Open Integrated Pest Management Education Resource

American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
Integrated Pest Management Plan


American Cockroach

This document contains information about the biology and management of the American cockroach. A wide range of management options is listed. From this list, the IPM Practitioner can choose options to develop a unique management plan for each particular customer site.

General Information

Management Objectives for the Pest at the Particular Site


What do you want/need to accomplish at the site in regard to the American cockroach?

The answer to this question will vary, depending on the site and the customer. Some examples are

  • Reduce cockroach complaints in the building and work with occupants to prevent future complaints.
  • Help the customer comply with Health Department regulations.

American Cockroach Identification

  • Adults are a shiny reddish to dark brown, but seldom darker than a reddish chestnut.
  • Adults have light or yellowish markings on the pronotum (the region directly behind the head).
  • Adults are about 1 ½ inches long.
  • Males and females are about the same size and look very similar, except that the male’s wings extend slightly past the end of the abdomen.
  • Both males and females have a pair of thin appendages called “cerci” protruding from the ends of their abdomens.
  • Males have an additional and more delicate set of appendages called “styli” located between the cerci.
  • The young resemble adults but are smaller. They are also reddish to dark brown and often have pale markings on the abdomen.
  • Adults have wings and will occasionally fly, although they prefer to run.
  • Wings are absent on very young American cockroaches, but as the young develop, wing buds appear and gradually increase in size.
  • Adult females briefly carry their egg capsule (called the “ootheca”) protruding from the rear of their abdomen. After about 2 days, they drop the egg capsule, hide it, and sometimes glue it to a surface.
  • The egg capsule is about 5/16 inch long and contains between 14 and 16 eggs. The egg capsule is symmetrical and its length is less than twice its width.

Why the American Cockroach is Considered a Pest

  • American cockroaches feed on and contaminate a variety of materials including food, paper, goods, book bindings, and clothing.
  • They can also impart a strong, unpleasant odor to items and surfaces they crawl across while foraging for food.
  • In general, cockroaches are not associated with severe illnesses or disease outbreaks, but cockroaches can transmit organisms that cause gastro- intestinal distress and food poisoning as they wander over food and utensils.
  • Cockroaches are a source of allergens that can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks in some people; however, American cockroaches are not considered the main cockroach culprit.
  • Most people are disgusted by the thought or the actual presence of cockroaches.

Special Regulatory Conditions

California Health and Safety Code Sections that relate to mice and cleanliness in food establishments:


114010. “All food shall be prepared, stored, displayed, dispensed, placed, transported, sold, and served as to be protected from dirt, vermin, unnecessary handling, droplet contamination, overhead leakage, or other contamination.”


114030. “A food facility shall at all times be so constructed, equipped, maintained, and operated as to prevent the entrance and harborage of animals, birds, and vermin, including, but not limited to, rodents and insects.”


114040. “The premises of each food facility shall be kept clean and free of litter, rubbish, and vermin.”


114050. “All food facilities and all equipment, utensils, and facilities shall be kept clean, fully operative, and in good repair.”


Biology and Behavior of the American Cockroach


To be successful, management strategies must take into consideration the biology and behavior of the pest. Understanding the biology of a pest can reveal weaknesses and vulnerabilities that can be exploited when trying to manage the pest.


General Biology

  • The American cockroach is native to a warm, moist climate, probably tropical Africa.
  • The American cockroach generally lives outdoors, but can move indoors and live in human structures.
  • Indoor American cockroaches are common in dark, damp, warm areas.
  • American cockroaches have 3 distinct life stages: egg, nymph, and adult.
  • Adult females carry the egg capsule around with them for around 2 days before hiding it or gluing it to a surface.
  • The egg capsule hatches into many tiny nymphs that resemble the adults but are smaller, without wings, and cannot reproduce.
  • The nymphs molt (shed their skins and grow a certain amount) 9 to 13 times before reaching adulthood.
  • The process from egg to adult takes 6 to 12 months, depending on the temperature and availability of food and water.
  • Adults can live up to 14 or 15 months, but there are many environmental factors that can shorten this life span.

