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What Is a Flying Cockroach?

Niki Acker
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Flying cockroaches are insects with hard outer shell that range from about 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) to almost 4 inches (10 cm) in length, and are capable of flight. Although many species have adapted to living on the ground as scavengers, cockroaches have a long history, and may have been one of the first animals to fly. With increases in international travel and trade, various species have found homes in many different countries around the globe. Many people dislike living around cockroaches in general because they can spread disease, ruin food and books, and leave a strong smell, but flying cockroaches usually do not directly bother humans.

Common Flying Cockroach Species

American

The reddish-brown American cockroach, or Periplaneta americana, is native to Africa, but has lived in the US since the early 1600s. It can grow up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) in length, making it one of the longer species. Although they are able to fly, they spend more time running across the floor or ground and usually hide from light. This species is often confused with the palmetto bug, or Florida woods cockroach, which is a poor flier.

Asian

Unlike the American roach, Blattella asahinai, or the Asian cockroach, is attracted to light, but rarely enters buildings or homes. It flies well, and is generally considered to be a beneficial insect, since it feeds on a variety of insect species that destroy crops. The Asian roach largely resembles the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, the large brown bug that is the most common cockroach species in American homes.

Australian

The Australian cockroach, Periplaneta australasiae, is another strong flier. It looks almost exactly like the American roach, and is also found in hot, humid parts of the Americas. It can be differentiated from its near-identical cousin by the light stripes on its wings. It is also slightly smaller than the American version, and normally doesn't grow longer than 1.45 inches (3.7 cm) .

Cuban

The bright green Cuban cockroach, or Panchlora nivea, is mostly found in Central America, but can also be spotted in the Southwest US. This species sometimes goes inside buildings, but does not typically infest structures. It is thinner than many other species, and normally reaches lengths of 0.75 inches (1.9 cm). Like the Asian species, they are attracted to light.

Pennsylvania Woods

The Parcoblatta pennsylvanica, or Pennsylvania woods cockroach is active during the day, and doesn't usually infest homes. Though both genders of this species have light brown wings, only the males fly. Males are also slightly larger than females, growing to be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, while females grow to be about 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) long.

Megaloblatta

The largest flying cockroach, Megaloblatta blaberoides, makes its home primarily in South and Central America. It can have a wingspan up to 7.2 inches (18 cm), and can be up to 3.9 inches (10 cm) long. A similar species that is native to Colombia, the Megaloblatta longipennis, has a similar wingspan. Neither of these are considered pest species.

Pest Control

Although cockroaches are often thought of as pests, fewer than 1% of them infest homes and bother people. These types normally have underdeveloped wings and can only fly for short periods, if at all. Most cockroaches that do fly are wild species and normally do not actively bother humans.

Those who do find themselves bothered by flying cockroaches can take a few approaches to get rid of them. Putting up screens, removing debris from around a house and yard, and keeping doors and windows closed can help make an area unattractive to roaches and keep them out of the house. Also, since several species of flying cockroach are attracted to light, leaving porch lights off or making sure to close windows to rooms with lights on can help as well.

In the rare event of a flying cockroach infestation, professional extermination is the most reliable method of removing the insects. Commercial roach sprays normally kill the bugs but also may contain harmful chemicals. Less toxic at-home methods of roach elimination are available, however. For example, boric acid crystals will kill roaches by causing them to dehydrate. These crystals are usually found at a local hardware or drug store.

Do All Cockroaches Fly?

Most species of cockroaches have wings and many can fly. However, most prefer to crawl on the ground to scavenge for food. Even the roaches that do fly are usually not very good at it.

Are Flying Cockroaches More Dangerous?

The only difference between flying cockroaches and any other type is that they can fly away from danger and reach places that roaches that only crawl may not be able to get to. Cockroaches only bite in cases of very large infestations when the roaches have difficulty finding a food source but can spread dangerous bacteria, such as E. Coli and salmonella. Additionally, some people are allergic to the insects.

Do All Cockroaches Have Wings?

Some cockroaches have wings and some don't. Most cockroach nymphs do not have wings. The Madagascar hissing cockroach does not have wings at all. The female Oriental cockroach has only underdeveloped wing pads. Neither of these types of cockroaches can fly. Cockroaches that have wings have two pairs. One pair protects the body like a shield.

Why Do Cockroaches Fly?

Some cockroaches fly to escape predators or to get to areas that they can not easily reach by crawling. Because cockroaches are ectothermic, they may sometimes fly to escape conditions that are too hot or too cold. Cockroaches prefer to remain in temperatures that range from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Roaches may also glide to get from high-up areas to lower surfaces.

Why Do Some Cockroaches Not Fly?

Some roaches have a larger body mass compared to their wing size than others. This may make flying difficult for these varieties. Roaches make up for their poor flying by being one of the fastest running insects. Many cockroaches can travel several feet in just a few seconds. At a speed of 50 body lengths per second, the American cockroach is three times faster than a cheetah.

How To Get Rid of Flying Cockroach?

Flying cockroaches tend to hide during the day and feed on decaying organic matter and food crumbs. You may not notice a cockroach infestation until it has become quite large. However, signs of an infestation may include waste, a musty smell and cast shells.

To get rid of flying cockroaches in your home, start by figuring out where they are hiding. Cockroaches tend to hide in moist, dark, places, such as behind appliances, in bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, cabinets and under sinks. Put out roach traps or boric acid tablets in areas where roaches are hiding. Use an insecticide inside and outside your home. If you have a particularly large infestation, you may want to contact a professional exterminator.

If you prefer a natural solution, try food-grade diatomaceous earth. This product is safe for people and pets, but if you sprinkle it in areas where cockroaches hide it can be deadly to pests. You can also try mixing baking soda, which is toxic to cockroaches, with sugar.

