborhood witnessed thousands of cockroaches crawling out of a single sewer manhole and said that there were so many roaches, “you couldn’t see the ground.”

Are American Cockroaches Dangerous?

Yes. The American roach is dangerous. Not because it stings (it doesn’t) or bites (it could, but rarely does), but because it frequently lives, breeds, and feeds in filth of the very worst kind – the stuff inside sewers, rotting garbage, and decaying flesh.

Then it carries all of the dangerous bacteria, germs, and mold into your restaurant, house, or apartment building as it wanders around in search of food. Or, it simply poops it out. Scientists have found over 20 different bacteria, viruses, worms and other nasty things on American cockroaches.

American cockroaches contaminate any food or surface they come into contact with. They spread harmful allergens through the air, causing itchy eyes and sneezing. They also give off a strong smell that can permeate throughout a building when the population is large enough. If you detect a strange, unpleasant smell coming from boxes in storage or items in your garage, you’re probably smelling evidence of American cockroach activity.

American cockroaches deserve their place on your Top Ten Least Wanted list. They’re very dangerous and if there are any around it’s vital that you take steps to get rid of them quickly and prevent them from coming back.

How to Get Rid of the American Cockroach

Cockroaches are extremely resilient pests that’ll eat almost anything and live almost anywhere. They’re difficult to eliminate, especially if they’ve established a population in your home or business.

Pest control professionals often resort to insecticides to kill these roaches. You can apply insecticides to walls, woodpiles, crawl spaces and other locations where the roaches have moved in. It’s always important to read the instructions and be very careful when using dangerous chemicals.

Sometimes, using a residual spray or similar product can be an effective way to kill the cockroaches and prevent their populations from rebounding.

How to Safeguard Your Home and Prevent American Cockroaches

The most important aspect of your American cockroach control plan is a good defense. Give your home or business a thorough inspection and identify the areas that are most prone to infestation.

Make sure you seal any cracks or holes in the walls and foundation to keep roaches out. Don’t forget to pay attention to the area around your house, too: clear dead leaves and old wood; rake mulch into a thin layer to help it stay dry; and store firewood and garbage away from your house, if possible.

Finally, keep your house clean and tidy. Decluttering storage areas removes potential habitats. Cleaning up crumbs and spills frequently eliminates a roach’s easy food sources. Repair leaking pipes or faucets to take away a cockroach’s water supply.


American cockroaches are extremely prevalent and ruthless pests. It takes dedication to keep your house protected from these dangerous insects, but you can do it. Start with small steps today, like cleaning and reorganizing, and you can keep your home or business cockroach-free in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do American cockroaches fly?

Yes, American cockroaches can use their wings to fly. However, they’re not the best fliers and will typically only fly away from danger. Most of the time, they move on foot.

What do American cockroach eggs look like?

American cockroach egg capsules are tiny–about 1/3 inch in length–and have a mahogany brown color. You won’t see their eggs because they’re inside of the egg capsule (as many as 16 eggs in each).

What’s the difference between a palmetto bug and an American cockroach?

There is no difference! “Palmetto bug” is simply another name for an American cockroach. If you’re from the southern U.S., you’ve probably heard this name used all the time to refer to American roaches. Don’t let the name fool you–whether you call them cockroaches or palmetto bugs, they’re dangerous pests.

Do American roaches smell?

Yes, badly. American cockroaches give off a strong odor. Apartment building tenants will know there’s an infestation based on the smell. In addition, these roaches will leave the smell on objects they come into contact with.

Can American cockroaches infest your home?

They don’t infest as intentionally as some other roaches do. But under certain conditions – such as when food becomes scarce or weather becomes difficult for them – they will enter your home, potentially in large numbers.


  1. Jacobs, Steve Sr. (2013) PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/american-cockroaches
  2. Barbara, Kathryn A. (2014) American cockroach. Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/american_cockroach.htm
  3. American Cockroach. Plant & Pest Diagnostics. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/american-cockroach
  4. Perot, Rachael C. and Dini M. Miller (2010) American Cockroach. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/444/444-288/444-288.html

The brown banded cockroach is frankly, a weird little pest…

It lives and lays its eggs in “high-up” places like walls and ceilings. The males are fast flyers but the females can’t fly. And while many other roaches live in wet or humid places, the brown banded roach is different – it prefers things dry.

