Everything You Need to Know About Cockroaches in the US

Whether it’s their impressive size, spiny legs, or attempts at flying, nothing else quite makes your skin crawl more than spotting a cockroach run across the kitchen floor. Even if you keep a nearly immaculate home, cockroaches can thrive on the smallest morsels of leftover food or garbage. They can even travel inside from nearby apartments, in cardboard delivery boxes, or through the pipes. In other words, cockroaches are difficult to keep out of your home.

Once you understand all the common factors that attract cockroaches and how to safeguard your space from future visitors, it’s easy to protect against an annual influx. Above all, professional pest control may be the best solution in the long run, but there are ways to protect your space from cockroaches the moment your sense you’re space is at risk.

Top Things to Know About Cockroaches

First of all, how do you know if you’re even dealing with a cockroach? Some large crickets and other beetles can be mistaken for common cockroaches, so it’s important to know the difference.

Cockroach Appearance

Though there are many different types of cockroaches across the globe—which we’ll dive into a bit more later—the American Cockroach has a few distinct features. These include:

  • Reddish-brown body and wings
  • Paler head than its body
  • Typically ranges between 1.5 to 2 inches
  • A yellow-ish band outlines their head
  • They have six legs, often with spines

Cockroach Behavior

Not sure if what just flew across the room was a cockroach? Many male and female cockroaches can fly short distances, but most species primarily get around on foot. They typically enter a home through small cracks in your windows, walls, or even under doorways. 

Seeking warmth, food, and shelter, cockroaches are typically either found outdoors in hidden spaces like tree logs. When they make their way inside, they will hide out of sight until they have to forage for food—typically in the dark or at night. 

Female cockroaches may hide egg capsules in corners or the cracks of walls, especially if they can conceal the egg nests with surrounding materials like paint chips.

Reproduction Habits

Any infestation should be kept at bay as quickly as possible, especially before the pest reproduces. Once you spot a cockroach in your home, it’s safe to assume that they will try to nest and reproduce there.

Female American Cockroaches will leave pheromone trails for the males, attracting more bugs into your home with the intention of multiplying. Once they mate, the female cockroaches can lay around 16 eggs every week—or even two egg sacks on some occasions. This means that these relatively large insects can reproduce quite quickly, quickly leading to an infestation.

It’s important to note that different cockroach species have distinct reproduction numbers and habits, but they all take on similar tactics to grow their numbers safely.

Cockroach Species

Whether you live in a New York City highrise or a Florida bungalow, there is a significant chance you’ve encountered some species of cockroach. The most common species in the US come from all over the world, seeking out shelter and access to food both inside and out.

We’ve outlined some of the top cockroach species in America and how to identify them in your home.

American Cockroach

As we mentioned above, this incredibly common type of cockroach is found all over the world, not just in the US. 

Appearance: American cockroaches are reddish-brown with yellow heads. Both males and females have wings.

Preferred Habitat: Over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, both indoors and out.

Food: Garbage, feces, uncovered food

Asian Cockroach

As an invasive species, these cockroaches are primarily found in the southern states as well as throughout Texas.

Appearance: They can grow up to five-eighths of an inch and are dark-brown in color.

Preferred Habitat: This species lives in compost or mulch piles in hotter temperatures, especially during the summer.

Food: Flowers, plants, feces, garbage

Australian Cockroach

This variety is easy to mix up with the American Cockroach, but is much smaller and has a distinct yellow marking on their wing. They are also found primarily in the southern states.

Appearance: Australian cockroaches grow between 1.2 and 1.5-inches long and are dark-to-reddish brown.

Preferred Habitat: Areas of great humidity, particularly in the tropics and southern states in the US.

Food: Plant-based and starchy material—even glue, and clothing

Brown-Banded Cockroach

These pests are prevalent throughout the country, and since they eat such a wide variety of organic materials, are known for reproducing into large, unhealthy colonies.

Appearance: Pale brown bodies that can grow up to half-inch long with full wings.

Preferred Habitat: Found throughout the south, midwest, and northeast, mainly inside homes where organic material is available

Food: Known for eating a wide range of organic material, including skin cells and body oils.

Cuban Cockroach

You’re more likely to find this variety flying at your outdoor porch light in Florida than inside your home, but they can still be a great nuisance.

Appearance: Distinct round body and lime-green color

Preferred Habitat: Found in humid regions like southern Texas and throughout Florida. They can enter your home after finding their way from outdoor lights.

Food: Decaying food, paper, and organic materials.

Florida Woods Cockroach

As their name suggests, these immense cockroaches live throughout Florida and other surrounding southern states. They are known for their unique defense—projecting a potent spray at their enemies.

Appearance: Brown-to-black bodies that can grow as large as one-and-a-half inches long and an inch wide. They do fly but move quite slowly.

Preferred Habitat: Through hot humid areas in the south, especially Florida. They thrive in dark, damp areas, so are therefore more likely found outside of the home.

Food: Decaying plant material.

German Cockroach

You can find these small, poor flyers throughout the United States. In fact, they were unlikely to have even come from Germany in the first place. Unfortunately, they prefer the indoors and can reproduce quickly inside your home.

Appearance: Tan and brown bodies which only grow up to about a half-an-inch. Though they have wings, they can only flutter as they fall or move.

Preferred Habitat: Humid areas with access to a consistent food supply. They are typically first discovered in the kitchen or bathroom.

Food: Decaying organic material.

