Fact vs. Fiction: American Cockroach


October 17, 2014

Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White, pmimages@earthlink.net

American cockroaches are considered the largest species of common cockroach. Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White, pmimages@earthlink.net

Fiction: Water bugs are just big cockroaches.

Fact: American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) are mistakenly identified as water bugs (they’re not aquatic) or Palmetto bugs (Eurycotis floridana). They’re also popularly referred to as ship roaches or Bombay canaries.


Fiction: The bigger the cockroach, the slower it moves.

Fact: Considered the largest species of common cockroach, the American species moves at 50 body lengths per second, which equals about 210 mph for a running human.


Fiction: Cockroaches are clean.

Fact: Their feces and body parts can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. They track bacteria and viruses that result in gastrointestinal diseases. They contaminate food and serving surfaces with odorous secretions. They’re not pleasant houseguests.


Fiction: American cockroaches are picky eaters.

Fact: They’re omnivores that exploit every available food source. They relish protein — leather, cheese, beer, flakes of skin, hair, dead or wounded cockroaches (their own or another species), and dead plant or animal materials. They also eat bakery goods, cereals, soiled clothing, paper, glue and starch. Fermenting foods are their favorite.


Fiction: American cockroaches are rare.

Fact: American cockroaches are strong flyers frequently seen at night in almost all the Continental United States.

You can reach the McGoverns at jeffreymcgovern@mindspring.com.

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