How To Prevent a Flying Cockroach Problem?

Preventing flying cockroaches isn't much different than any other type of cockroach. Start by sealing the outside of your home. This makes it more difficult for roaches to get inside. Make sure all of your windows and doors have screens and repair any holes. Keep the inside of your home clean. Roaches will still enter clean homes but are more likely to be attracted to homes with ample food sources. Cockroaches will eat almost anything they can find, but they particularly like fermenting foods and have been known to eat the glue used for book binding. Roaches also prefer areas with moisture, so fix any leaky plumbing or appliances.

Where Do Flying Cockroaches Come From?

Most flying cockroaches prefer to live in the outdoors. Different varieties live in different habitats. Flying wood roaches prefer wooded areas and often live in tree trunks, decaying organic matter and woodpiles. Smoky Brown cockroaches like woodpiles, gardens and other humid areas. Australian cockroaches prefer tree hollows and other damp places. Asian cockroaches mostly live in grass and other shady areas. Cuban cockroaches are mostly found in shrubs and trees.

Are Flying Cockroaches Noctural?

One of the reasons that many people don't realize that cockroaches can fly is that they tend to be nocturnal. However, some types are attracted to artificial lighting and may be spotted flying around electric lights.

How Do Flying Cockroaches Get Inside Houses?

Flying cockroaches may enter homes through open windows or doors and torn screens. They may also hide inside bags or boxes and crawl through pipes or openings in exterior walls.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a flying cockroach?

A flying cockroach is a type of cockroach that has developed wings capable of flight. Unlike their non-flying counterparts, these insects can glide and flutter over short distances, which they often use as a means to escape predators or to find food. Not all cockroach species have this ability, but those that do can be particularly adept at invading homes and spreading quickly.

Are flying cockroaches common?

Yes, flying cockroaches are relatively common, especially in warm and tropical regions. Species like the American cockroach and the smoky brown cockroach are known for their flying abilities. According to entomological studies, these species are widespread and can often be found in urban environments where they have easy access to food and shelter.

Can all cockroaches fly?

No, not all cockroaches can fly. There are over 4,500 species of cockroaches, but only a subset of these have wings that are developed enough for flight. The ability to fly depends on the species and the environmental conditions they have adapted to. Some species have wings but do not fly, while others lack wings entirely.

Why do cockroaches fly towards humans?

Cockroaches may fly towards humans by accident, not by intention. These insects are attracted to light and warmth, which are often found near humans. Additionally, the air currents created by a person's movement can inadvertently guide a flying cockroach in their direction. It's a defensive mechanism rather than an aggressive one, as cockroaches generally try to avoid human contact.

How can I prevent flying cockroaches from entering my home?

To prevent flying cockroaches from entering your home, ensure that all windows and doors are properly sealed. Use screens with fine mesh to block their entry. Regularly dispose of garbage and keep food containers sealed. Reduce moisture by fixing leaks and ensuring good ventilation, as cockroaches are attracted to damp environments. Regular cleaning helps eliminate potential food sources and hiding spots.

Are flying cockroaches more dangerous than non-flying ones?

Flying cockroaches are not inherently more dangerous than non-flying ones in terms of health risks. However, their ability to fly can make them more of a nuisance as they can spread contaminants over a wider area more quickly. Like all cockroaches, they can potentially carry pathogens that may lead to diseases, so it's important to manage any infestation promptly.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker , Writer
"In addition to her role as a AllThingsNature editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "

Discussion Comments

By anon955408 — On Jun 07, 2014

I hate those things.

By anon345842 — On Aug 22, 2013

I just saw a flying cockroach in my apt in NYC! I've seen plenty of roaches here, but never one that flew! So creepy!

By anon163889 — On Mar 29, 2011

I have seen a flying cockroach flying out of my bathroom sink yesterday,but we killed it before it could get out. Eeewwww. Alsom I had one crawl on my face. That thing was the size of a ring in a binder. I've been paranoid since.

By anon154200 — On Feb 20, 2011

I recently went into the bathroom and saw a massive cockroach on the wall and got some spray but before I got the chance to spray it flew around the room. I managed to catch it, well, my dad did. I live in Sydney, Australia, and from what I've gathered, it's not supposed to be common here for a flying cockroach of this size. Is this okay? Should I get it checked out at all?

By anon140517 — On Jan 07, 2011

I just saw a flying cockroach flying in the upstairs game room. And I am terrified of these nasty little things, does that mean that there's a lot more??

By anon106778 — On Aug 27, 2010

So I get up this a.m. to get my kids ready for school, and lo and behold something is flying around my living room. To me it is very big, about the size of a golf ball. It lands on the floor, and I go to kill it and it's a cockroach! Ewww! Never knew they flew! --ashley

By anon91443 — On Jun 21, 2010

Just take a trip to New Orleans and you can see flying cockroaches any time you want. Mostly though, you see them when you don't want to.

By averagejoe — On Jun 17, 2010

I have a friend from Venezuela who said the cockroaches there were huge and also flew! She has a fear of cockroaches from those experiences!

By astor — On Jun 03, 2010

A cockroach with a seven inch wing span?! What a nightmare!

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, where cockroaches are extremely rare. When I moved to the Sacramento area for school however, I had to get used to these cringe-inducing pests. I'm sure this is probably the case in all regions of the U.S., but the roaches here are extremely aggressive. When I was walking home late one night I almost stepped on one and it started making this horrible hissing sound and skittering around like the apocalypse was coming. That sound is forever ingrained in my mind.

Niki Acker

Niki Acker

Writer

"In addition to her role as a AllThingsNature editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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