Cockroach Identification


Deep in the tropical forests and dense jungles of Madagascar, from a place hidden beneath damp leaf litter and loose tree bark on the forest floor, comes a loud, sharp hiss.

Below you, on the ground, the Madagascar hissing cockroach crawls through the evening darkness, searching for food among the detritus (fresh, fallen fruit or a leafy branch makes a good meal for these insects).

These giant cockroaches are fascinating examples of the adaptations that animals develop to survive and thrive in their natural environments. From its body and behavior to its communication and reproduction, it’s a unique and incredible insect.

Let’s delve into some amazing Madagascar hissing cockroach facts.

Biology of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Size comparison of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach vs the American Cockroach and the German Cockroach
Size comparison of a Madagascar hissing cockroach (middle) and two common house roaches

The Madagascar hissing cockroach, Gromphadorhina portentosa, is a nocturnal scavenger that probably (not a great deal is known about its habits) lives on the first floor. It’s a member of the Blattodea order of insects but it’s quite different from those bugs in the much better-known Blattidae family—the American cockroach, German cockroach and others. While those species are now common around the world, the hissing cockroach has remained on its native island.

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is one of the largest cockroach species in the world, growing to 2–3 inches long as an adult—one could almost cover your palm from thumb to pinky—and weighing nearly 1 ounce. It’s shiny, oval-shaped, and has a long pair of antennae.

This insect is a sharp dresser. Its exoskeleton is a striking gradient of colors that range from mahogany brown to black. It has black, spiny legs. Stripes of light brown or yellow cross its back like the pattern of an armadillo’s armor.

Close-up, side view illustration of the horns of a male Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Horns of a male Madagascar hissing cockroach

The Madagascar hissing roach has a unique pair of large, horn-like bumps that protrude from its pronotum (the foremost section of a cockroach’s thorax, which sits directly behind the head). Males use these horns in battles for dominance, similar to the clashes between head-butting bighorn sheep.

Females are not at all aggressive toward other cockroaches and have no need for horns. They typically lack these bumps altogether or have very small, non-functional ones. Their antennae are also smoother. Females are social insects and commonly form groups within colonies.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are flightless. While several other species of flightless cockroaches have wings, the hissing cockroach has no wings at all. Instead, its back is covered by a hard, wide exoskeleton that protects it from danger.

Though it can’t fly, it can scale smooth, vertical surfaces using special, sticky pads and tiny hooks on its feet. In the wild, it has no trouble scaling branches and tree trunks, navigating thick underbrush and climbing slick rocks.

The Hiss of the Madagascar Roach

Illustration of a Madagascar cockroach in a girl's palm with sound wave of hissing drawn above

Click to play a hissing cockroach sound

Communication via sound signals is common throughout the animal kingdom, from birds, snakes and frogs to meerkats, lions and whales. But among cockroaches, the Madagascar hissing species is unique. No other cockroach communicates audibly the way this species does.

True to its name, the hissing cockroach can send several specific messages via slightly different hissing sounds. These messages might be meant for friends, mates or predators.

How do hissing roaches hiss?

Illustration in closeup of Madagascar cockroach spiracles, used for breathing
The hissing cockroach hisses through holes in its body called spiracles.

Cockroaches and other insects breathe through tiny pores in their bodies. These openings are called spiracles and they’re located around a cockroach’s abdomen and thorax. As part of the insect’s respiratory system, spiracles take in oxygen and deliver it directly to muscle tissues.

The Madagascar hissing cockroach has a special pair of modified spiracles in its abdomen. By blowing air rapidly through these spiracles, it creates a loud hissing sound that can be quite startling to animals and people nearby.

This is much different from crickets, which rub their forewings together to produce chirping sounds, or frogs, which vibrate their vocal cords to produce their croaks. A Madagascar cockroach hisses in the same way a human would—by sharply exhaling its breath. Though not quite as loud as a cricket’s chirp, a cockroach’s hiss is audible from several yards away.

Why do hissing cockroaches hiss?

Madagascar hissing roaches produce several different types of hisses that they use to communicate with other cockroaches (and predators). They produce special hisses for aggressive encounters, mating rituals and emergency situations. Though it might be difficult for a human to understand the meaning of a cockroach’s hiss, these insects can understand each other and even differentiate between friendly hisses and aggressive hisses.

