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Cockroaches hold a notorious place in society - even seeing their name may produce in your mind feelings of disgust. In reality, only a small proportion of cockroaches are regarded as pests. The cockroaches that mainly live outside are actually helpful to nature, but as you may have experienced, some cockroaches can create problems and should be eliminated if they have entered your home or business.


If you’ve ever wondered whether cockroaches bite or how these pests get into your building in the first place, our Ultimate Guide to Cockroaches is for you. We answer a variety of cockroach questions that will educate you about these infamous critters and better prepare you to deal with them. Just click on any of the questions below to be directed to the answer.

Have you spotted cockroaches or signs of them at your property? Contact Western Exterminator at 888-444-6138 or get in touch with us online.

Basic cockroach questions

Cockroaches and humans

Cockroach control and prevention


Basic cockroach questions

What is a cockroach?

cockroach on blue background

You may have heard of cockroaches or seen one crawling on the floor, or perhaps you’ve read weird facts about them. But what exactly is a cockroach?

Well, a cockroach is an insect that looks a little like a beetle but with long legs and antennae. Cockroaches are actually part of Blattodea, the same scientific order that contains termites.

Many types of cockroaches are actually not a threat to humans, but some species are considered pests. The world contains thousands of cockroach species, such as German and American cockroaches, both of which are common pests in the United States.

What does a cockroach look like?

Cockroaches look a little different depending on the species in question. They come in all sizes. Most of them are oval-shaped, but the length and even the weight can vary. For example, the German cockroach is just over a centimeter in length; the Madagascar hissing cockroach can be up to three inches long; the Giant Burrowing cockroach is 1.2 ounces, making it the heaviest cockroach in the world, but it also grows up to 3.1 inches. 

In general, though, the bodies of cockroaches are flat so they can squeeze through the smallest crack or crevice. They have six legs and a hard-shelled body that provides them with some protection. Their heads generally face downward so they are on a constant lookout for food, with the head protected by more of the armored shell. Most species have wings that fold down over their back. Most cockroaches tend to have a singular color scheme: brown, but there are differences depending upon the species

Baby cockroaches are known as nymphs and have an appearance similar to adult cockroaches. If they have recently gone through a molt, they are white or cream in color but then become darker.

What is the cockroach life cycle?

All cockroaches go through three stages of development – egg, nymph and adult. Eggs are hatched in casings called ootheca, where they develop and are protected from their environment. Once they hatch, they become nymphs and as nymphs, they grow in stages called molts until they become adults. Some species develop wings while others don’t. 

Cockroaches reproduce fast - when you see one, you will want to call in a professional as soon as possible. If you are seeing cockroaches out in the open, then there are probably a lot more infesting your property hidden from sight. Some female cockroaches will only mate once, but then spend the rest of their lives pregnant.

How long do cockroaches live?

The lifespan of a cockroach will depend on the specific species, and conditions such as predators. For example, if a human discovers a cockroach problem indoors and takes action, those cockroaches will probably not live quite as long. Here are lifespans for four types of pest cockroaches:

  • American cockroach – female adults: more than 400 days; male adults: around 200 days.
  • German cockroach – around 100 to 200 days, but can live longer.
  • Brown-banded cockroach – around 200 days, but can live longer.
  • Oriental cockroach – female adults: from around 30 to 180 days; males: around 110-160 days.

As creepy as it sounds, a cockroach can indeed survive without its head for a period of time. PestWorld.org states that a cockroach can live for one week without its head because it breathes through holes in its body and does not need its head for that purpose.

As creepy as it sounds, a cockroach can indeed survive without its head for a period of time. PestWorld.org states that a cockroach can live for one week without its head because it breathes through holes in its body and does not need its head for that purpose.

Where do cockroaches live? Where do cockroaches hide?


Cockroaches are everywhere - an indication of their remarkable ability to adapt to all climates. Some estimates say that there are up to 70 species in the United States.

Roaches love to be in dark, warm areas - that's why your home or building is so attractive to them. They want to be warm, have lots of places to hide and be close to food and water. Cockroaches prefer the night - which is why you usually see them when you turn on the light. They prefer the darkness for finding food and mating purposes. Cockroach bodies have adapted to squeezing into tiny crevices and cracks which means that even the smallest hole can allow a cockroach entry to your building or property.

Do cockroaches bite?


Cockroaches do not have a reputation for biting people. Their mouthparts are not strong or big enough to bite. At the same time, in rare instances, cockroaches may feed on fingernails and skin scales if an infestation is severe - and that unpleasant thought should encourage you to call a pest expert if you believe you’ve got an infestation.

What do cockroaches eat?

