Finding even a single cockroach in your home can mean a serious situation. If you’ve discovered one, you’ll want to move fast, beginning with the crucial first step: Identification.

In this short guide, you’ll learn about the 6 types of roaches (with pictures for easy identification) likely to have invaded your home – step #1 in your cockroach battle plan.

Ready? Let’s get to work.

The Different Types of Cockroaches

German Cockroaches

German cockroach nymph, adult, and egg, compared to a penny for size
German cockroach nymph, adult, and egg sac, beside a U.S. penny for scale

German cockroach pictures

About:

The German cockroach, Blattella germanica, is the most common nuisance cockroach that people find in their homes. It prefers houses and buildings to any other habitat and reproduces faster than other cockroach species. It’s especially problematic in apartments and other types of shared living spaces.

Though they have wings, they don’t fly; instead, they use their wings to glide. German cockroaches are dangerous in homes because they can spread disease by contaminating food and cooking surfaces. Furthermore, they shed periodically and leave behind egg casings that can cause asthma attacks and trigger allergies.

Appearance:

German roaches are relatively small—approximately 0.5 inches long. An adult German cockroach is light brown and has two dark stripes running down its thorax (the middle section of its body). A juvenile  (called a nymph), on the other hand, is smaller, darker colored, and has a tan stripe running down its back.

Geographic Range

German cockroaches live in many environments worldwide. They can live outdoors in the tropics but prefer to find shelter in people’s homes in cooler climates.

Mode of Entry

Often, German cockroaches are accidentally brought into homes on furniture or in grocery bags, shipping boxes, and drink cartons. In apartment buildings, they can crawl through shared pipes and ducts to infest additional units and quickly become a widespread problem.

Preferred Locations

You’ll most likely find German cockroaches hanging out in your kitchen, bathroom, or any place where food is stored or prepared. They are especially fond of humid areas with temperatures between 70 and 75oF.

These roaches can squeeze into cracks and crevices to hide near food, water, and sources of heat. If their populations become too large, you might begin to find them in other parts of your home, including bedrooms and closets.

Habits and Reproduction

German cockroaches eat a variety of household items, including book bindings, crumbs, soap, toothpaste, and other scavenged items.

Female German cockroaches lay egg cases, called oothecae, that can contain 30 to 40 eggs each. They produce these egg cases every few weeks (more often during warm weather). On average, a German cockroach lays between 4 and 6 oothecae in its lifetime.

Don’t expect to find these egg cases easily, though: females carry them around until 1 to 2 days before they hatch. Sometimes, a female estimates incorrectly and the eggs hatch while she’s still carrying the ootheca.

A single German cockroach can be responsible for the births of more than 30,000 babies in one year. Typically, nymphs mature in 40 and 125 days. Though not all will survive to adulthood, these cockroaches’ rapid cycles of growth and reproduction can cause infestations to grow and spread quickly. Making proper roach control extremely important.

American Cockroaches

American cockroach adult, nymph, and egg sac beside penny for scale

American cockroach pictures

About

The American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, (also known as the palmetto bug or sewer roach) is also quite common in homes and apartments. However, this roach species prefers the outdoors and is less likely to infest living spaces than German cockroaches. Like German cockroaches, the American roach can spread disease and trigger allergies and asthma. They move rapidly but don’t often use their wings to fly.

Appearance

At up to 3 inches in length, American cockroaches are the largest of the common roaches. Their color is reddish-brown, with a light yellow band outlining their thorax. It’s easy to tell the difference between adults and nymphs because the adults are larger and have wings, while nymphs don’t have wings.

Geographic Range

Despite their name, American cockroaches are native to the African tropics. Today, however, they’re located throughout the United States.

Mode of Entry

American cockroaches typically enter homes through piping from sewers or similar locations. They can crawl through small gaps around windows, doors, or vents to find shelter. They can also enter homes as stowaways in piles of firewood.

Preferred Locations

American cockroaches often live in sewers, storm drains, steam tunnels, water meter boxes, gardens, trash bins, and facilities that raise animals. They like warmth and humidity, especially temperatures above 82 F. Indoors, they hide in laundry rooms, boiler rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. Though they sometimes infiltrate homes, it’s more common to find infestations in grocery stores and restaurants.

Habits and Reproduction

Female American cockroaches carry their oothecae for around 6 days before attaching them to the inner surface of a crack or crevice. Each ootheca contains about 12 to 16 eggs, which might not hatch for 2 months or longer. In a single year, a female can be responsible for more than 800 individuals.

The nymphs mature more slowly than those of other roach species, taking between 65 and 400 days.

American cockroaches prefer a diet of fermenting foods but they’ll also scavenge for crumbs and other scraps. Outdoors, they feed on leaves, wood, fungi, algae, and smaller insects.