Males produce aggressive hisses during clashes with other males. They also hiss when trying to attract a female and during mating. Males use a long-range hiss to call to females and a short-range hiss to talk to roaches that are nearby.

If you come across a Madagascar hissing cockroach in the forest (or handle one), you’ll probably hear its alarm hiss. This is the disturbance hiss that all of these roaches can produce—males, females and nymphs—and it’s their signal that danger is nearby. It sounds similar to a snake’s hiss, which is another reason it can be frightening to hear in the wild!

Life Cycle of the Madagascar Cockroach

Illustration of Madagascar Hissing Cockroach nymphs emerging from a female
Illustration of hissing cockroach nymphs emerging from a female

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are different from most cockroach species in that they’re ovoviviparous—they retain their eggs within their bodies until they hatch and the nymphs eventually emerge.

Most cockroach species produce egg cases called oothecae that contain a dozen or more eggs in each. They carry these oothecae temporarily and place them somewhere hidden shortly before it’s time for the eggs to hatch.

The female Madagascar hissing cockroach, on the other hand, carries its egg case within its body while the eggs develop. Then, they hatch inside the female and, as neonatal nymphs—baby cockroaches—they remain in her thorax for several weeks. A female can carry up to sixty nymphs at once!

The nymphs remain in the female’s body for as long as two months before they’re finally born. After birth, the newborn nymphs become independent, fending for and feeding themselves.

A cockroach nymph molts its old exoskeleton and grows a new one several times as it grows. Each phase of development is called an instar. On average, hissing cockroach nymphs go through six instars over five months before they’re fully mature.

After it molts, cockroach nymphs sometimes appear white or very pale. They’re particularly vulnerable during this time because their new exoskeletons aren’t ready to protect them. The nymphs regain their color as the keratin (the protein that also forms hair, feathers and claws on other animals) that makes up their exoskeletons hardens. Sometimes, cockroaches eat their old exoskeletons to recycle the nutrients contained in them.

The hissing cockroach’s life cycle is a long one among Blattodea. The nymphal stage can take seven months, including the time they spend in the female’s body. Fully-grown adult hissing cockroaches can live for two to five years in the wild.

They’ll face dangerous predators and struggle through harsh dry seasons but these cockroaches have developed a few specific adaptations that let them survive the sometimes-severe tropical conditions.

Madagascar: The Hissing Cockroach Capital of the World

Map illustration of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach range.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches live almost exclusively on their native island of Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa. Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world and is home to thousands of species of insects. While many other cockroach species have spread globally by riding on trading ships, this wild African cockroach has remained exclusive to Madagascar. Outside of the island, these insects exist only in captivity.

Hissing cockroaches commonly live on forest and jungle floors, crawling among fallen leaves, branches and decaying plant material. They’ve also been observed living in tree holes and hiding beneath the loose bark while they rest during the day. Plants and fallen fruit are typical food sources for these insects, who need very little to survive.

The African hissing cockroach lives in large colonies. Within the colonies, adult males are very territorial and will aggressively defend their space from intruders. A male might claim a specific rock or a fallen log for months at a time, rarely leaving its territory. These roaches hiss loudly to enforce the hierarchy of the colony and to ward off intruders.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches don’t live in homes or buildings naturally. Since they are wingless cockroaches and aren’t attracted to light, there’s very little chance these cockroaches will enter a human dwelling.

This insect is considered a species of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This means the population of Gromphadorhina portentosa in the wild is steady and remains strong despite its limited distribution and ongoing environmental changes.

These giant cockroaches aren’t without predators, though. Madagascar is a huge island with a massive diversity of animal species and the hissing cockroach is an essential part of its food chain. Cockroaches are food for a variety of larger animals, such as lizards. Some mammals, including tenrecs, and lemurs, as well as birds eat roaches, too.

Fresh Fruits and Fighting: Diet and Behavior of Hissing Cockroaches

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are primarily nocturnal and negatively phototactic—which means they’re frightened by light. Because of this, they’re most active after sunset. Rainfall seems to make them especially active, probably due to the increased humidity. They spend the night searching in the dark for fallen fruits and plant detritus on the ground.

What do Madagascar hissing cockroaches eat?

Hissing roaches are omnivorous. They’re called detritivores, which means they feed on dead organic material, including plant parts and animal waste. Hissing cockroaches take in most of their water requirement from the fallen fruit they love to eat.

