American Cockroaches


Actual Size: 2.1”

Characteristics: Brown to reddish-brown; winged.

Legs: 6

Wings: Yes, adults have wings and can fly.

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Primarily live outdoors but can be found in sewers and drains across the Northern United States. In the Southern United States, they are found in shady garden areas and yards.


  • Both sexes are capable of flight.
  • Largest of the house-infesting cockroaches.
  • Attracted to alcoholic beverages, especially beer.

American Cockroach Identification

American Cockroaches in North Carolina

The American cockroach is known by many names—water bug or palmetto bug— as well as many unprintable expletives. It is the largest of the house-infesting cockroaches, measuring up to 2 1⁄8 inches long with fully developed reddish-brown wings. Despite its name, the American cockroach is not native to North America and was probably introduced via ships from Africa. It is currently found throughout the United States and is second only to the German cockroach in abundance. Adults can live up to one year and an adult female will produce an average of 150 young in her lifetime.

American Cockroach Habitat

In nature, the American cockroach is found in bat caves and hollow trees. In urban settings, it is a common inhabitant of sewers, storm drainage systems, prisons, factories, hospitals, and hotels. The American cockroach is omnivorous and an opportunistic feeder. It consumes decaying organic matter but is a scavenger and will eat almost anything. It prefers sweets but has also been observed eating paper, pet food, soap, hair, fruit, book bindings, cardboard boxes, cloth, and dead insects. American cockroaches prefer warm, damp environments and can often be found outdoors around drains, garbage bins, trees, and woodpiles. When these roaches venture inside homes in search of food, they often live in damp areas such as basements, garages, kitchens, and bathrooms.

American Cockroach Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

American cockroaches have the ability to bite, although they rarely do. These cockroaches are considered to be harmful pests and can be dangerous pests because they breed and feed in unsanitary areas close to humans, such as garbage storage, sewage systems, and septic tanks. American cockroaches have a characteristic odor when present and can contaminate human foods and surfaces with their feces and body parts. Foraging cockroaches can also be vectors of disease, depositing germs or bacteria in areas they inhabit and causing asthma attacks in some people sensitive to cockroach allergens.

If you suspect an American cockroach infestation, contact a professional cockroach exterminator.

Are American Cockroaches Hard to Get Rid of?

Yes, American cockroaches can be challenging to eliminate due to their elusive nature and resistance to many conventional insecticides. DIY methods may provide temporary relief, but to achieve long-term control, it’s advisable to seek the assistance of professional pest control services. We can assess the extent of the infestation, identify contributing factors, and implement targeted treatments to eradicate cockroaches effectively.

Is One American Cockroach an Infestation?

While spotting a single American cockroach in your home may not necessarily indicate an infestation, it could be a cause for concern. American cockroaches are highly social insects that often live in large colonies. If you spot one, there’s a possibility that there are more hiding nearby. It’s essential to take proactive measures to prevent further infestation by contacting a professional pest control expert to conduct a thorough inspection to help identify any potential nearby nests and cockroach eggs which would suggest an infestation.


Why Do I See American Cockroaches in My House?

American cockroaches are attracted to warm, moist environments with access to food and water sources. They often enter homes in search of shelter, particularly during extreme weather conditions or when their outdoor habitats become inhospitable. Common entry points include cracks and crevices in foundations, gaps around doors and windows, and utility penetrations.

Are American Cockroaches Wood Roaches?

While American cockroaches are sometimes colloquially referred to as wood roaches, they are not the same as the insects commonly known as wood roaches (such as the Pennsylvania wood cockroach or the Florida woods cockroach). American cockroaches belong to the species Periplaneta americana and are distinct from other cockroach species, including those commonly found in wooded areas.