Despite these unique characteristics, it’s often mistaken for the German cockroach – and not entirely without reason. Because both are dangerous household pests.

Brown banded roaches don’t live outdoors like the American cockroach or the Oriental cockroach, so if they take up a habitat in your home they’ll be determined to stay. Their diet and behavior make them tricky to control, too.

Keep reading to learn more about these tiny pests and discover important tips for controlling them and protecting your home from cockroach infestations.

Identifying Brown Banded Cockroaches

Brown banded cockroach adult, nymph, and egg case size comparison

The brown banded cockroach, Supella longipalpa, is a species of small roach named for the distinctive brown bands that stretch across the lower and middle parts of its abdomen. On another animal, they might look like a cute belt. But in a safe and healthy home, there’s nothing cute about finding a roach with stripes.

The insects grow to about 1/2 an inch in length–about the size of a German cockroach. Their bodies are narrow and fairly flat. Males have wings that extend past the tip of their abdomens, while females have shorter wings. If you see a flying brown banded cockroach, you’ll know it’s a male.

Where Do Brown Banded Cockroaches Live?

Brown banded cockroach range USA: Map illustration
The U.S. range of the brownbanded cockroach (in orange). Data courtesy of BugGuide.

The brownbanded cockroach probably originated in Africa. It might have been brought to the U.S. from Cuba and eventually spread to Europe. Today, the brown banded roach is dotted across the continental United States and Canada.

Knowing where brown banded cockroaches live will help you identify them. Unlike many other cockroach species that live primarily in rooms with plentiful food and water, brown banded roaches like to live in bedrooms, closets and other areas of a building. You might spot their tiny, light brown egg cases stuck to the ceiling or upper portions of walls.

Because of their preference for higher elevations, you might find them behind picture frames, on shelves, and within crawls spaces and cabinets. They’ve even been known to live inside clocks and radios. German cockroaches rarely live in these types of locations, so you can be fairly sure that the small roach you’ve found on a high shelf is a brown banded cockroach.

Exploring the Life Cycle of Brown Banded Cockroaches

Brown banded cockroach illustration: Egg and adult on picture frame
Females attach tiny egg capsules to walls, ceilings, shelves, and other objects.

Brownbanded cockroaches go through 3 growth phases, starting with an egg. A female deposits 14-17 eggs into a tiny, purse-shaped egg capsule called an oothecae, then carries it on her back for a day or so before attaching it to furniture, shelves, ceilings and other objects that have been invaded.

It can take half a year or longer for nymphs (the babies) to fully mature after hatching. Depending on the environment in which they live, the life span of an adult brown banded roach can range from 13 to 45 weeks. With adult females producing hundreds of offspring per year, signs of cockroach activity mean you could be facing a large infestation in no time.

Will I Notice Brown Banded Cockroaches in My Home?

Cockroaches certainly aren’t known for being picky eaters. Brownbanded roaches feed on everything from leftover food and organic material to paper, draperies, wallpaper and even glue. Their feeding habits can be destructive to many parts of your home, including important documents, cherished photos and your favorite furniture.

If brownbanded roaches infest your pantry, they can get into thin boxes or loose bags and contaminate lots of good food. These cockroaches can’t survive outside so once they find an easy food source in your house or apartment, you can count on them sticking around. Before you know it, you might have a few hundred cockroaches sharing your leftovers and living in cracks in the walls or out-of-reach cabinets.

Brown Banded Cockroaches Are Dangerous Pests

Brown banded cockroaches carry dangerous bacteria and can put your family at risk by spreading disease throughout your house. These roaches are bad house guests–they’ll ruin your leftovers, invade your closets and contaminate lots of food. They’ll also spread bacteria over cooking surfaces, tabletops and shelves, putting you at risk of stomach illnesses.