In addition to fruits, their food sources include insect carcasses, fungi and smaller insects. They also hydrate by drinking the dew from plants.

The cockroaches’ status at detritivores impacts more than their own feeding behavior—they also act as important parts of the forest ecosystem, breaking down decaying organic material and recycling those nutrients.

How do they protect themselves?

The hissing cockroach has a trick up its sleeve that it uses when threatened: it can tuck its head beneath the front of its thorax to make it appear like a larger, scarier insect. In this position, the cockroach’s horns protrude like a dangerous, armored helmet.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches have also been observed gathering tightly together to retain moisture during dry spells. These bugs dehydrate quickly and, while the tropical Madagascar climate usually provides plenty of moisture, it seems the cockroaches have developed a defense mechanism against the long dry seasons.

Fight Club: Epic Battles Between Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Male hissing cockroaches battle for two reasons: territorial dominance and mates. Usually, a fight starts when one male enters the territory of another.

During these clashes, male cockroaches ram into each other with their horns and their bodies, hissing loudly. Size generally determines which animal will be victorious but hissing is another key factor.

Cockroaches gauge their opponent by its hisses. Typically, the winning cockroach hisses more than the loser. These fights almost never result in physical injuries to the losing roach; they’re simply shows of dominance.

In a clash over territory, the defending cockroach will try to push the intruder out of his arena. This is a way to reinforce the hierarchy within the colony. Since several mates might be present within a male’s territory, it’s also a move to protect the cockroach’s offspring.

The cockroach who wins one of these blockbuster battles sometimes stilts, or raises its body high off of the ground. Scorpions exhibit similar behavior when they raise their tails high over their heads, lifting their bodies in the process. Along with hissing, stilting is one of the dominant cockroach’s intimidation tactics.

Cockroaches in Captivity

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are popular insects kept in captivity around the world. They’re frequently raised in laboratories and zoos for research and exhibition purposes. They’re also commonly used in classroom demonstrations, where students can learn about insect biology, the molting process, the cockroaches’ aversion to light and the importance of their place in the ecosystem.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as Pets

Madagascars are relatively tame and large enough to observe and handle, which makes them great household pets for beginners. The Madagascar hissing cockroach is an especially fascinating pet because of its striking color, unique horns (in the males) and signature hissing sound.

You can fairly easily match their wild habitat in an enclosure (fish tanks, terrariums, etc.) with a log or piece of driftwood, some leaf litter and plenty of humidity. Wood chips and damp peat can be used as a type of bedding that let the insects burrow to escape the light. You’ll want to purchase an enclosure with a secure lid because these cockroaches can easily climb the glass or plastic sides.

You can feed them fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables (which is part of their diet in the wild). They’ll also thrive on dry dog food or a similar pellet food that contains plenty of protein. Pet hissing cockroaches can be purchased from local pet shops or through live delivery online, and live for up to five years with proper care.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are most vulnerable as nymphs, just after they’ve molted. During this time, their new exoskeleton is still hardening, so pet owners shouldn’t touch or handle the roaches until they’ve darkened in color.

Before purchasing Madagascar hissing cockroaches as pets, you should research your state’s requirements and find out if you need a permit to raise them. They’re considered invasive species in most places and shouldn’t be removed from their enclosure.

An Incredible Insect

The Madagascar hissing cockroach sets itself apart from other cockroaches among the jungles of its native island. With its horns, its hiss and its impressive colors, the hissing cockroach is the royalty of the cockroach world.

Through environmental changes and dry seasons, these cockroaches carry on, scavenging relentlessly for food and engaging in heated battles. Their dramas play out every day among the fallen leaves of the forest floor and, though they might be difficult to find, their hisses make them well-known to the rest of the tropical ecosystem of Madagascar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Madagascar hissing cockroaches bite?

Madagascar hissing cockroaches don’t bite humans or other animals. When they clash with other cockroaches, they battle by ramming each other with their horns. They defend themselves by hissing loudly. There’s no risk of being bitten by these insects.

How does the Madagascar roach reproduce?

Madagascar hissing cockroaches give birth to live young. Unlike most other cockroach species, which deposit their egg cases before the eggs hatch, the female hissing cockroach carries her egg case within her body and continues to carry the nymphs within her body after they’re born.
Baby hissing cockroaches remain in their mother’s body for about two months before emerging as nymphs in their first instar.

