Mosquitoes flying around

How to Get Rid of American Cockroaches

August 02, 2022

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Cockroaches are a well-known pest, especially in larger cities where they have access to big buildings full of shelter and food. With adults as big as 2+ inches, the American cockroach is one of the largest and most common types that you might see crawling inside your home. The German cockroach is slightly more abundant in the U.S.

Learn more about what American cockroaches look like, what they eat (including what might be attracting them into your home), and how to get rid of them.

cockroach on floor past a door

What Are American Cockroaches?

Originally introduced from Africa in the 1600s, the ironically-named American cockroach is now common in the U.S. It has six legs, an oval-shaped body, and antennae. American cockroaches have a pattern near the head that resembles the number 8. Adult American cockroaches have wings, but the male cockroaches’ wings are slightly longer than the females’.

An adult American cockroach’s lifespan can be up to 400 days, during which they can produce as many as 160 young cockroaches (16 eggs per month for up to 10 months). Immediately after hatching, the nymphs are white in color. An American cockroach will molt 6–14 times (growing larger each time) before it dies.

These cockroaches usually set up camp in drainage systems, sewers, and the moist areas around your home. Outdoors, you may find them in wood piles, hollow trees, and mulch. They actually don’t love to venture inside homes, except after a heavy rain to look for shelter, food, or water that is unavailable to them outside. 

What Do American Cockroaches Eat?

American cockroaches will eat basically anything, but they enjoy decaying organic matter like dead insects more than anything else. If that’s not available, they will definitely nosh on any food you’ve left out, especially bread, fruit, fish, peanuts, and rice, in addition to any other semi-digestible material in your home, including leather, beer, paper, hair, the glue in cardboard boxes, dead skin, and even the starch found in book bindings. 

american cockroach eating crumbs

Are American Cockroaches Dangerous?

While they rarely bite (and their bites pose no health risk), American cockroaches can spread disease onto surfaces they touch via their legs due to their fondness of climbing through and living in sewers. This includes, but isn’t limited to, serious illnesses like dysentery, typhoid fever, and cholera (in fact, at least 22 species of pathogenic human bacteria, viruses, and fungi have been attributed to cockroach spread). Cockroach excrement and cast skins also contain a number of allergens, to which many people exhibit allergic responses, such as skin rashes, watery eyes, congestion of nasal passages, asthma, and sneezing. 

If you do encounter a cockroach bite, like with most other common non-fatal bites, further medical treatment is only really necessary in the case of an infection. When in doubt, talk to your primary care physician if you aren’t sure.

How To Get Rid of American Cockroaches

Like with most pest infestations, the following suggestions are some good first steps toward getting rid of any cockroaches currently in your home and preventing new ones from coming in. 

  • Seal up cracks in the walls of your home with caulk
  • Remove rotting leaves
  • Store away uneaten food
  • Minimize clutter
  • Clean hard-to-reach places around furniture
  • Dry up any moist locations by fixing leaky pipes

Although cockroaches aren’t necessarily aggressive or violent like other pests, they still pose significant threats to the health and safety of your family. Pest control can be a stressful process, so call a professional pest service to assess the problem. Professionally applied cockroach treatments effectively target nests and shelters where American cockroaches live so they don’t have any reason to come back into your home.

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