Oriental Cockroaches

Oriental cockroach adult, nymph, and egg sac beside penny for scale

Oriental cockroach pictures

About

The Oriental cockroach, Blatta orientalis, (also known as a water bug or black beetle) is a dangerous pest that mostly lives outdoors. They are most common in homes that have a lot of vegetation around them. They don’t move as fast as other kinds of roaches and don’t fly. As they cannot climb smooth, vertical surfaces, they often become trapped in sinks and bathtubs.

Oriental cockroaches are even more unpleasant than other cockroach species because of their diet: garbage, feces, and decaying plant and animal matter.

They stink, too. They spend a lot of time crawling over fecal matter and rotting things as they search for food, making them potentially more dangerous than other types of cockroaches. They’ll contaminate food, food preparation areas, and utensils simply by walking over them. Luckily, their odor is strong enough to warn you that your food has been contaminated.

Appearance

Oriental cockroaches are larger than German cockroaches but smaller than American cockroaches, measuring about 1.25 inches in length. They’re shiny, with a dark color between reddish-brown and black. While both males and females possess wings, the wings of female Oriental cockroaches are rudimentary. Males’ wings, meanwhile, are about 25% shorter than their bodies. Nymphs look like small, wingless females.

Geographic Range

The Oriental roach lives in coastal areas worldwide. In the United States, it’s predominantly found in southern, northwestern, and Midwestern states.

Mode of Entry

Oriental cockroaches typically enter homes through gaps around windows, doors, and vents. Some come in through sewer pipes or drains that run through walls to the outside. They might also ride along on firewood from a woodpile they’ve been living in.

Preferred Locations

Oriental cockroaches are often found in cool (below 84 F), damp, dark locations, including woodpiles, trash bins, garages, and basements. They also live among ivy and ground cover, inside meter boxes, and in sewers and drains. These roaches are resilient: they can even survive outdoors in freezing temperatures.

Indoors, you might find Oriental cockroaches in sink cabinets (especially if pipes are leaking), beneath appliances, and within floors5.

Habits and Reproduction

During the day, they tend to remain outside, sometimes entering homes at night to forage.

Oriental cockroaches mature slowly—sometimes, it takes over two years for a nymph to reach adulthood. However, they only live around 180 days. Females carry their ootheca for about a day before depositing it in debris or food. An Oriental cockroach ootheca contains about 16 eggs. Altogether, one female and her offspring can produce up to 200 individuals in a year.

Wood cockroaches

Pennsylvania wood roach male and female, plus egg sac beside a penny for scale
Pennsylvania wood cockroach female, male, and egg sac, beside a U.S. penny for scale.

Wood cockroach pictures

About

There are 12 species of wood cockroach (Parcoblatta), including the Pennsylvania wood cockroach, the Virginia wood cockroach, the Boll’s wood cockroach, and the Broad wood cockroach. All thrive outdoors but can also be found in homes occasionally. Houses situated near forests are especially at risk during the spring and summer. Since they feed on dead wood and other materials, these cockroaches are sometimes brought inside with firewood. However, they can’t survive for long indoors.

Wood cockroaches are different from other cockroach breeds in their attraction to light. Only the males can fly short distances. Like other types of roaches, wood cockroaches can contaminate food and trigger allergies and asthma.

Appearance

Wood cockroaches are about 1 inch long and brown. The edges of some wood cockroaches’ wings are white. Females’ wings are shorter than males’—only about 0.5 inch long. Nymphs, which are smaller than adults, completely lack wings.

Geographic Range

Native to North America, the wood cockroach is found across much of the United States, though it’s less likely to be found in the central part of the country. It also lives in Canada and Mexico.

Mode of Entry

Wood cockroaches infiltrate homes through gaps around windows, doors, and vents during the spring and summer. In the cooler months, they hitch rides on firewood. It’s important to always check your firewood for roach eggs before bringing it into your home.

Preferred Locations

Wood cockroaches are most often found in woodpiles and under the bark of fallen logs and dead trees. Sometimes they congregate near homes in gutters and crawl spaces.

Habits and Reproduction

The diet of wood cockroaches primarily consists of decaying organic matter.

Females deposit their oothecae under the bark of dead trees and fallen logs. The eggs hatch about a month later. Wood cockroaches typically only live for a few months.

Smokybrown Cockroaches

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

Smokybrown Cockroach Pictures

About

The smoky brown cockroach, Periplaneta fulginosa, is very sensitive to dehydration and must live near a reliable source of water. It’s a nocturnal creature and will fly away if disturbed. Like the wood cockroach, smoky brown cockroaches are attracted to light.

Appearance

Smokybrown cockroaches are relatively large—approximately 1.5 inches long. They are dark brown to mahogany-colored with a thorax that looks almost black. You can distinguish them from some other types of roaches by looking at their wings, which are longer than their bodies.

Geographic Range

Smokybrown cockroaches are found in the southeastern United States.