Brownbanded roaches have been known to eat fabric, paper and nylon stockings, so your furniture and clothes aren’t entirely safe either. They’re also a major source of allergens; their molted skins and droppings can cause sneezing and skin irritation in people with allergies.

How to Get Rid of Brown Banded Cockroaches

If you’ve found brown banded cockroaches in your home, you now know to target areas that are high up and dry. Cabinets, walls, shelves and the spaces around refrigerators are common habitats for the creatures.

You can use various kinds of baits to attract and kill cockroaches. Both gels and bait stations can be effective in the right places. You should place baits close to where you suspect the cockroaches are living. And don’t forget to replace the bait every few weeks so the pests don’t have a chance to regroup.

Brown banded roaches are a bit tricky to bait for because they don’t congregate tightly around areas where food and water are present. Of course, if you’ve seen a roach or signs of one, they’re probably nearby. However, it’s important to inspect beyond one specific area.

Cockroach dusts (or “bombs”) are also available in many stores. These products coat floors and furniture with dust that’s poisonous to roaches. However, they aren’t very effective against small cockroaches (which can easily hide in tiny crevices), especially brown banded cockroaches (which might live high off the floor and therefore out of reach of the dust).

If you’re worried that more than a few have invaded your home, your safest bet is to call a pest control professional. They’ll have access to the most effective tools and techniques to target roaches’ specific hiding spots and create an ongoing control strategy. Professional pest control methods include traps to identify cockroach hotspots and pesticide sprays to kill the pests.

Tips for Protecting Your Home from Brown Banded Cockroaches

Always start planning your pest management plan by thoroughly inspecting your home for weaknesses. Holes and crevices in walls and ceilings provide easy entry points for roaches. If you live in an apartment, these small openings can let roaches move from unit to unit and spread throughout the building.

Unlike other cockroach species, you won’t have to focus too intently on the bathroom. However, keeping a clean kitchen is an important part of preventing any type of pest infestation–especially cockroaches.

Always wash your dishes or load them into the dishwasher before you go to bed. Wipe your counters and stovetop to remove cooking residue and crumbs. And don’t forget to sweep or vacuum regularly–carpets might hide crumbs from guests but they won’t hide them from pests.

You can also call a professional to do regular inspections and spray for cockroaches and other pests.


Brown banded cockroaches do things a bit differently from other species. Nonetheless, they’re a dangerous and disgusting pest that’s best kept out of your home.

Follow the above tips to control cockroaches and keep them out: brush up on your cleaning habits, seal holes and crevices and use baits to fight back if you see signs of roach activity. Now that you have the information, it’s time to get started. You can do this.


Do brown banded cockroaches fly?

Both males and females have wings but only the males can fly. This is because the male roach’s wings are longer, extending past the tip of its abdomen and giving it the ability to fly away quickly. You won’t see swarms of them flying around, but even one cockroach taking off toward the ceiling can be a scary sight in the middle of the night.

Can brown banded cockroaches trigger allergies?

They can trigger reactions, including itchy eyes and sneezing, in people who are sensitive to allergens. As they grow, brown banded nymphs molt their skin. These discarded skins, along with the roach poop, are what cause allergic reactions.

Do brown banded cockroaches live in drains?

Unlike other cockroach species, the brown banded cockroach prefers dry habitats. Instead of living in drains and sewers, these roaches live high off the ground, in ceilings, cabinets and furniture.

Will brown banded cockroaches eat my clothes?

They have a wide-ranging diet that includes items like book bindings, wallpaper and glue. They’ve also been known to eat nylon stockings. However, clothing is not typically part of a brown banded cockroach’s diet.