Feeding Behavior

  • The American cockroach avoids light and usually does most of its foraging for food at night.
  • The American cockroach seems to prefer decaying organic matter but will also feed on soap, poster paint, wallpaper and wallpaper paste, postage stamps, paper goods, book bindings and clothing.
  • For survival, water is more critical to the American cockroach than food. Adults can survive 2 or 3 months without food but only about a month without water.

General Behavior

The American cockroach prefers dark, damp, warm environments. It is commonly found in restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries and is associated with

  • Steam tunnels
  • Steam pipes
  • Boiler rooms
  • Sanitary and storm sewers
  • Septic tanks
  • Drains and grease traps
  • Damp basements and garages
  • Landscaping, especially that with ample moisture and decaying vegetation

Factors that favor American Cockroaches

  • Poor sanitation provides large quantities of food for cockroaches and makes them less likely to feed on poison baits, and thus harder to control.
  • Grease and food waste in drains provide abundant food.
  • Leaks and other sources of moisture provide water.
  • Clutter provides numerous hiding places.
  • Poor building maintenance can provide cockroaches with access to structures and with harborage, water, and easy pathways from room to room within the structure.
  • Little or no inspection of goods coming into the structure can allow cockroaches to hitchhike into the building.

Monitoring and Record Keeping

The purpose of monitoring is to track pest activity in order to catch small problems before they become overwhelming. Monitoring makes it possible to pinpoint pest activity so treatments can be targeted. Monitoring makes it possible to properly time pest management actions and to evaluate the effectiveness of those actions. Records are kept to document the methods and products used and to record information that can be used to fine-tune pest management methods and plan future actions.


Sticky insect monitors and careful visual inspection work best for monitoring the American cockroach.



Tolerance Level

The “tolerance level” is the number of American cockroaches that triggers action to control the pest. The tolerance level is site-specific and differs depending on the customer, the location, and other factors. Determining the tolerance levels for a site helps prioritize work that must be done to control the pest.



Management Strategies

Pests need food, water, and shelter to survive. Pests also need access to a structure and a way to move around within the structure in order to make them a nuisance inside a building. If even just one of these factors can be reduced (or eliminated), the environment will support fewer pests, and pests will be less likely to invade our living spaces.



Habitat Modification

To limit availability of food and water

  • Discuss the importance of sanitation with the appropriate people.
  • Food preparation and eating areas should be thoroughly cleaned daily. Drain sinks and remove all food debris. Do not leave food preparation and eating areas dirty overnight.
  • Regularly steam clean large appliances in commercial kitchens.
  • Periodically give all food preparation areas a deep cleaning focusing on drains, vents, deep fat fryers, ovens, and stoves. Steam clean drains and infested appliances. Use a vacuum cleaner to capture cockroaches driven out by the steam.
  • Whenever possible, recycle grease and food waste; in drains and sewers, these materials provide abundant food for American cockroaches
  • Use plastic liners in waste receptacles.
  • Remove garbage containing food wastes from the building before nightfall or tie a knot in the plastic liner.
  • Store garbage in closed, rodent-proof dumpsters or garbage cans outside the building.
  • Keep waste receptacles and dumpsters clean.
  • Clean cans, bottles, and other recyclables before storage and remove them from the building before nightfall.
  • Store food in the refrigerator, freezer, or cooler, or in roach-proof containers such as Tupperware or screw top jars (screw-top jars are not roach-proof unless the lid has a rubber gasket).
  • Store dry pet food in roach-proof containers.
  • Discourage people from storing food in desks or lockers. Insist that food in personal spaces is stored in roach-proof containers.
  • Limit areas where food can be eaten and make sure to clean those areas after holiday, birthday, or other kinds of parties.
  • Remove and clean pet dishes after pets have eaten. Do not leave pet food out over night.
  • Fix all leaking faucets and pipes.
  • Drain and/or ventilate moist areas.
  • Keep food preparation areas dry when not in use, especially over night.