What are Madagascar hissing cockroaches’ predators?

This fascinating African roach is an essential part of Madagascar’s food chain. They’re a food source for several kinds of predators, including birds, reptiles and arachnids.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Science Editor

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. Clark, Debbie and Donna Shanklin. Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Retrieved from https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef014
  2. Madagascar hissing cockroach. Oregon Zoo. Retrieved from https://www.oregonzoo.org/discover/animals/madagascar-hissing-cockroach
  3. McLeod, Lianne (2019) Keeping Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as Pets. The Spruce Pets. Retrieved from https://www.thesprucepets.com/madagascar-hissing-cockroach–1236891
  4. Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. South Carolina Aquarium. Retrieved from https://www.scaquarium.org/our-animals/madagascar-hissing-cockroach/
  5. Mulder, Phil and Andrine Shufran (2017) Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches: Information and Care. Oklahoma State University Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/madagascar-hissing-cockroaches-information-and-care.html

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No one wants to find cockroaches in their home. But when you see a bug on the floor, it’s hard not to panic—was that a cockroach? You desperately hope it’s something else. And since there are a few bugs that look like roaches (but aren’t), you might actually be in luck.

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So, what bugs look like cockroaches? Turns out, there are quite a few, from beetles and water bugs to crickets and termites. We’ll help you find out if your creepy crawler is a cockroach or just an impostor. With the right information, you can come up with the best plan to get rid of it.

Cockroach vs. Beetle

Comparison illustration of an American cockroach, Oriental cockroach, and Smoky Brown cockroach vs a Bor beetle
Smoky brown cockroach (left), Oriental cockroach (center), and American cockroach (right) vs a Bor beetle

Our first cockroach lookalike is the beetle. Although there is a huge diversity of beetles (over 400,000 species), some of them are similar to roaches in shape, size and coloring. A few species of ground beetle and a type of scarab beetle called the June bug tend to look an awful lot like roaches. So, how do you know if it’s a beetle or a cockroach?

First, cockroaches tend to have longer legs and antennae than beetles. Further, their wings, which come in two pairs like those of beetles (a top and bottom pair), are leathery on top, unlike the beetle’s which are hard.

Ground beetles (of which there are over 2,000 species) have small heads, hard wings, and eat garden pests. The black ground beetle is often confused with the Oriental cockroach, which has a downward-pointing head and shorter wings.

June bugs (also called June beetles or May beetles) are reddish-brown to black, rounder than cockroaches, and eat plants—mainly tree leaves. Some have fringed antennae that resemble eyelashes.

They’re attracted to light, while most species of cockroach tend to avoid light. Further, June bugs are pretty clumsy in comparison to the swift and agile cockroach. You might catch June bugs bumbling around on the ground or flying into walls.

While some beetles bite, a bite from a cockroach is rare. Most cockroaches don’t even want to approach humans. You’re also unlikely to find a beetle in your home—they prefer to live outside.

Cockroaches, as you probably know, love to find ways into homes. Unlike cockroaches, which emerge from their eggs as tiny versions of adults, beetles start life as larvae, some of which are called grubs.

Cockroach vs. Water Bug

Illustration of a Giant Waterbug beside an Oriental and American cockroach
Giant water bug left, Oriental cockroach center, and American cockroach right

This section might at first be confusing. Isn’t a water bug a type of cockroach? That’s a common belief that, it turns out, is actually a common mistake.

You may have heard Oriental cockroaches or smoky brown cockroaches referred to as water bugs . In fact, there are quite a few insects that are called water bugs (e.g., water striders, water boatmen, water scorpions), but there’s only one type that rightfully carries the name.

True water bugs (family Belostomatidae) live in water, unlike cockroaches. Roaches prefer moist areas but can’t survive in water . And the differences between a roach and a water bug don’t stop there.

Illustration of a giant water bug partially submerged in a pond
Giant water bug

Some water bug species— most notably the giant water bug—grow to be as long as four inches. Meanwhile, the only cockroach species that even approaches the water bug’s size is the American cockroach, which can approach 3 inches in length. However, American cockroaches have a distinctive yellow pattern on their heads that resembles the number eight.

Water bug’s two front legs have pincers adapted to catch prey, and they lack antennae entirely. They have strong beaks and have been known to bite humans. Unlike roaches, they are attracted to light. Water bugs are predators; their diet consists of small aquatic animals like fish and tadpoles.