  1. Jacobs, Steve (2017) Brownbanded Cockroaches. PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/brown-banded-cockroaches
  2. Cockroaches. University of Maryland Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/cockroaches
  3. Jiang, Shiyao and Andrea Lucky (2016) Brownbanded Cockroach. Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/URBAN/roaches/brown-banded_cockroach.htm
  4. Facts About Brownbanded Roaches. Hulett Environmental Services. Retrieved from https://www.bugs.com/bug-database/roaches/brown-banded-roach/
  5. Cockroaches. Got Pests? Retrieved from https://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/gotpests/bugs/cockroaches.htm
  6. Potter, Michael F. and G. Mark Beavers. (2018) Cockroach Control. Kentucky Pesticide Safety Education Program. Retrieved from http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Entomology/PSEP/cat8cockroaches.html

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 love houses and shared living spaces, 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.

What Are German Roaches and What Does a German Cockroach Look Like?

German cockroach nymph, adult, and egg, compared to a penny for size

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 only to 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 lines 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.

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 cockroach range United States
The range of the German cockroach across the United States (see orange-colored states) is extensive. Data courtesy of BugGuide.

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?

German cockroach illustration- adult, nymph,and egg sac

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 up to 50 eggs each. One female roach can produce as many as 400 cockroaches in its lifetime. These egg cases hatch in about a month. The baby German cockroach or cockroach nymph that emerges goes through several stages as it grows to adulthood, molting each time and leaving old skin behind.

Adult German cockroaches live for 20 to 30 weeks, on average. They reproduce and spread rapidly–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?

Cockroach infestation with adults and cockroach nymphs

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 by eating it or leaving droppings. Their droppings might also create an unpleasant odor, signaling contamination.

German roaches spread 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 cause food poisoning and other digestive illnesses. 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 Get Rid of German Cockroaches in Your Home

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 cock roach droppings look like dark brown or black specks or tiny cylinders, depending on the size of the cockroach. You’ll find roach poop anywhere roaches were present, from counter tops and tables to sinks and cabinets.

You can also use 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. 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.

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 is perhaps the best way to keep cockroaches away. Without a ready food source, they’ll quickly look for the next place where they can find crumbs and leftovers.

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 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 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

Can German Cockroaches Bite?

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.

Can German Cockroaches Fly?

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.

Do German Cockroaches Smell?

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.

How Can You Get Rid of German Cockroaches Naturally?

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 mix equal parts baking soda and sugar. The baking soda will react with a cockroach’s stomach and kill it.


  1. Cockroaches. Illinois Department of Public Health. Retrieved from http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/environmental-health-protection/structural-pest-control/cockroaches
  2. German Cockroach: Biology, Identification, Control. (2013) NC State Extension. Retrieved from https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/german-cockroach/
  3. Jacobs Sr., Steve. (2013) German Cockroaches. PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/german-cockroaches
  4. Valles, Steven. (2008) German cockroach. University of Florida: Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/german.htm

The smoky brown cockroach is an outdoor roach that mostly lives in planters and around forests or shrubs. It’s a large species that’s sensitive to changes in the environment and looks for areas of high humidity. It’s also a problem for homes in warmer climates.

“Smokybrowns” can carry diseases and spread bacteria picked up from sewers and garbage. They’re unpleasant pests to find around your house and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If you’ve seen suspiciously roach-like insects in your garden, garage or home, read on to learn what smoky brown roaches look like, how to control an infestation, and how to prevent problems in the future.

How to Identify a Smoky Brown Cockroach

Smokybrown cockroach adult, nymph and egg beside a U.S. penny for scale

The smoky brown cockroach is aptly named after its color: a dark, glossy brown or uniformly mahogany color that’s consistent on both its back and underside. It looks a lot like the American cockroach, with a similar size and shape. However, the smoky brown roach lacks the yellow accents of the American species.

Smoky brown roaches grow to about 1 1/2 inches in length. Both male and female smoky brown cockroaches have long wings that extend past their abdomens. They use their wings to fly in search of food or to find a mate. A smoky brown roach also has antennae that are as long as or longer than its entire body.