To limit availability of shelter/harborage

  • Limit areas of moist mulch and rotting leaves next to structures.
  • Repair loose baseboards and seal them to the wall with caulk: repair loose tiles, caulk cracks and crevices in walls and floors; start in food storage or preparation areas, damp areas or locations with cockroach infestations and the move on to other areas.
  • As much as possible, eliminate clutter:
  • Break down corrugated cardboard boxes and store them away from vending machines and food storage and preparation areas, preferably in a cool or cold spot.
  • Remove stacks of newspaper and paper bags, especially in food storage and preparation areas or near vending machines.
  • Keep storage closets and other storage areas well-organized and clean.
  • Remove excessive stored goods and others items that result in clutter.

Physical Controls

Physical controls employ physical means to prevent cockroaches from entering a structure or prevent their movement within a structure.


  • Prevent American cockroaches from entering a building by
    • Fixing broken drain and sewer pipes
    • Making sure that little used drain always have water in the trap
    • Capping unused drains
    • Screening problem drains
    • Weather stripping windows and doors
    • Installing door sweeps on doors that connect to the outside
    • Fixing cracks in foundations, stucco, and outside walls that might allow cockroach entry
    • Sealing gaps around pipes and wires where they enter the structure
    • Inspecting bags, boxes, cartons and other container that come into the building
    • Screening vents, doors, and windows
  • Sticky insect monitors are very effective in capturing cockroaches, but they usually cannot solve a cockroach problem by themselves.
  • Vacuuming has an immediate impact on the cockroach population and reduces the level of allergens.
  • Sealing gaps in inside walls around plumbing and electrical conduit is very important to keep cockroaches from moving along these “roach highways” from one room to another.

Chemical Controls

Chemical controls are used to directly suppress a cockroach population.

  • Dusting Agents (Note that these can remain effective for very long periods of time as long as they don‘t get wet.)
    • Boric acid dust can be used in wall voids, in cracks and crevices, and under appliances. Cockroaches are not repelled by this dust.
    • Nic 325 is a combination of limestone and corn gluten meal and acts mainly as a repellent. It can be used in wall voids, in cracks and crevices, and under appliances.
    • Diatomaceous earth works by absorbing the outer waxy coating on an insect’s body, which allows water to leaks out of the insect and causes death by dehydration. Diatomaceous earth can be used in wall voids, in cracks and crevices, and under appliances.
  • Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs)

IGRs do not kill cockroaches directly. They cause immature cockroaches to become sterile adults that die without reproducing.


  • Cockroach Baits

Baits work best where sanitation is good so that the bait is not competing with freely available cockroach food. Using baits reduces the amount of pesticide in the environment because small amounts of bait, containing minute amounts of pesticide, are placed only in areas where cockroaches are likely to feed.



The IPM Partnership

The PCO-Customer Partnership is Very Important

IPM works best when the customer and Pestec form a partnership to tackle the pest problem. The American cockroach cannot be managed satisfactorily without the cooperation of the customer, especially in the area of sanitation. Pestec will discuss the findings of the initial inspection and any subsequent monitoring sessions with the customer to determine which issues and tasks will be the responsibility of Pestec and which will be the responsibility of the customer.



Education

Information is a powerful tool in IPM. Information can help change people’s behavior, particularly in how they store food and dispose of waste. Changing these behaviors is a necessary part of managing cockroaches. Occupants of buildings and homeowners can also help in the early detection of pests so that Pestec can be alerted before the problem is severe.


Pestec’s highly trained and knowledgeable staff can provide pest management education or training sessions for facilities managers, risk managers, building occupants, homeowner associations, and others.