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10 Interesting Facts About American Cockroaches

Updated on February 23, 2018
PaulGoodman67 profile image

Since completing university, Paul has worked as a librarian, teacher, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida.

American Cockroach (beside a lighter for a sense of scale).  They are the largest type of cockroach found indoors in the USA and bigger than the German and Asian types. They prefer to live outside, however, unless the weather is cold and stormy.
American Cockroach (beside a lighter for a sense of scale). They are the largest type of cockroach found indoors in the USA and bigger than the German and Asian types. They prefer to live outside, however, unless the weather is cold and stormy. | Source

Widely considered to be a pest, American cockroaches can be hazardous to the health of humans as well as just a general blight. Not only do their bad-smelling secretions make food taste bad, the bugs can also carry harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, which they can deposit on food.

Despite all the negatives, American cockroaches are also fascinating, resilient, and unique insects, that are nowadays found all over the warmest parts of the world, thanks to human transportation and habitation. They are also known as kakerlac, the ship cockroach, and Bombay canary.

A cockroach likely has no less brainpower than a butterfly, but we're quicker to deny it consciousness because it's a species we dislike.

— Jeffrey Kluger

The 3 Most Common Types of Cockroach Found in US Homes

  • German cockroaches are closely related to Asian cockroaches. They measure 0.43 to 0.63 in (1.1 to 1.6 cm) in length and can be colored anywhere between tan and almost black. They have wings but are poor fliers, usually only attempting to fly when disturbed.
  • Asian cockroaches look very similar to German ones, there are, however, three main differences: firstly, they are attracted to the light; secondly, they have longer wings and are much better fliers, employing a similar style to a moth; thirdly, they prefer the outdoors, whereas the German cockroaches like an indoor life.
  • American cockroaches are the largest species of common cockroach. A typical specimen measures between 1.6 inches (4 cm) long. That's around three times the length of the average Asian or German cockroach. These insects are usually reddish brown in color and have a yellowish figure 8 pattern on the back of their heads. They can be misidentified by some people as "palmetto bugs", which are a separate species of outdoor cockroach.

Note that the facts below concern the American cockroach.

1. History and Origins

Despite their name, American cockroaches are originally from Africa. No one knows exactly when they were first brought over to the USA, but it may well be as far back as 1625.

2. Fast Runners

American cockroaches are one of the fastest running insects and can run at over 3 miles an hour (the human equivalent of running at 210 miles an hour).

They use their speed to dart out of sight when humans enter a room or switch a light on, scuttling into cracks, and under doors.

The adults also have wings and are able to fly (although they do it awkwardly and prefer to run).

An American cockroach close up. The insect sees with two compound eyes, with each eye consisting of 2000 separate lenses.  Their pair of slender antennae protrude from the head and help the American cockroach to find food.
An American cockroach close up. The insect sees with two compound eyes, with each eye consisting of 2000 separate lenses. Their pair of slender antennae protrude from the head and help the American cockroach to find food. | Source

3. Eating

This bug is a scavenger that eats almost anything. They typically consume decaying organic matter, such as meat, plants, pet food, beer, cosmetics, cheese, leather, manuscripts, glue, hair, soiled clothing, and even other insects. They have a particular fondness for fermenting fruit.

4. Lifespan and Reproduction

An adult roach can live up to a year, during which time the female will hatch around 150 offspring.

The roach goes through three stages of development: egg, nymph, and adult.

American cockroach egg cases measure around 0.9 centimetres (0.35 in) in length, are brown in color, and purse-shaped.

Young roaches emerge from the egg cases after about 6 to 8 weeks and mature over a period of 6 to 12 months.

Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most.

— Joseph Wood Krutch

5. Water

American cockroaches like to be near water. If necessary, they can survive for a couple of weeks without it, but they prefer to be at least near a source. They are often found near drains and sewers for this reason.

Some people refer to them as "water bugs". They are not true water bugs, however, as they are not aquatic.

6. Inside or Outside?

They generally live outside most of the time. They like dark, damp and warm places. When around human housing, they can often live in basements, building foundations, under porches and walkways, and in dark cracks and crevices.

During colder periods, they will often move inside the home, using drains, gaps around plumbing and under doors to gain entrance.

7. Day and Night

American cockroaches are more active in the night time than the day, and shun light generally, preferring dark, damp spaces.

8. Hot Temperatures

This bug likes warm to hot conditions, a temperature somewhere between 70 and 85 degrees F is its preference. A temperature of 15 degrees F, or below, will usually kill it.

Although they generally prefer hot humid conditions and an outdoor lifestyle, if temperatures drop, American cockroaches will try to move indoors.  They enter houses via sewers, under doors, or through any other gaps in the foundations.
Although they generally prefer hot humid conditions and an outdoor lifestyle, if temperatures drop, American cockroaches will try to move indoors. They enter houses via sewers, under doors, or through any other gaps in the foundations. | Source

9. Bites

American cockroaches are able to bite, but they rarely do so. If a bite does occur, it shouldn't cause any problems, unless it becomes infected.

10. Prevention

The best way to stop these roaches from establishing themselves in your home is to keep your kitchen, cooking, and food storage areas as dry as possible.

It is also advisable to eliminate all easy food sources for them by:

  • Regularly vacuuming your property, especially the kitchen area.
  • Sealing stored food properly in jars and containers.
  • Not leaving unwashed dishes and pans out overnight and cleaning down counter surfaces and eating areas.
  • Rinsing out cans and bottles when they are finished with.
  • Storing any recycling items outside.

You can make it harder for cockroaches to enter your property by using insecticides to cover cracks or crevices through which cockroaches may enter.

You should also be careful about bringing them into your house accidentally, cockroaches and their egg cases can often be hidden inside or on boxes, suitcases, bags, and furniture.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

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    • profile image

      Betsyfross 

      4 years ago

      First one I encountered after moving to Florida it launched itself from a wall and flew straight for me, landing on my chest "thump"---- I screamed so loud people in Minnesota could a heard me. Since that experience I act as if they are as deadly as cobras--- and they still scare the hair off my skull!

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      The term 'palmetto bug' is only properly used when referring to the Florida woods cockroach. Many people call the American cockroach a palmetto, but technically this is a misidentification.

    • profile image

      s.montes 

      6 years ago

      Palmento bugs ARE American cockroaches, just a different name for them.

    • S G Hupp profile image

      S G Hupp 

      6 years ago from United States

      Barf. Nasty but very interesting.

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Ooooh, puke!! But these are for sure facts I didn't know :) Thanks for sharing even if it was icky :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Ewwwwwww but interesting. In Florida I see more Palmetto bugs, the flying ones are much more gross! Voted UP!

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