In contrast, cockroaches will eat pretty much anything. They’re best known for eating garbage and scavenging for crumbs. Like beetles, water bugs are mostly found outside and rarely venture into homes.

The next time someone asks, “Is a water bug a cockroach?” you can tell them all about the various distinctions between water bugs and roaches.

Cockroach vs. Palmetto Bug

Illustration of 3 insects called "Palmetto Bugs." The American, Florida Woods, and Smokybrown cockroach
Florida woods cockroach left, American cockroach center, and smokybrown cockroach right

What’s the difference between a cockroach and a palmetto bug? That’s a trick question. Because there isn’t one.

American cockroaches and smoky brown cockroaches are both called palmetto bugs. So is the Florida woods cockroach. And sometimes the wood roach, too. The Florida woods cockroach got this nickname because it likes to hide beneath palmetto leaves.

The American cockroach got it because polite southern folks preferred not to admit to having a cockroach in their house.

And the smokybrown cockroach got it because, well – to be polite you might as well not admit to having any cockroach in your house.

Of the three, the American cockroach is the most common, the one most frequently referred to as a palmetto bug, and – as a result of their large size and disgusting nature – the one most generally despised. Other nicknames for the American cockroach include flying waterbug, Bombay canary, southern cockroach, and flying cockroach.

Baby Cockroach vs. Bed Bug

Illustration of a baby German cockroach beside a bed bug

Bed bugs are sometimes mistaken for cockroach nymphs – especially baby German roaches. Both are typically reddish-brown in color (the German nymph only at a certain stage), lack wings, and have an oval shape.

You’ll probably have to collect one to make a clear distinction between a baby cockroach and a bed bug because they’re both so small. Bed bugs adults are typically less than 0.2 inches long and cockroach nymphs- particularly the tiny German species- can be similar in size.

However, bed bugs are usually shorter and rounder than cockroaches, which have more oval-shaped bodies. They’re also a reddish brown as opposed to the German cockroaches’ tan or golden brown color, and have shorter antennae.

Cockroach vs. Termite

Illustration of an American cockroach over a subterranean termite worker. A comparison of size, color, and shape.
Image courtesy of Katja Schulz

Cockroaches and termites are pretty different in appearance and habits. However, they’re very closely related. In fact, researchers recently discovered that a termite is actually a type of cockroach.

Termites are small (between 0.16 to 0.59 inches long) with soft bodies and short antennae. In the U.S., there are about 40 species of termites, ranging in color from white to light brown. Cockroaches are typically larger, with harder bodies and long antennae. Cockroaches are only white when they have just molted (read more about the “albino cockroach“), but it’s rare to see them during this vulnerable time.

Cockroaches are solitary creatures—they don’t form colonies. Termites, on the other hand, are social and live in large colonies with a queen and a king. These two insects also behave differently indoors.

Termites prefer to live inside walls, where they have plenty of space to build their colonies and a ready food source. Termites eat mainly cellulose, which is obtained from wood, grass, and leaves. Cockroaches, on the other hand, will eat just about anything. They’re most often found in kitchens or near other reliable food and water sources.

Cockroach vs. Cricket

Illustration of an American cockroach, a German cockroach, and a cricket in the foreground

Crickets (family Gryllidae) are sometimes mistaken for cockroaches but there are important differences between the two. Crickets range in color from brown to black, much like some cockroach species. They also have long antennae. However, cockroaches’ bodies are flattened and oval-shaped, while crickets have a more cylindrical body.

Crickets also have very long rear legs, modified for jumping, which they do when disturbed. A cockroach’s six legs, which are basically the same length, are used to crawl, run, and sometimes climb. Like beetles, crickets are unlikely to enter your home in large numbers.

Suggested Products If You Have a Roach Problem

To Find Their Hiding Spots and Kill Them Quickly When You Have Just a Few

Recommended for all cockroaches.

Exterminator’s Choice Sticky Glue Traps

Used to measure and monitor a cockroach infestation and provide some supplemental control.

BASF PT P.I. Contact Insecticide

P.I. is a pyrethrin-based spray insecticide that kills roaches fast. Best when used as a supplement to other treatments, it’s not inexpensive, but far more effective than off-the-shelf sprays.

