What is so American about the American cockroach?

Oct 12, 2022 | Blog

Cockroaches invade homes, spoil food, carry nasty diseases and can be such a nuisance. The American cockroach is the largest of the house-infesting roaches. In America it is also commonly known as the water bug, the Bombay canary, or the palmetto bug and is second only to the German cockroach in abundance.

Where are they from?

Despite its name, the American cockroach is not native to North America and some evidence suggested that American cockroaches were introduced via ships from Africa in the early 1600s. They are now found worldwide.

This cockroach is readily found in commercial and large buildings such as restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and anywhere food is prepared and stored. The American cockroach is seldom found in houses; however, infestations can occur after heavy rain. They can develop to huge numbers, greater than 5,000 sometimes being found in individual sewer manholes. Outdoors, American cockroaches are found in moist shady areas such as hollow trees, wood piles, and mulch. They are sometimes found under roof shingles and in attics.

They nest outside but will wander indoors to search for food and water or to avoid extreme weather conditions. You will find American Cockroaches in areas such as trees, woodpiles, garbage facilities, and accumulations of organic debris around homes.

What do they look like?

These troublesome pests are typically reddish-brown with a yellowish figure 8 pattern on the back of the head. Adult American cockroaches average between 35-41mm in length. Both males and females have wings and can fly short distances.
Nymphs are similar in appearance to adult American cockroaches but are smaller and do not have wings.

Do American Cockroaches Bite?

Although American cockroaches can bite, they seldom do. If an American cockroach bites you, it should not be a concern unless it gets infected in which you should seek medical attention.

Medical and Economic Significance

American cockroaches can become a public health issue due to their association with human waste and disease and their ability to move from sewers into homes and commercial establishments. At least 22 species of pathogenic human bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoans, as well as five species of helminthic worms, have been isolated from field collected American cockroaches. Cockroaches are also displeasing because they can soil items with their excrement and regurgitation.


American cockroaches have three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The eggs are laid in capsules that are dark brown and symmetrically shaped. The female drops her egg capsule within a day after it is formed. She often drops it in a suitable location near a food source or in a protected area. Each capsule averages 14 to 16 eggs. Usually, one capsule is produced each week and is often glued to a hidden surface with secretions from the female’s mouth. Each female produces from 15 to 90 egg capsules.

The length of the egg stage varies from 29 to 58 days. At room temperature, nymphs hatch out in 50 to 55 days. Young nymphs are greyish brown and after the first few moults become reddish brown. The nymphal stage varies in length from 160 to 971 days. The number of offspring per year averages 800. Under ideal conditions an adult female can live up to 15 months, males for a somewhat shorter period.

Managing American cockroaches

To control American cockroaches, it is important to do a meticulous inspection. A cockroach survey (trapping) is sometimes necessary to determine the extent of an infestation, as even a thorough inspection does not always reveal all cockroach harbourages or foraging areas. Cockroach surveys involve placing sticky traps at strategic locations within the building. Whenever possible place survey traps either against a wall or in a corner of the floor, a shelf, a drawer, or under equipment and counters. One week of trapping with enough trapping sites usually provides enough information for effective control.
American cockroaches are filthy, atrocious, and nasty creatures but they can be stopped!

If you fear that your home may be invaded by American Cockroaches, visit our website at https://www.peststore.co.za to view all the Cockroach Destroying products we have to offer. Or give us a call on 086 999 0959 for some expert advice!