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American Cockroach

American Cockroach

The American cockroach is now common in tropical climates. It is the largest species of common cockroach and a pest when found in homes. The American cockroach is considered to be one of the fastest running insects in the world, travelling at speed of up to 50 body lengths per second. And, unlike most cockroaches, it is also able to fly short distances using its wings. In large infestations, there is a strong odour of the secretions produced by these insects.

The American cockroach is also known as the “waterbug” and is often mistakenly called the “palmetto bug”; the latter is actually the Florida woods Cockroach. The American cockroach is not native to North America but believed to have been transported from Africa during the 1600s.


What Do They Look Like?

  • Long, flat, and wide body shape with six legs and two long antennae protruding from the head
  • Adults are approximately 28 to 43 mm in length
  • Reddish-brown colour with a light-brown/yellow band at the edge of the pronotum
  • Ability to fly or glide short distances

The American Cockroach, Periplaneta Americana, is one of the most common species of cockroaches in Canada and may grow to approximately three to five centimetres long. Both males and females are approximately the same size. Males have wings that extend slightly beyond the abdomen, and females may appear broader in the abdomen. Both sexes have additional jointed appendages at the tip of the abdomen called cerci. Males also possess additional appendages at the rear of the abdomen called stylets. The body of the insect appears flat, which allows for easy entry through cracks and other openings to the home.

Life Cycle, Reproduction, & Eggs

The American cockroach is a commonly encountered structure infesting cockroach in some parts of Canada. It typically grows up to 5 cm in length and has brownish-red colouring. The flat body allows American cockroaches to easily access homes and businesses through cracks and holes in walls, foundations, and sewers. Like other cockroach species, the American cockroach lays its eggs in an egg capsule which is called an “ootheca”.

Measuring around 8 millimetres, American cockroach oothecae are dark brown in colour and symmetrical in shape with each ootheca containing about 16 eggs. The female cockroach drops the egg capsule within a day of formation and produces a new ootheca about every nine to 10 days. Throughout their year-long lives, female American cockroach produces on average 10 egg capsules but can reach maximum of up to 30. The ootheca contains enough water to sufficiently nurture eggs until hatching. Young American cockroaches hatch in 24 to 60 days. The rate of development from egg to adult depends upon the environmental temperature.

Habitat and Behaviour

A day in the life of a American cockroach

The American cockroach is most likely to be found in and around restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, home kitchens, and other food preparation areas. Cockroaches tend to prefer areas that are warm and humid. Like most indoor pests, they are looking for sources of food and water as well as a safe place to rest and reproduce.

American cockroaches are omnivorous and scavengers and they will feed on almost anything available. However, they do starchy foods, flour and fermented products.


Why should I be concerned?

Although cockroaches are not often associated with damage caused to buildings and vegetation, they have the potential to do great harm as they travel through various habitats, including refuse heaps and sewers. Cockroaches contaminate food with their feces and defensive secretions, as well as carrying pathogenic organisms on the feet and legs. They can carry intestinal diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid fever, and cholera. People who experience frequent and prolonged exposure to cockroaches may develop mild to severe allergic reactions such as dermatitis, itching, swelling of the eyelids, and serious respiratory conditions.

Signs of American Cockroach Infestation

Tips for prevention and control

These tips may help you prevent American cockroaches in your home:

  • Do not leave food out overnight
  • No not leave pet food and water out overnight
  • Wash you dishes, pans, and utensil as soon as you are done using them
  • Remove all food or spilled drinks from counter tops and clean counters, sinks, and tables with soapy water
  • Vacuum all cracks and crevices to remove debris and food
  • Sweep or vacuum any food and debris on floors
  • Take garbage out daily in closed plastic containers; keep waste containers washed and clean
  • Repair any leaky water pipes or faucets
  • Recycle cans and bottles on a regular basis; wash and clean containers that hold recycling items
  • Increase ventilation where condensation is a problem

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