To Kill Them Inside Your Home When You Have a Serious Problem

Recommended for German cockroaches and Brown banded cockroaches, as well as American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), and Oriental cockroaches when they enter in large numbers.

Rockwell Labs CimeXa Dust Insecticide

CimeXa is an effective indoor crack and crevice treatment. For best results, use alongside Advion Gel Bait and Gentrol IGR.

HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth Powder Duster

Insecticidal dusts like CimeXa work best when applied with a duster tool. This inexpensive diatomaceous earth duster works fine with CimeXa, Delta Dust, and other recommended dusts.

Syngenta Advion Cockroach Gel Bait

Advion first poisons the roaches that eat it, then others in a secondary kill. For the most effective indoor treatment, combine with CimeXa insecticidal dust and Gentrol IGR.

Gentrol Point Source IGR

Gentrol is an insect growth regulator (IGR) that interferes with roach reproduction. It’s most effective used alongside Advion Gel Bait and CimeXa insecticidal dust.

To Kill Them Outdoors Before They Have a Chance to Get Inside

Recommended for American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), Oriental cockroaches, and Smokybrown cockroaches.

Bayer Polyzone Suspend Insecticide

When used on exterior foundations, entries, and walls, Suspend insecticidal liquid stops outdoor roaches before they get in. It requires a separate sprayer (see below), and works best alongside a granular outdoor bait like Intice and an outdoor crack and crevice treatment like Delta Dust.

Chapin 1 Gallon Multi-Purpose Sprayer

Liquid pesticides require a separate sprayer. This inexpensive pump sprayer works fine for smaller jobs.

InTice Perimeter Insect Control Bait Granules

InTice is a granular bait that kills roaches outdoors and in spaces like your garage or attic. Used alongside a spray treatment like Bayer Suspend and a crack and crevice treatment like Delta Dust, it can protect the entire perimeter of your home.

Delta Dust Insecticide Dust

Waterproof and long-lasting, Delta Dust is a crack and crevice treatment effective in high-moisture areas such as attics, exterior walls, and plumbing lines. Delta Dust is regulated and unavailable in some areas.


The first step toward tackling a pest control problem is to find out what kind of pest you’re dealing with. Cockroaches are very dangerous pests that can contaminate food and spread disease. Quite a few insects indeed resemble cockroaches but you can use the information in this article to differentiate between cockroaches and some of their less dangerous lookalikes.

Proper identification is important because different pests require different management strategies. After reading about the six types of bugs that look like roaches (but aren’t), you can make a more informed decision about how to control the pests. Armed with this new knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to go out and do battle against whatever pesky insect has invaded your domain.

Frequently Asked Questions

What color are roaches?

Most household roaches range in color from the dull yellowish brown of the German cockroach to the dark brown, almost black of the Oriental cockroach. Other roaches will be varying shades and tones of brown.

Is a cockroach a beetle?

Though some cockroaches may resemble some beetles, they’re a different type of insect. Cockroaches are actually much more closely related to termites than to beetles.

What are big roaches called?

When you see a very large cockroach, it’s typically an American cockroach (the largest common cockroach at up two inches long or longer), an Oriental cockroach, or a smoky brown cockroach.

What do small cockroaches look like?

All pest cockroaches have oblong bodies, short spiny legs, and long antennae. There are a few small cockroaches to be on the lookout for, though. The German cockroach, the brown-banded cockroach, and any baby cockroach whose presence can indicate an infestation.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Science Editor

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.


Miller, Renee (n.d.) Bugs & Insects That Look Like Cockroaches. Hunker. Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13405790/bugs-insects-that-look-like-cockroaches.

Waterbugs vs Cockroaches: How To Tell The Difference. (n.d.) Aerex Pest Control. Retrieved from https://aerex.com/blog/waterbugs-vs-cockroaches-how-to-tell-the-difference/.

Is it a Bed Bug, Cockroach, or Carpet Beetle? (n.d.) NYC Health. Retrieved from https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/bedbugs/is-it-a-bedbug.pdf.

A Look at Bed Bug Look-Alikes. (2013) PCT. Retrieved from https://www.pctonline.com/article/bed-bug-look-alikes/.

Kulikowski, Mick. (2018) How Solitary Cockroaches Gave Rise to Social Termites: Tales from Two Genomes. NC State University News. Retrieved from https://news.ncsu.edu/2018/02/how-solitary-cockroaches-gave-rise-to-social-termites-tales-from-two-genomes/.

