Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Order Blattodea - Cockroaches and Termites

Green Banana Cockroach - Panchlora nivea Surinam roach - Pycnoscelus surinamensis Pale Bordered Field Cockroach 1 - Pseudomops septentrionalis Brown-hooded Cockroach - Cryptocercus garciai Arenivaga bolliana (Saussure) - Arenivaga bolliana - male termites - Reticulitermes Subterranean Termite? - Reticulitermes Pacific Dampwood Termite Reproductive -- Zootermopsis angusticollis - Zootermopsis angusticollis
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Blattodea (Cockroaches and Termites)
Other Common Names
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Cockroaches are sometimes considered a suborder, Blattaria, of order Dictyoptera, which BugGuide treats as a superorder. Many sources still treat termites as a separate order (Isoptera). The Guide follows classification provided in(1)
Explanation of Names
Blattaria is from Latin blatta, 'cockroach'; English name, through folk etymology from Spanish cucaracha
~70 spp. of cockroaches and 44 spp. of termites in our area(2)(3); worldwide, ~4,600 spp. in ~500 genera of 7 families of cockroaches and ~3000 spp. in ~300 genera of 9 families of termites (~7,500 spp. in ~770 genera combined)(1)(4)
Overview of our fauna (* –taxa not yet in the guide; classification adapted from(1)(5)):
Order Blattodea
Family Blaberidae
Subfamily Oxyhaloinae [Tribe *Gromphadorhini: *Gromphadorhina] Tribe Nauphoetini: Nauphoeta · *Rhyparobia
Family Ectobiidae
Superfamily BLATTOIDEA
Family Blattidae
Family Termitidae
Family Corydiidae
adults 8-60+ mm
Cockroaches are usually dark brown or reddish in color and have flattened oval bodies and long swept-back antennae. The head is usually concealed by the pronotum which extends far forward. When wings are present, they are held flat over the back, overlapping one another.
worldwide and throughout NA
Though considered tropical insects, cockroaches can flourish in any environment where there is sufficient food and warmth. Most North American cockroach species live in woodlands and are not pests. Those found indoors may be anthropophilic "pest" species or those that migrate inside inadvertently.

Of species found indoors, German cockroaches are commonly found in homes throughout the world:


Adult and nymph

Adult male

Adult female

See the Blatella Info page to differentiate from similar cockroaches.

American cockroaches are common cockroaches found in homes (and outdoors) throughout the tropics and subtropics, including throughout the southern US.

See the Blattidae Info page to differentiate from similar cockroaches.
While these two species are by far the most commonly encountered in homes, it is not uncommon to encounter other species in homes. Some of the more commonly reported species indoors are:

Brown banded cockroaches (world-wide)
Asian cockroaches (in southern US)
Luridiblatta trivittata (in California)
Oriental cockroaches (world-wide)
Smoky brown cockroaches (in southern US)
Turkestan cockroaches (southern California to Texas)
Florida woods roach (Florida and neighboring states)
Cockroaches are omnivores, with many species consuming detritus primarily and other insects opportunistically.
Life Cycle
Female cockroaches produce ootheca (egg case) that hold 12-25 eggs.

Oothecae are carried by females of many cockroach species, and can help identify cockroaches to genus.

Nymphs develop to maturity through simple metamorphosis where the adults have similar body types as the juviniles, although this may be hidden by the development of wings in the adults:
molts into an adult, and wings expand and eventually harden . (All cockroaches look white after they molt until their new exoskeleton hardens.)

Predators, parasites, and parasitoids

The factors that structure communities of cockroaches are not well understood. As generalists feeders, the populations may be limited by the effects of predators, parasites, and parasitoids rather than a limitation in nutrients. Cannibalism is reportedly common, although the circumstances under which this occurs behavior occurs in these semi-social insects are not clear. Some of the more interesting invertebrates that feed on cockroaches:

Ensign wasps are commonly found around homes with cockroach infestations. These wasps are looking for the egg cases (ootheca) of cockroaches. Once these are located, the wasps lay their own eggs within the capsule. When the Ensign wasps hatch, they devour the developing cockroaches.

Cockroach wasps temporarily paralyze the adult cockroaches using venom. While paralyzed, the wasp makes a second sting, this time using venom inserted into a precise location in cockroach’s brain. The antennae of the cockroaches are then clipped, and when the paralysis wears off, the wasp leads the cockroach to its lair. The cockroach makes no attempt to flee as an egg is laid upon it. When the eggs hatch, and the helpless cockroach is devoured by the young maggot-like wasps.

Horse hair worms develop inside cockroaches (and other groups of insects) living off the hemolymph (blood) as the insect grows. Once it reaches adulthood, the worm can change the cockroach’s behavior, driving it into the water where the cockroach will drown, and the worm will wriggle free to continue its life cycle.

Vertebrates also are important predators of cockroaches:

To defend themselves against generalist predators, the nymphs of many species exude defensive secretions onto their posterior tergites. This adhesive material gums up mouthparts of attacking centipedes, etc. and may contain additional repellant/toxic compounds.
synanthropic spp. discussed in(6)
Print References
Atkinson T.H., Koehler P.G., Patterson R.S. (1991) Where the roaches are. The geography of U.S. cockroaches. Pest Control 59: 36-40.
Hebard, M. (1934). The Dermaptera and Orthoptera of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 3: 125-279. (Biodiversity Heritage Library) (Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship)
Rehn, J. A. G., and Hebard, M. 1927. The Orthoptera of the West Indies. No. 1, Blattidae. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 54(1): 1-320. (American Museum of Natural History Digital Repository)
Rehn, J. W. H. 1950. Key to genera of North American Blattaria, including established adventives. Entomological News 61: 64-67. (Biodiversity Heritage Library)
Vickery, V. R. and D. K. McE. Kevan. (1986). The grasshoppers, crickets, and related insects of Canada and adjacent regions: Ulonata: Dermaptera, Cheleutoptera, Notoptera, Dictuoptera, Grylloptera, and Orthoptera. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, 918 pp.(8) (Agriculture Canada) (PDF)
Internet References
Fact sheet, synanthropic spp. (Rust & Reierson 2007)(9)
Works Cited
1.Beccaloni G.W. (2007-) Cockroach species file online. Version 5.0
2.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
3.Catalog and atlas of the cockroaches (Dictyoptera) of North America north of Mexico
Atkinson T.H., Koehler P.G., Patterson R.S. 1991. Misc. Publ. Entomol. Soc. Amer. 78: 1-86.
4.Annotated checklist of the cockroaches of Florida (Dictyoptera: Blattaria: Blattidae, Polyphagidae, Blattellidae, Blaberidae)
Atkinson T.H., Koehler P.G., Patterson R.S. 1990. Florida Entomologist 73: 303-327.
5.Constantino R. (2002-2012) On-line termite database
6.Urban entomology
Ebeling W. 1978. University of California Division of Agricultural Sciences: 695 pp.
7.Synopsis of Orthoptera (sensu lato) of Alabama
Matt E. Dakin, Jr., and Kirby L. Hays. 1970. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin, No. 404.
8.The Insect and Arachnids of Canada. Part 14. The grasshoppers, crickets, and related insects of Canada and adjacent regions...
Vickery, V. R. and D. K. McE. Kevan. 1986. Biosystematics Research Institute, Agriculture Canada.
9.University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program