Habitat and Distribution of Smoky Brown Cockroaches

Smokybrown cockroach range USA
Smokybrown cockroach distribution U.S.A. (in orange). Data courtesy of BugGuide

Smoky brown cockroaches are prevalent across the United States in places where humidity is high and temperatures are warm for at least some of the year. They’re an outdoor species, typically living among fallen leaves, woodpiles, planter boxes and similar habitats. You might also find them near your home, hiding in your water meter box, garage, shed, roof shingles or rain gutters.

Smoky brown cockroaches and other outdoor species sometimes struggle to survive indoors. They don’t usually come inside intentionally; instead, they might be carried in on firewood or in boxes that were stored in a garage or shed.

They’re also attracted to light and sometimes fly through open windows toward a light source. If they do come inside, they usually move into a crawl space, attic, or other upper-floor area where the temperature and humidity levels are higher.

Do Smoky Brown Cockroaches Come Into Contact with People?

To many people, seeing a big brown cockroach scurry quickly under a cabinet when they flick on a light is frightening and causes anxiety. Now imagine one suddenly flying across the room–not a pleasant surprise in the middle of the night!

Though their preferred habitat is outdoors, smokybrown cockroaches can still cause problems for homeowners. They’re an obvious aesthetic pest: no one wants to see large cockroaches crawling around their garden or flying around their patio lights.

Indoors, they search for food and water in kitchens and bathrooms. They’ll live and reproduce in poorly-ventilated areas that are warm and humid, like your attic. There, they can become a problem, hiding among cluttered boxes and laying egg cases. Their diets range from dead insects and dead leaves to starches–like those important documents filed away in the attic.6

Life Cycle of Smoky Brown Roaches

Illustration smokybrown nymphs beside ootheca
Two smokybrown nymphs beside egg cases

From the time it hatches, a smoky brown cockroach takes about 320 days to become an adult. The female cockroach carries its egg capsule—called an ootheca—for about a day before hiding it somewhere to hatch. Each tiny egg case (only about 3/8″ long) can produce as many as 45 nymphs.

Since one female can lay dozens of egg cases throughout its life, just a few adult cockroaches can create a large infestation in a relatively short amount of time and without much warning.

Nymphs (baby roaches) begin life with a much darker color than adults that also features two strips of white. The tips of their antennae are white, too. As they grow, they take on a more reddish color. You probably won’t spot nymphs, though: cockroaches are very careful about staying hidden (not to mention they’re quite small) at this vulnerable stage.

An adult smoky brown roach lives 2 to 6 months, on average.

Are Smoky Brown Cockroaches Dangerous?

Despite being categorized as an outdoor species, smokybrown cockroaches are still dangerous pests. They’re less likely than some other roach species to invade homes but can still come inside accidentally and cause problems.

Smoky brown cockroaches live in a variety of disgusting places, from piles of dead leaves and wet mulch to storm drains and sewers. They even eat bird droppings.

If they fly into your home, they’re going to bring lots of dangerous bacteria to your attic and, probably, your kitchen. They’ll contaminate cooking and eating surfaces as they search for food. Their skin also triggers some people’s allergies.

Tips for Controlling Smoky Brown Cockroaches

Cockroaches are extremely resilient insects and can be difficult to control without professional help. Smoky brown cockroaches are a common pest that should be treated seriously. Though they’re not immediately dangerous outdoors, seeing them near your house is a sign that they’ve found habitable conditions and will probably stick around.

Be careful when watering plants, as over-watering can help the smoky brown cockroach thrive. Dispose of leaf litter. Clear gutters and drains to remove standing water and the decaying organic material that roaches eat. You should also keep your trash cans closed tightly to prevent roaches from accessing food scraps.

Don’t risk bringing them indoors accidentally.

If you store firewood, stack it neatly away from your house. This will help keep it dry and ventilated–two conditions in which smokybrown cockroaches can’t survive. Trimming shrubs and raking mulch so that it’s dry and separated from the walls of your house removes more potential habitats.

Eliminating sources of food and water is often enough to control outdoor populations. Indoors, more aggressive steps might be necessary. You can use baits in your home to trap or kill smokybrown cockroaches. Baits attract cockroaches but are poisonous when eaten. To use them effectively, focus on areas closest to their suspected hiding places. Cockroaches typically live within a few feet of their food source.