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

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

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

Identifying the Cuban Cockroach

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

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

Where Do Cuban Roaches Live?

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

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

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

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

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

Life Cycle of Cuban Roaches

Cuban cockroach identification: adult and nymph beside penny for scale

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

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

A female Cuban roach carries its eggs while they develop inside its abdomen. When the eggs hatch in about 48 days, the baby roaches emerge as nymphs. One female Cuban roach can produce up to 60 nymphs at a time.

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

Cuban Cockroach Behavior and Diet

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

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

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

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

What Do Cuban Cockroaches Eat?

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

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

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

Are Cuban Cockroaches Dangerous Pests?

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

Most people still don’t want them hanging around, interrupting outdoor activities or potentially damaging garden plants. You can discourage them from living near your home by moving leaf piles, firewood and garbage away from your house and garage.

You can also reduce moisture in mulch harborages by spreading it thinly, and making sure the area around your home has effective drainage.

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

Cuban Cockroaches as Pets

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


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

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Cuban cockroaches attracted to lights?

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

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

Do Cuban cockroaches damage shrubs, trees and plants?

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

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

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Science Editor

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.


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

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.

A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches

“Print or Follow on Your Phone. It’s FREE!”

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 with access to water. 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 are attracted to 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 being attracted to light, 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– a German roach can barely 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, the wings are non-functional, rendering the insects flightless.

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, seal all cracks and crevices, too.

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 under control. 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, discarded skin or shells, egg cases, and an acrid cockroach smell.

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 treatment 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 as well as baits, 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.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.

Disclaimer: This page is strictly for informational use. When using insecticides, keep in mind—the label is the law. Insecticides should be applied correctly and safely when needed, and according to the laws of your state or country.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Science Editor

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  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?

A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches

“Print or Follow on Your Phone. It’s FREE!”

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 can be harmful because they often carry bacteria from waste and decaying material into homes and businesses. This is true of all cockroaches, flying or not. 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.

Written by Andrew Martin, Reviewed by Helene Steenkamp, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Helene Steenkamp, PhD.

Science Editor

Helene is a Namibian born South African citizen with a great love for nature and its intricacies. She completed a PhD in molecular phylogenetics at the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 2011, and has since worked as a postdoctoral researcher in this field at the University as well as the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa.

She has published several peer reviewed scientific articles with the use of genetic, taxonomic and phylogenetic tools, specializing in Entomology, taxonomy, zoonoses, epidemiology and bacterial & viral genetics.

These days, she is a stay-at-home-mother of two lovely boys, with whom she loves to explore nature from a different point of view. She also works as a freelance writer, editor and researcher for all things science.

You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. Brunskill, Amber, et al (2011) Common Urban Pests: Identification, Prevention, and Control. PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/common-urban-pests-identification-prevention-and-control
  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
  4. How to Recognize the Five Cockroaches Common in Georgia (2018) Retrieved from https://www.bredapest.com/news/how-to-recognize-the-five-cockroaches
  5. Sutherland, Andrew M., et al (2019) Cockroaches. UC Pest Notes: Cockroaches. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  6. Hawaiian Insects: Cockroaches. Instant Hawaii. Retrieved from http://www.instanthawaii.com/cgi-bin/hi?Animals.roach
  7. Holt, Courtney (2011) Insects of Alabama. Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1809

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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?

Need Product Recommendations?

A handful of easy-to-use products can solve most cockroach problems.

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, many (but not all) cockroaches have them.

Those that do actually have 2 pairs of wings—a pair of leathery forewings, and a pair of membranous hindwings that the forewings cover and protect.

The roaches that don’t have wings either have little use for flying, or they’re young roaches (cockroach nymphs) that 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 species, wings are present, but they’re too small and stunted for flight. While in others, the wings may be long enough, but only the males have wings that actually function for flight.

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 post potential risks to humans, but not in the way you might think. 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.

Suggested Products for a Winged Roach Problem

To Kill Them Quickly When You Have Just a Few

Recommended for all cockroaches

Exterminator’s Choice Sticky Glue Traps

Used to measure and monitor a cockroach infestation and provide some supplemental control.

