Figure 1. Courtesy of Wikimedia

American Cockroach

(Periplaneta americana)

Order, Family (otherwise)

Aka Waterbug or Palmetto Bug


Identification/Description:  “Adult American cockroaches measure 1.1 to 1.7 inches (28 to 43.2 millimeters) in length. The wings are fully developed in both males and females. Their bodies are reddish brown, with pale yellow margins around the edge of the midsection,” according to Cockroaches: Blattodea.


Length:  “The American cockroach is the largest of the common species, growing to a length of 1 1/2 to 2 inches,” according to TAMU.  Rarely, exceeding 2 inches, according to Hogue.


Wing Span:  “Unlike most other cockroach species, the American cockroach can fly,” according to Ermones® Pest Management.


Immature Stages:  egg and nymph.


Life Cycle:  “A cockroach has three stages during its life cycle: egg, nymph, and adult. Adults lay eggs contained within egg cases that are dark-colored and roughly the same size and shape as a dry kidney bean (fig. 7).  Depending on the species, an egg case contains between 16 - 50 eggs. Eggs hatch into young cockroaches called nymphs. In a normal cockroach population, nymphs are more numerous than adults,” according to the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service.  According to CB, “Under laboratory conditions, with temperatures ranging from 64 to 81°F (18 to 27°C) during winter and a maximum summer temperature of 95°F (35°C), female larvae need fifteen to sixteen months to reach adulthood, while males take about eighteen months. At higher temperatures the development time is shorter. Adult females live up to two years, producing as many as ninety egg capsules. Each capsule contains about sixteen eggs that take almost two months to hatch. The larvae molt nine to thirteen times before reaching adulthood.”


Food:  “All cockroaches are scavengers and will survive on almost any food as well as backing glue, leather, book bindings, bar soap. They may even sample electronics and wiring in television and microwave (though infestation have to be large when this type of damage occurs),” according to U of Minnesota.  The American cockroach feeds on almost all plant and animal materials and eats human waste in sewers,” according to Cockroaches: Blattodea.  Watch leather and parchment bindings, binding paste or pasted paper labels, and cloth bindings.



Habitat: “American and Oriental cockroaches prefer coolers areas, such as basements and crawl spaces,” according to U of Minnesota.  


Microhabitat: under the sink or dark crevices.


Behavior: nocturnal. 


Control:  Sodium fluoride (poisonous to humans) or powdered borax (safer, but slower).


Number of Species: Originally from tropical Africa, this species is now found throughout the warmer regions of the world, accidentally distributed by sailing ships carrying goods and slaves, according to Cockroaches: Blattodea. Origin in north Africa, according to Kaufman.


Citations: Hogue, p. 31, 39, 83-85 and Kaufman, p. 62.


Updated: 22 January 2010.