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American Cockroach

American Cockroach

American Cockroach 

The American cockroach is a common pest. It is native to Africa and the Middle East but travelled to North America through the slave trade in the 17th century. From there, it spread across the southern United States and into parts of Canada. It easily enters homes and businesses because of its small, flat body. It also can travel far through international travel and product transportation. It runs amazingly fast and can be resistant to many common pesticides. 

NAME: Periplantea americana
LOCATION: Native: Africa, Middle East
INVASIVE: North America
HABITAT: Sub-tropical
DIET: Omnivore
SIZE: about 50 mm
PREDATORS: Rodents, reptiles



American Cockroaches are the largest common roach. They are around 50 mm long and 7 mm tall


Adult American cockroaches are reddish-brown or mahogany. They have yellow bands outlining their heads and a flat, oval body. They are made of up three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen. The head contains their mouth, eyes, and antennae. These antennae are used to feel air movement and smell. They have compound eyes which are light sensitive. The thorax is between the head and abdomen. It contains their six legs and their two sets of overlapping wings. Their forewings are leathery and strong while the hindwings are delicate. The abdomen contains finger-like appendages called cerci which are used to detect air currents. Baby Cockroaches look similar but they lack functional wings. 


Cockroaches are highly adaptable; they can eat nearly anything and can survive for a month without food. American cockroaches are omnivores. They will eat any organic material, including insects. Outdoors, they eat wood particles, fungi, and algae. They will also eat other small insects or dead cockroaches. Indoors, they will eat food crumbs, scraps, and pet food. Cockroaches are especially attracted to sweet foods


American cockroaches prefer warm, moist areas, but can survive in drier areas if they have access to water. Outdoors, this includes flowerbeds and mulch. They prefer temperatures around 29⁰C (84⁰F) and cannot survive temperatures below -9⁰C (15⁰F). In the Northern USA and Canada, they escape the cold by moving indoors. They frequently dwell in sewers and basements. Cockroaches are also common in commercial buildings and warehouses.  Indoors, they search for dark places with good access to food and water. They frequently infest commercial kitchens, grocery stores, and bakeries. Within a home, they are likely to be in the basements, crawls spaces, and bathrooms. 



American cockroaches reproduce quickly; each adult female can lay 16 to 32 eggs a week. They can also reproduce three to seven days after becoming an adult. The female creates a capsule for the eggs that rests in her abdomen for two days. She then deposits it in a warm, humid environment. The egg capsule is well hidden to protect it from predators. The egg capsule contains around sixteen eggs that hatch in 24 to 38 days. Newly hatched cockroaches, called nymphs, go through seven to eight molts before they mature. They grow larger with each molt. If there is sufficient food, it will take about 5 ½ months for a cockroach to mature. Without sufficient food, it can take as long as six months. Remember, just one cockroach is too many!


Cockroaches are preyed on by a variety of animals including reptiles, birds, and other insects. Outside North America, hedgehogs are a common predator of cockroaches. In the Southern USA, reptiles are the biggest thread. Toads, frogs, lizards, and geckos are adept at catching and eating cockroaches. However, in parts of Canada, the weather is too cold for many reptiles. Rodents are more likely to eat cockroaches in colder areas. While mice can eat them, rats are known for eating cockroaches. They can even eat them off of glue traps and are able to skillfully eat them without getting caught in the glue.

In Canada, especially Western Canada, the most likely predator of cockroaches are birds. Starlings are large enough to eat cockroaches and need insects to be able to breed. Chickens are also great bug catchers and can eat lots of cockroaches if given the opportunity.

Parasitic wasps are known to lay their eggs inside the cockroach egg capsule. The newly hatched wasps will eat either the young larva or eat the nourishing egg fluids, starving the cockroach larva. The exact nature of these wasps depends on the species. 



American cockroaches live about two years depending on their environment and proximity to predators.