Mode of Entry

Smokybrown cockroaches typically climb into homes through vents and plumbing, especially where vegetation touches the home.

Preferred Locations

An outdoor type of roach, they prefer to hang out in gutters, planter boxes, and woodpiles. They also live beneath shingles and siding, inside water meter boxes, in garages, and amongst trees, shrubs, and other vegetation. Sometimes, they even live in sewers. It’s rare but these cockroaches do occasionally enter homes. Then, they’re typically found in attics.

Habits and Reproduction

Females carry their oothecae for a day before depositing them. It takes between 24 and 70 days for the eggs to hatch. Each ootheca holds between 40 and 45 eggs.

Brownbanded Cockroaches

Brown Banded cockroach adult, nymph, and egg sac beside penny for scale

Brownbanded cockroach pictures

About

The brown banded cockroach, Supella longipalpa, prefers indoor spaces, but is less common than the German cockroach. While females can’t fly, males sometimes flying away from disturbances (though they’re more likely to jump).

Brownbanded cockroaches have a wide-ranging diet, consuming garbage as well as human food. They’re a dangerous pest inside homes because they’re likely to spread bacteria and other contaminants to food and food preparation areas. They also leave behind old skin and egg cases that can trigger allergies and asthma attacks.

Appearance

Brown banded cockroaches have narrow bodies. They’re about 0.5 inches in length and have light brown or yellow bands on their abdomens, wings, and the sides of the thorax. Males and females are different colors: males appear to be golden-tan while females are a darker brown.

Males’ wings are longer than their bodies, while females’ wings cover only part of the abdomen. The nymphs are smaller and have two light horizontal bands on their bodies5.

Geographic Range

Brown banded cockroaches live across the United States.

Mode of Entry

Like German cockroaches, brown banded cockroaches typically get into homes through furniture, grocery bags, food containers, and electronics. They can move between apartment units via shared duct work and piping and can quickly become a serious problem in apartment complexes.

Preferred Locations

You’re most likely to encounter brown banded cockroaches in locations that are warm (around 80oF), dry, sheltered and out of reach. You should inspect around electrical appliances (often in kitchens), beneath clutter, behind wall decorations, and within hollow furniture legs.

Brown banded cockroaches live most commonly in homes that lack air conditioning. They’re also frequently a nuisance in offices or places where lots of paper is stored.

Habits and Reproduction

Brown banded cockroaches and German cockroaches don’t get along; they typically don’t share habitats. Brown banded roaches are nocturnal and don’t seem to care about what they eat, consuming everything from human food and garbage to fabric (including clothing and curtains), glue, and wallpaper.

Brown banded cockroach oothecae contain between 10 and 18 eggs each. Females carry them for about a day to a day and a half, then attach them to ceilings (often in closets) or the undersides of furniture. The oothecae then remain for around 70 days until the eggs hatch.

Brown banded cockroaches have an average lifespan of 130 to 315 days. A single female will produce about 15 oothecae in her life, resulting in more than 600 babies in a year.

Conclusion

The first step in any pest control strategy is to find out exactly what you’re up against. Here, we’ve covered important details about the six different types of cockroaches you’re most likely to run into in or around your home.

With this information, you’ll be able to identify the types of roaches you see and find where they’re hiding. You’ll also know how dangerous they might be and how serious the problem is. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to tackle your cockroach problem head-on.

Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many different types of roaches are there?

There are more than 4500 different types of roaches. Of those, only 69 species are found in the United States, and 10 in Canada.

What type of roaches fly?

Some roaches fly. Others don’t. Of those that do, there’s a big difference in flying ability. Asian, Smokybrown, Australian, and wood roaches are pretty good fliers, while American cockroaches really just use their wings to glide.

What type of roaches go inside your house?

Only a handful of cockroach species wind up inside our homes, and an even smaller number actively try. While wood roaches typically get in by accident, and American and Oriental roaches typically enter when there’s a change in environment outdoors, German and Brownbanded roaches will actively try to infest your home.

What is the worst kind of roach?

Of the scores of cockroaches that inhabit North America, just a few are considered dangerous due to the filth they live in and the threat of contamination they pose. The roaches which pose the highest risk to human health are the German, American, Oriental, and Brownbanded species.

Sources:

  1. Rust, M.K. and Reierson, D.A. (2007) Cockroaches. Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html.
  2. Potter, Michael F. (2018) Cockroach Elimination in Homes and Apartments. Entomology at the University of Kentucky. Retrieved from https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef614.
  3. Hahn, Jeffrey and Ascerno, Mark. (2018) Cockroaches. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.umn.edu/insects-infest-homes/cockroaches.
  4. McLeod, Robin. (2005) Genus Parcoblatta – Wood Cockroaches. BugGuide. Retrieved from https://bugguide.net/node/view/31624.
  5. Wood Cockroach (n.d.) Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/wood-cockroach
  6. University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health (Bugwood Images collection).

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