How to Identify and Get Rid of American Cockroaches

Also known as the water bug, the American cockroach is one of the most common household pests in the United States.

One common pest homeowners might encounter is the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), a fast and flying insect that can quickly and efficiently infest an area, becoming difficult to remove and get rid of.

What are American Cockroaches?

American cockroaches are one of the biggest species of roaches common to the household. Coming from Africa and the Middle East, the American cockroach can be found all over the United States. In southern states they are commonly found outdoors, while in the northern states they more frequently take shelter in drains and sewers. Due to their propensity for wet, moist locations, in some regions cockroaches are called other names like the “water roach” or “palmetto bug”.

What Do American Cockroaches Look Like?

Large in and in charge, the American cockroach can range from one to three inches long. Their coloration is typically reddish-brown to a light brown, sporting a yellow band or figure on the top of their head. They have six legs, two straight antennas, and are shaped like an oval. Though one of the few species that uses its wings to fly, this roach still relies heavily on those legs to scurry quickly from point to point.

American Cockroach Behaviors

American cockroaches can fly and move fast. For the most part, you will find cockroaches outdoors in warm, damp locations such as gardens, under mulch, and other types of piles. If the climate proves harsh or food runs out, they move into buildings such as homes, restaurants, small businesses, and other human-made structures.

They also tend to seek out out wet and food-filled areas such as drains, pipes, basements, holes in the wall, and under major appliances. They feed on basically any and all organic materials, from leaves and fungi to crumbs and leftover human food.

American Cockroach Life Cycle

The American cockroach goes through the three stages of metamorphosis like the majority of cockroaches: egg, nymph and adult.  The process from birth to fully-formed adult can take anywhere from four to six months. The average lifespan for this particular species is approximately two years.

At its peak ability to reproduce, the female American cockroach can lay from 16 to 32 eggs a week for almost 10 months, making their threat of infestation high.

Signs of American Cockroach Infestations

The common signs that American cockroaches have found a home indoors are similar to its fellow cousins. They include:

  • On-sight Visual: If one cockroach is indoors, there is a good chance there are more.
  • Droppings: Always eating and always disposing of waste. On counters, in cabinets, or under appliances, American cockroaches will leave little reddish and brown droplets around.
  • Eggs: When their babies hatch, the cockroach egg casings that surround the eggs can be found in those similar locations where adults live.
  • Odor: Especially when together in a group, American cockroaches give off a wet and musty smell.

How to Get Rid of American Cockroaches

The first step to getting rid of American cockroaches is eliminating their home and food source. Clean your living spaces, especially counters, appliances, sinks, drains and cabinets.

To help keep these pests away in the future, check the foundation and entryways for cracks or holes where they might enter. Caulk or seal these areas and use repellents such as gels to deter re-entry.

These pests are survivalist scavengers, so killing American cockroaches might require options such as traps, baits and pesticides. Since infestations can get out of control quickly with their reproductive abilities, the process for dealing with this species of roach might be slow.

If traditional remedies appear unsuccessful, consult a professional exterminator to provide a plan and solutions unique to your home or business.

American Cockroach Safety

Aside from having your home or business overrun with an unwelcome pest, American cockroaches also carry health concerns. They are excellent transmitters of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella. The odors from their secretions are also known to cause problems for people with allergies and asthma. In close contact, these cockroaches are not much of a direct threat. While they can bite, they rarely do, and usually don’t transmit their carriers via their bite.

Cockroach Resources

For more information about cockroaches and what it means when you find this pest in your home or business, check out these related pest control articles:



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