Oriental Cockroach

Often called “water bugs” or “black cockroaches,” these large, darker varieties tend to congregate around drains, sump pumps, and other sources of pooled water.

Appearance: Brown to black in appearance and can grow to lengths between one and two inches.

Preferred Habitat: This variety prefers to take shelter from extreme weather, often opting for inside the home during storms, droughts, or high wind. They also enjoy damp areas, which is how they earned their “water bug” nickname.

Food: Decaying organic material.

Smoky Brown Cockroach

With strong wings to take them from the treetops to your home, you’re more likely to find these cockroaches in your attic if you live in Los Angeles or along the Gulf of Mexico.

Appearance: They can grow up to one-and-a-half inches and take on a dark brown color and are excellent fliers.

Preferred Habitat: Typically found in attics and crawl spaces where their coloring allows them to hide. These varieties often live in Gulf Coast states, Texas, and Southern California.

Food: Trash, pet food, and other decaying materials.

Surinam Cockroach

This infamous invasive species typically travel in food imports. They can be terribly detrimental to plants and gardens throughout the Southeast.

Appearance: These cockroaches have round, black and brown bodies and brown wings. They can grow up to an inch in length.

Preferred Habitat: Found throughout southern, humid states like Louisiana, Florida, and all the way up to North Carolina.

Food: Plants and organic material.

Wood Cockroach

Though these mid-sized cockroaches are often confused with the German or American species, wood cockroaches rarely want to infest your home. If they accidentally end up in your space, they will typically wander around on foot until they can go back outside.

Appearance: Males are a pale tan while females are a bit darker. They can grow up to one-and-a-quarter inches.

Preferred Habitat: These cockroaches can be found throughout the country in wooded areas and prefer to stay outdoors.

Food: Plants and wooden materials, such as stumps and trees. They do not typically disturb wooden furniture.

Are Cockroaches Dangerous?

One of the largest risks of developing a cockroach infestation is their ability to carry bacteria and disease. Since many species feed on decaying material, even feces, they may carry disease and other dangerous bacteria with them as they walk throughout your home. This means that you could end up with nasty trails left on your kitchen counter or even across the fruit left out in the pantry.

Many cockroaches also release pheromone trails throughout your home that can be potent and spark allergic reactions in sensitive home dwellers. The rare cockroach, such as the Florida Wood Cockroach, also sprays a repellent when started, which can cause an uncomfortable reaction in some people.

By far, the largest issue with cockroaches is cleanliness. These comparatively large and dirty bugs bring bacteria with them as they wander through your home and reproduce.

How to Detect a Cockroach Infestation

Unlike ants, you do not necessarily have a cockroach infestation if you spot one lone wanderer. However, their very presence means that they were attracted by shelter and food and will leave a trail to tell their friends.

Detecting a cockroach infestation can be tricky for many species, since they often hide in dark areas, coming out primarily at night. They are masters at keeping themselves concealed so you may need to go looking on your own. Overall, cockroaches often enjoy wooden spots more than metal or plastic, so begin by looking through your cabinets, closets, and other wooded areas.

Keep your eye out for:

  • Cockroaches congregating in cupboard, bathrooms, and behind appliances
  • Common entry points for cockroaches like open windows, doorways, or vents
  • Cockroaches around the premier of your home, especially those which attract toward porch lights
  • Piles of feces—which may look like pepper or coffee grounds
  • Cockroach eggs
  • Odd, musty smells

Cockroach Infestation Treatment

As is the case with most pest infestations, prevention is always the best defense against cockroaches. You can take the following steps to prevent cockroaches from entering your home in the first place or coming back after treatment:

  1. Keep surfaces clean at all times
  2. Clean small appliances that may harbor crumbs, like toasters and can openers
  3. Ensure your garbage is secure and switched regularly
  4. Occasionally clean in hard-to-reach spaces like behind the oven
  5. Remove any uncovered food on the counter
  6. Clear away pet food bowls after mealtime
  7. Clean backed-up organic material from drains
  8. Seal up any openings in your walls, door frames, or window screens
  9. Check new packages and furniture for bugs from the outside

Even taking a cockroaches food source away could be a way of killing the pests currently in your home. 

Killing Existing Cockroaches in Your Home

Baiting and killing cockroaches more proactively typically involve poisoning the cockroach’s food supply. In this case, it can be smart to place bait in what is known as aggregation areas—or where the cockroaches gather and leave feces. The bugs will take the poisoned food back to their group, poisoning the aggregation gatherers at once. 

Other DIY traps include adhesive paper or natural poisons made from boric acid liquid concentrates. There is also a wide range of store-bought traps, baits, and poisons available. Be sure to thoroughly read instructions about how to place these traps, especially if you have pets or young children in your house.

Professional Cockroach Treatment

Cockroaches can quickly become too dangerous to treat on your own. With their development ability to transfer bacteria throughout your space, it’s important to act quickly. Call a professional pest control expert if you:

  • Are not sure if you have a cockroach problem
  • Need assistance identifying the cockroach
  • Have discovered cockroach eggs or feces
  • Hope to avoid handling chemicals or coming across the bugs themselves

The nationwide team at Terminix offers local pest control services that specialize in targeting invaders like cockroaches. During the comprehensive process, Terminix will:

  • Identify where cockroaches are hiding and laying eggs
  • Trap, eliminate, and clean out areas of pests
  • How to seal off your perimeter to ensure that cockroaches are gone for good

Contact Terminix today for a free consultation and immediate cockroach control for your entire home and property.

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