BASF PT P.I. Contact Insecticide

P.I. is a pyrethrin-based spray insecticide that kills roaches fast. Best when used as a supplement to other treatments, it’s not inexpensive, but far more effective than off-the-shelf sprays.

To Kill Them Inside Your Home When You Have a Serious Problem

Recommended for German cockroaches and Brown banded cockroaches, as well as American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), and Oriental cockroaches when they enter in large numbers.

Rockwell Labs CimeXa Dust Insecticide

CimeXa is an effective indoor crack and crevice treatment. For best results, use alongside Advion Gel Bait and Gentrol IGR.

HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth Powder Duster

Insecticidal dusts like CimeXa work best when applied with a duster tool. This inexpensive diatomaceous earth duster works fine with CimeXa, Delta Dust, and other recommended dusts.

Syngenta Advion Cockroach Gel Bait

Advion first poisons the roaches that eat it, then others in a secondary kill. For the most effective indoor treatment, combine with CimeXa insecticidal dust and Gentrol IGR.

Gentrol Point Source IGR

Gentrol is an insect growth regulator (IGR) that interferes with roach reproduction. It’s most effective used alongside Advion Gel Bait and CimeXa insecticidal dust.

To Kill Them Outdoors Before They Have a Chance to Come Inside

Recommended for American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), Oriental cockroaches, and Smokybrown cockroaches.

Bayer Polyzone Suspend Insecticide

When used on exterior foundations, entries, and walls, Suspend insecticidal liquid stops outdoor roaches before they get in. It requires a separate sprayer (see below), and works best alongside a granular outdoor bait like Intice and an outdoor crack and crevice treatment like Delta Dust.

Chapin 1 Gallon Multi-Purpose Sprayer

Liquid pesticides require a separate sprayer. This inexpensive pump sprayer works fine for smaller jobs.

InTice Perimeter Insect Control Bait Granules

InTice is a granular bait that kills roaches outdoors and in spaces like your garage or attic. Used alongside a spray treatment like Bayer Suspend and a crack and crevice treatment like Delta Dust, it can protect the entire perimeter of your home.

Delta Dust Insecticide Dust

Waterproof and long-lasting, Delta Dust is a crack and crevice treatment effective in high-moisture areas such as attics, exterior walls, and plumbing lines. Delta Dust is regulated and unavailable in some areas.


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 four wings. Other species don’t have any wings.

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.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Rae Osborn, PhD.

Science Editor

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  1. McCanless, Kim (2014) Oriental cockroach. Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/oriental_cockroach.htm
  2. Sutherland, Andrew M, et al. (2019) Cockroaches. UC: Pest Notes. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  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.

A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches

“Print or Follow on Your Phone. It’s FREE!”

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 Africa, 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.

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 4-6 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 problematic 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 can potentially 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.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by James Miksanek, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

James Miksanek, PhD

James Miksanek, PhD.

Science Editor

James is an entomologist and adjunct professor of biology. His background is in biological control, and he has a passion for ecology and environmental science. His research has addressed a variety of topics including pest control and the management of invasive species. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  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 about 100 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 Problematic Pests

Though they’re less likely than other cockroach species to invade your house and become a huge problem, they’re still something you don’t want 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.

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.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by James Miksanek, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

James Miksanek, PhD

James Miksanek, PhD.

Science Editor

James is an entomologist and adjunct professor of biology. His background is in biological control, and he has a passion for ecology and environmental science. His research has addressed a variety of topics including pest control and the management of invasive species. You can learn more about our contributors here.


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.

A Simple 5-Step Guide For Getting Rid of Roaches

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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.

It takes 6-12 months for a nymph to become an adult. As 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?

The American roach isn’t exactly dangerous. (it doesn’t sting or bite), but because it frequently lives, breeds, and feeds in filth of the very worst kind – the stuff inside sewers, rotting garbage, and decaying flesh – its body can pick up harmful bacteria, germs, and mold.

Then as it wanders in search of food or shelter, or simply defecates, the roach can deposit all of that into your restaurant, house, or apartment building. 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 serious pests and if there are any around it’s important 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 problematic 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.

Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by James Miksanek, PhD.

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin


Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.

James Miksanek, PhD

James Miksanek, PhD.

Science Editor

James is an entomologist and adjunct professor of biology. His background is in biological control, and he has a passion for ecology and environmental science. His research has addressed a variety of topics including pest control and the management of invasive species. You can learn more about our contributors here.


  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