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American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the American Cockroach

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The ubiquitous American Cockroach isn't actually a native species, but it has done quite well in its new homeland thanks to its adaptability.

Updated: 04/30/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The American Cockroach is actually not native to the United States despite its common name. It originates from Africa, and likely arrived in North America via trans-oceanic trade, stowing away on ships. It has also been introduced in Antarctica and Greenland. White its original habitat was warm and humid, but it has acclimated to colder climates by taking shelter in warm indoor spaces such as buildings, warehouses, and homes. It can survive in colder, unheated areas such as underground subways and sewers.

The American Cockroach appears glossy and carries a reddish-brown look throughout its body. Even the wings are the same color, and darker brown marks can be seen at the center of the pronotum ('shoulders'). The female has a shorter pair of wings wings while the male's wings extend past his abdomen. This makes males appear longer. They are very good flyers, though most humans see this species running on floors, walls, and ceilings more often than in flight. Their bodies are flat and somewhat flexible, making them able to squeeze through tight, flat spaces.

Adults eat moist organic matter. This can be human food, pet food, or other edible organic matter. Because they eat the same foods as humans and pets, they are considered a huge commercial and home pest. Cockroach infestations can become a problem in homes, multi-unit dwellings, restaurants, and food warehouses. Professional exterminators are very helpful in eradicating infestations from these places.

Females can lay about a dozen eggs at a time and then carry them on their backs for a few days, unloading them in a dark area where the eggs can hatch undisturbed. Nymphs (juveniles) look like smaller versions of adults and can take up to a year to grow to full size. They eat the same types of foods as adults. Female life spans are at least a year long.

Most cockroaches flee for cover with sudden illumination, however, they will explore areas and rooms that already have lights on. Look for them with a flashlight in dark spaces like cabinets, under shelving or pallets, or in potentially humid places like bathrooms, crawlspaces, or basements.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the American-Cockroach

any organic food
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Fast insect icon
Flying insect icon
Pest insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Blattodea
        Family: Blattidae
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          Genus: Periplaneta
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            Species: americana

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Periplaneta americana
Other Name(s): Cockroach, Waterbug, Roach, Palmetto Bug
Category: Cockroach
Size (Adult; Length): 27mm to 40mm (1.06" to 1.57")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; red; yellow
Descriptors: fat; wide; fast; flying; pest; infestation; bathroom

American-Cockroach Video(s)

A brief glimpse of Christmas at an American Cockroach's house.

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 27mm (1.1in) and 40mm (1.6in)
Lo: 27mm
Md: 33.5mm
Hi: 40mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the American Cockroach may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the American Cockroach. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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