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American cockroach
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Blattaria
Family: Blattidae
Genus: Periplaneta
Species: P. americana
Binomial name
Periplaneta americana
Linnaeus, 1758

The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), also known as the Palmetto Bug or Waterbug,[1] particularly in the southern United States, is the largest species of common cockroach, and often considered a pest. It is native to the Southern United States, and common in tropical climates. Human activity has extended the insect's range of habitation. Specimens have been observed in eastern North American cities as far north as New York City, Toronto, and Montreal, though its intolerance to cold restricts it to human habitations.[citation needed] Global shipping has transported the insects to world ports including Tenerife (Spain), Southern Spain, Greece, Taiwan, and Cape Town and Durban, South Africa.

The insect is believed to have originated in Africa, but had become established in the southern U.S. by the time that it was given its name.



American cockroach adults grow to an average length of around 4 centimetres (1.6 in) and about 7 millimetres (0.28 in) tall.[2] They are reddish brown and have a yellowish margin on the body region behind the head. Immature cockroaches resemble adults except that they are wingless.

The insect can travel quickly, often darting out of sight when someone enters a room, and can fit into small cracks and under doors despite its fairly large size. It is considered one of the fastest running insects.[3]

In an experiment carried out at the University of California at Berkeley (USA) in 1991, a Periplaneta americana registered a record speed of 5.4 kilometres per hour (3.4 mph), about 50 body lengths per second, which would be comparable to a human running at 330 km/h (205 mph).[4][5]

It has a pair of large eyes each having over 2000 individual lenses thus making it a very active night animal that shuns light.


American cockroaches generally live in moist areas, but can survive in dry areas if they have access to water. They prefer warm temperatures around 29 °C (84 °F) and do not tolerate cold temperatures. In residential areas, these cockroaches live in basements and sewers, and may move outdoors into yards during warm weather. These cockroaches are common in basements, crawl spaces, cracks and crevices of porches, foundations, and walkways adjacent to buildings. They have been known to fly during mating season[citation needed]

The American cockroach is a scavenger that feeds on decaying organic matter and a variety of other foods. It is particularly fond of fermenting foods.[6]

Life cycle

Females produce egg cases and carry them protruding from the tip of the abdomen for about two days. Egg cases are then generally placed on a surface in a hidden location. Egg cases are about 0.9 centimetres (0.35 in) long, brown, and purse shaped. Immature cockroaches emerge from egg cases in 6 to 8 weeks and require 6 to 12 months to mature. Adult cockroaches can live up to one year, during which females produce an average of 150 young.


Due to their large size and slow development, large infestations of these insects are not common within houses. However, during certain times of the year, these cockroaches may move inside a house from outside. In cold weather these cockroaches may move indoors, seeking warmer temperatures and food. Cockroaches may enter houses via sewer connections, under doors, around plumbing, air ducts, or other openings in the foundation[7]. Cockroach populations may be controlled through the use of insecticides.

See also



  1. ^ Frederic Gomes Cassidy; Joan Houston Hall (2002). Dictionary of American regional English (illustrated ed.). Harvard University Press. p. 20. ISBN 9780674008847. .
  2. ^ Barbara, Kathryn A. (2008). American cockroach - Periplaneta americana (Linnaeus). Retrieved on 2008-07-10 from
  3. ^ Thomas M. Merritt (1999-07-31). "Chapter 39 — Fastest Runner". Book of Insect Records. University of Florida. 
  4. ^ Shukolyukov, S. A. (2001-09-27). Discovering The Achievements Of The American Cockroach. University Science News. Retrieved on 2008-07-10 from
  5. ^ "Fastest Land Insect". 
  6. ^ Susan C. Jones, Ph.D. (2008). "Agricultural and Natural Resources Fact Sheet: American Cockroach (HYG-2096-08)". Ohio State University. 
  7. ^ Amalgamated Pest Control

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



American cockroach

American cockroaches

American cockroach (plural American cockroaches)

  1. (zoology) The palmetto bug, Periplaneta americana See cockroach

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