American Cockroach

Identifying American Cockroaches in Your Home or Business

The American cockroach, or Periplaneta americana, is prevalent throughout New England. Though not the most common cockroach species found in the region, American cockroaches are perhaps the most recognizable due to their relatively large size.

The insects frequently invade homes and other buildings foraging for food supplies, causing infestation problems that can quickly lead to more serious issues. Also known as water bugs or palmetto bugs, American cockroaches can spread bacteria and parasites when permitted to continuously infest homes.



What Do American Cockroaches Look Like?

Size: With a body that measures up to two inches long, the American cockroach ranks as the largest of all New England home infesting cockroach species.

Color: The bodies of American cockroaches feature reddish-brown or chestnut coloring and are marked by a distinctive yellowish band directly behind the head.

Body Parts: Three long legs lined with pointy spines extend from each side of the body, while a pair of slender antennae protrude from the head and aid the American cockroach in locating food.

Wings: Adults possess wings which are as long as the length of the abdomen on females, and slightly longer on males.

Nymphs: Before reaching adulthood, American cockroach nymphs look like smaller, wingless adults.



American cockroaches are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In New England, American cockroaches prefer to inhabit warm places such as:

Generally, this type of cockroach remains in basements, sewers, and first-floor areas of buildings.


Nocturnal: Like other cockroach species, American cockroaches tend to hide during the day and emerge at night to search for food. The insects are averse to light and will run away quickly when disturbed.

Solitary: American cockroaches, in contrast to other species, often live alone rather than in large groups.


What Do American Cockroaches Eat?

Requiring both food and water to survive, American cockroaches feed on a wide range of edible items, including:

  • Leftover beer or soda
  • Meats and cheeses
  • Grains
  • Sugar

The insects will also consume:

  • Paper products
  • Glue
  • Dry pet food
  • Many other organic materials


Eggs: After mating, adult female American cockroaches lay specialized egg cases containing up to 16 eggs.

Nymphs: The eggs hatch after about 45 days, at which time nymphs emerge.

Adults: Upon hatching, American cockroaches live as nymphs for roughly a year before maturing into fully developed adults.

Lifespan: The typical lifespan of an adult American cockroach lasts about a year and a half, with females usually producing between six and 14 egg cases during that time period.

Problems Caused by American Cockroaches

Saliva & Fecal Matter: Like other structure infesting cockroach species found in New England, American cockroaches contaminate food with saliva and fecal matter, leaving behind an unpleasant odor as well.

Transmit Diseases: American cockroaches regularly crawl over decaying matter and sewage, transferring bacteria and viruses to the legs of the insect and further contaminating food and surfaces with which it comes into contact.

Spread Bacteria: American cockroaches are known to spread more than 30 different types of bacteria, including pathogens like Escherichia coli (E. coli) and salmonella, and intestinal parasites.

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