In general, cockroaches are omnivores. The ones that reside near humans can eat different foods but prefer meats, starchy substances, and sweet items. They can also feed on hair, stamps, wallpaper and beer. Also, cockroaches are able to survive for a whole month without food. As even your household items may fall prey to these insects’ habits, it’s important to prevent and get rid of cockroaches as soon as you think they’ve invaded.

Cockroaches can feed in places that lack sanitation, like garbage cans and sewage systems. Cleaning up can lessen how many sources of food and water are available for them.

Do cockroaches have wings? Do cockroaches fly?

Cockroaches can have wings; however, the majority of pest cockroaches do not actually fly. Male brown-banded and American cockroaches are able to fly, and so can males of some other types of cockroaches. Additionally, among some tropical cockroaches, both males and females fly.

Where do cockroaches come from? How do you get cockroaches?

German cockroach close up

Cockroaches can come into a structure in different ways, but this can vary with the kind in question. For example, peridomestic cockroaches such as Oriental and American cockroaches can enter a building via crevices and cracks. American cockroaches, in particular, can enter through drains, such as sink and shower drains.

Domestic cockroaches such as German cockroaches, however, can be transported from one location to another on items like possessions and shipments. Even potted plants brought indoors can carry in cockroaches and their eggs.

Do cockroaches sleep?

Cockroaches do have a period where their rhythms slow, which is typically daytime, whereas they are active at night. During the nighttime, cockroaches may be looking for water, food or a mate.

Cockroaches and humans

What are the most common pest cockroaches that people encounter?

Out of all the cockroaches out there, a few species, in particular, can create issues in the United States. American and German cockroaches are most commonly noticed, and on the West Coast, these types are the most common pest roaches.

Other pest cockroaches you may come across include Oriental, brown banded and smokybrown cockroaches. Out West, you may also run into the Turkestan cockroach. Female Turkestan cockroaches are dark in color and males are colored brownish-yellow.

Do cockroaches cause asthma?

Cockroaches yield allergens that have been tied to asthma development. Allergens of roaches result from droppings, cast skins and saliva. It’s worth noting that research has found cockroaches are a cause of allergies for inner-city children. Actually, a study published in 2011 of asthmatic children found an association between “exposure to cockroach allergen” and hospitalization.

For nearly 50 years now, experts have known that cockroaches are a major cause of asthma and allergies. The concern comes from their droppings, the skins that they shed and from the saliva they use to digest food. Cockroach skins and saliva release airborne particles that people can have an allergic reaction to (especially those who have asthma). In urban areas, one of the major causes of asthma and allergies comes from the presence of cockroaches.

What are the dangers of cockroaches to humans? Do cockroaches carry disease?

cockroach close up

Cockroaches are no joke - they could pose multiple threats to humans. Their droppings can contaminate walls, food and stored items, which could pose a danger if you operate a facility where food is stored. They also like electronics (as they are warm) and could create short circuits - a potential problem if your building contains electronic equipment.

Additionally, cockroaches are suspected to carry microorganisms like bacteria that cause diseases such as food poisoning. The insects are thought to obtain the microorganisms from unclean locations like sewers and bathrooms and pass them to clean places like surfaces where food is prepared, as well as food itself. You certainly need to avoid this issue at your restaurant or hospitality property.

Cockroach control and prevention

What attracts cockroaches?

Poor sanitation can attract these pests because it provides them with food and water. Additionally, cracks and crevices in your property, as well as shrubs, could offer shelter. Access points such as around plumbing or wall holes could permit cockroaches to enter. The following actions can help you avoid a cockroach issue:

  • Trim greenery
  • Get rid of standing water.
  • Eliminate food that has been left out - put it in sealed containers.

How do you get rid of cockroaches?

It takes training to get rid of cockroaches, so if you have seen signs of them, you will want to reach out to a pest control professional with a good understanding of cockroach species and habits. Western Exterminator has a great deal of expertise in cockroach control and we can be trusted to eliminate an infestation. 

Western Exterminator’s cockroach control services will include an inspection of the area with a flashlight, insecticide application, and insect monitor placement. Your specialist will remove any current cockroaches with a vacuum and then place mouse glue boards and apply granular cockroach bait where cockroaches may enter. A non-repellent liquid residual insecticide will be applied to areas where cockroaches harbor or are likely to crawl. Any gaps in your home will be sealed with a silicone sealant, copper mesh, expandable foam, etc. Getting rid of the cockroaches may require follow-up appointments to eliminate the problem, but we will ensure the challenge is fully resolved and all of your concerns are addressed.

If you suspect cockroaches have invaded your property, don’t delay in getting the issue handled. Your local Western specialists know how to get rid of cockroaches and can talk with you about how to keep them away, too. Reach out to us today!