American Cockroach


Actual Size: 2.1”

Characteristics: Brown or brownish-red in color.

Legs: 6

Wings: Yes, adults have wings and can fly.

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Mainly lives outdoors but can also infest sewers and drains, particularly in the northern United States. In southern areas, they are found in shady garden areas and yards.


  • Both males and females can fly.
  • Are the largest species of house-infesting cockroaches.
  • Are known to consume alcohol, especially beer.

American Cockroaches in Memphis TN Metro Area

The American cockroach goes by various names such as water bug or palmetto bug, along with some inappropriate terms. Among the cockroaches that invade houses, it is the largest, reaching a length of up to 2 1⁄8 inches with fully developed reddish-brown wings. Despite its name, the American cockroach is not native to North America and is believed to have been brought over from Africa on ships. Currently, it can be found all across the United States and is the second most common cockroach after the German cockroach. Adults have a lifespan of up to one year, and a mature female can produce an average of 150 offspring during her lifetime.

American Cockroach Habitat

In its natural habitat, the American cockroach can be found in bat caves and hollow trees. However, in urban environments, it commonly resides in sewers, storm drainage systems, prisons, factories, hospitals, and hotels. This cockroach species is an omnivore and takes advantage of various food sources. It consumes decomposing organic matter but also acts as a scavenger, eating almost anything it encounters. While it has a preference for sweets, it has been observed consuming paper, pet food, soap, hair, fruit, book bindings, cardboard boxes, cloth, and deceased insects. American cockroaches thrive in warm and moist conditions, often spotted outdoors near drains, garbage containers, trees, and piles of wood. When these roaches enter homes in search of food, they tend to inhabit damp areas like basements, garages, kitchens, and bathrooms.

American Cockroach Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

While American cockroaches possess the capability to bite, they seldom do so. However, they are classified as hazardous pests due to their tendency to reproduce and feed in unhygienic locations near humans, such as garbage storage areas, sewage systems, and septic tanks. When American cockroaches are present, they emit a distinct odor, and their feces and body parts can contaminate human food and surfaces. These roaches can also serve as disease vectors as they forage, spreading germs or bacteria in the areas they inhabit. Moreover, for individuals with sensitivity to cockroach allergens, the presence of these roaches can trigger asthma attacks.

If you suspect an American cockroach infestation, contact a professional cockroach exterminator.