If you’re worried about a large infestation putting your home in danger, contact a pest control professional. They can better identify the roaches’ entry points and target specific areas with insecticides or other treatments.

Steps to Prevent Smoky Brown Cockroaches from Invading Your Home

Illustration: Smokybrown cockroach entering home through crack in foundation

Preventing smoky brown cockroaches is a multi-step, ongoing project. It requires good cleaning habits and a plan for eliminating potential habitats. Start with the most important target for roaches: food.

Don’t make it easy for cockroaches to find food. Wash dishes and wipe kitchen counters every night to clean up crumbs and spills. Empty pet food containers at the end of the day. Sweeping and vacuuming frequently are also important.

Eliminating habitats indoors means organizing cluttered areas, such as your attic. Storing things neatly can go a long way toward eliminating places where cockroaches can lay egg cases. If conditions become very humid in your attic, it might be necessary to use a ventilation fan.

You should also take time to inspect your home or structure for cracks or holes that could let cockroaches in from outside. This includes your roof, where smoky brown roaches sometimes fly from trees to shingles. Sealing walls and using screens in every window will help prevent them from flying inside.

Always check firewood or items that were stored outside before you bring them in. You can deter roaches by using only a thin layer of mulch and keeping your landscaping clear of debris.

You can also apply cockroach control products around the outside of your home. Always read the warnings carefully, especially if you have pets or children who play outside.


If you live in an area that stays warm and humid for at least part of the year, there’s a chance smoky brown cockroaches will move into your garage, garden or even your attic. Don’t risk letting these pests spread bacteria around your home; start taking steps to prevent them today.

If you’ve seen smoky brown cockroaches around your home–inside or outside–it’s time to use the control tips above before they can reproduce and spread. Or, call a professional to begin targeted treatments and keep your home free from cockroaches and other pests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do smoky brown cockroaches bite?

Bites from cockroaches are rare. They don’t bite to defend themselves like other insects. Cockroaches can bite but, while it’s possible, they’re much more likely to stick to their hiding places and any sources of food they’ve found. Smokybrown cockroaches will almost always run or fly away from a person.

Can smoky brown cockroaches fly?

Yes, smokybrown cockroaches can fly. They have long wings that they use to fly to food sources and habitats, including tree holes and roof shingles. They can fly away quickly from humans. Since they’re attracted to light, they’ll also fly into homes toward ceiling lights and lamps.

Do smoky brown cockroaches smell?

Smokybrown cockroaches don’t naturally give off a noticeable odor. However, smokybrown nymphs molt as they grow and their old skins can trigger allergies in some people. Additionally, smokybrown cockroaches move through dead leaves, drains, sewers and other unpleasant places, so they might carry odors with them.

How can I control smoky brown cockroaches naturally?

Smoky brown cockroaches are more sensitive to the environment than some other species. They need warm, humid conditions to survive. If the air is too dry, they’re likely to become dehydrated. Some of the most effective natural methods of controlling smoky brown cockroaches include reducing humidity, improving ventilation and removing food sources.
Decluttering storage areas and reducing humidity in your attic can deter smoky brown roaches from breeding there. Piling firewood neatly and using only a thin layer of mulch also reduces moisture.


  1. Smokybrown Cockroach, Periplaneta fuliginosa. Oklahoma State University: Entomology & Plant Pathology. Retrieved from http://entoplp.okstate.edu/ddd/insects/smokybrownroach.htm
  2. Brown, Wizzie, et al. 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
  3. Koehler, P.G., et al. (2011) Cockroaches and Their Management. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Retrieved from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IG/IG08200.pdf
  4. Sutherland, Andrew M., et al. (2019) Cockroaches. Pest Notes: Cockroaches. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  5. 5. Hopkins, John D. Cockroach Identification and Management for the Homeowner. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.uaex.edu/farm-ranch/pest-management/docs/Cockroach%20ID%20and%20Management%20for%20the%20Homeowner.pdf