American Cockroach


Actual Size: 2.1”

Characteristics: Brown to reddish brown; winged

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Live outside but can be found in sewers and drains. In the Southern United States, they are found in shady garden areas and yards.


  • Most abundant in commercial facilities and sewers
  • Could carry disease-causing bacteria that are associated with these putrid conditions
  • Move readily through sewer systems from building to building

American Cockroaches in Virginia

American cockroaches are frequently called “water bugs” or “palmetto bugs”. These are the classic large roaches that people fear. Some can measure up to 2 1/8 inches long! These roaches have fully developed reddish-brown wings that enable them to fly. Contrary to its name, the American cockroach is not native to North America and was probably introduced via ships from Africa. It is currently found throughout the United States and is second only to the German cockroach in abundance. Adults can live up to one year and an adult female will produce an average of 150 young in her lifetime.

This roach consumes decaying organic matter but is a scavenger and will eat almost anything. It prefers sweets, but has also been observed eating paper, pet food, soap, hair, fruit, book bindings, cardboard boxes, cloth and dead insects.

American Cockroach Environment

When outside, the American cockroach is found in dark, damp environments such as bat caves and hollow trees. In urban settings, it is a common inhabitant of sewers, storm drainage systems, prisons, factories, hospitals, and hotels. American cockroaches prefer warm, damp environments and can often be found outdoors around drains, garbage bins, trees and wood piles. When these roaches venture inside homes in search of food, they often live in damp areas such as basements, garages, kitchens, and bathrooms. They prefer the dark, which is why people often see them scattering when a light is turned on.

American Cockroach Habits & Dangers

American cockroaches can bite, but almost never bite people. These cockroaches are considered dangerous pests because they breed and feed in unsanitary areas close to humans, such as garbage storage, sewage systems, and septic tanks. American cockroaches have a characteristic odor when present and can contaminate human food and surfaces with their feces and body parts. Foraging cockroaches can also be vectors of disease, depositing germs or bacteria in areas they inhabit and causing asthma attacks in some people sensitive to cockroach allergens. If you notice American cockroaches in your Virginia property, immediately call your cockroach control experts!