Most Wanted: American Cockroach


September 30, 2014

American cockroaches

Male (left), ootheca (middle) and female American cockroaches
Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White,

Also known as the kakerlac (from the Danish word meaning cockroach), the ship cockroach and the Bombay canary, Periplaneta americana is a pestiferous second to its cousin, the German cockroach, Blattella germanica. P. americana can perpetrate a population of more than 5,000 within access to a single sewer.

Although adults of both sexes are fully winged, weak flights extend American cockroach assaults to structures, food and public health. Structural crime scene investigations include sub-basements, sewer systems and steam tunnels. Crimes against food occur in bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants.

Reddish brown to dark brown, the adult female lives for more than a year, placing many oothecae. Her modus operandi is to carry the ootheca for one or two days and then adhere it to an object within a protective microenvironment. In four to six weeks, about 12 nymphs emerge.

As omnivores, American cockroaches forage in lower architectural areas. Heavy infestations might trespass into food processing areas.

American Cockroach All-Points Bulletin (APB)*

  • Periplaneta americana
  • 1.1 to 2.1 in.
  • reddish-brown, a pale band along edge of pronotum
  • nymph development: 5 to 12 months
  • adult lifespan: 90 to 706 days
  • ideal temperature range: 68°F to 84°F

*Development depends on the environment — temperature, available water, nutrition, refuge and lack of predators.

Dr. Mitchell, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., B.C.E., a board-certified physician and entomologist, is principal technical specialist for PestWest Environmental, as well as PMP’s Technical Editor. He can be reached at or 515-333-8923.

About the Author

MITCHELL, D.O., DVM, PsyD, BCE, is technical director of PestWest, and a frequent contributor to PMP.

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