What is a Flying Cockroach?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Flying cockroaches are insects with hard outer shell that range from about 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) to almost 4 inches (10 cm) in length, and are capable of flight. Although many species have adapted to living on the ground as scavengers, cockroaches have a long history, and may have been one of the first animals to fly. With increases in international travel and trade, various species have found homes in many different countries around the globe. Many people dislike living around cockroaches in general because they can spread disease, ruin food and books, and leave a strong smell, but flying cockroaches usually do not directly bother humans.

A flying cockroach.
A flying cockroach.

Common Flying Cockroach Species


The reddish-brown American cockroach, or Periplaneta americana, is native to Africa, but has lived in the US since the early 1600s. It can grow up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) in length, making it one of the longer species. Although they are able to fly, they spend more time running across the floor or ground and usually hide from light. This species is often confused with the palmetto bug, or Florida woods cockroach, which is a poor flier.

An American cockroach.
An American cockroach.


Unlike the American roach, Blattella asahinai, or the Asian cockroach, is attracted to light, but rarely enters buildings or homes. It flies well, and is generally considered to be a beneficial insect, since it feeds on a variety of insect species that destroy crops. The Asian roach largely resembles the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, the large brown bug that is the most common cockroach species in American homes.


The Australian cockroach, Periplaneta australasiae, is another strong flier. It looks almost exactly like the American roach, and is also found in hot, humid parts of the Americas. It can be differentiated from its near-identical cousin by the light stripes on its wings. It is also slightly smaller than the American version, and normally doesn't grow longer than 1.45 inches (3.7 cm) .


The bright green Cuban cockroach, or Panchlora nivea, is mostly found in Central America, but can also be spotted in the Southwest US. This species sometimes goes inside buildings, but does not typically infest structures. It is thinner than many other species, and normally reaches lengths of 0.75 inches (1.9 cm). Like the Asian species, they are attracted to light.

Pennsylvania Woods

The Parcoblatta pennsylvanica, or Pennsylvania woods cockroach is active during the day, and doesn't usually infest homes. Though both genders of this species have light brown wings, only the males fly. Males are also slightly larger than females, growing to be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, while females grow to be about 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) long.


The largest flying cockroach, Megaloblatta blaberoides, makes its home primarily in South and Central America. It can have a wingspan up to 7.2 inches (18 cm), and can be up to 3.9 inches (10 cm) long. A similar species that is native to Colombia, the Megaloblatta longipennis, has a similar wingspan. Neither of these are considered pest species.

Pest Control

Although cockroaches are often thought of as pests, fewer than 1% of them infest homes and bother people. These types normally have underdeveloped wings and can only fly for short periods, if at all. Most cockroaches that do fly are wild species and normally do not actively bother humans.

Those who do find themselves bothered by flying cockroaches can take a few approaches to get rid of them. Putting up screens, removing debris from around a house and yard, and keeping doors and windows closed can help make an area unattractive to roaches and keep them out of the house. Also, since several species of flying cockroach are attracted to light, leaving porch lights off or making sure to close windows to rooms with lights on can help as well.

In the rare event of a flying cockroach infestation, professional extermination is the most reliable method of removing the insects. Commercial roach sprays normally kill the bugs but also may contain harmful chemicals. Less toxic at-home methods of roach elimination are available, however. For example, boric acid crystals will kill roaches by causing them to dehydrate. These crystals are usually found at a local hardware or drug store.

Professional exterminators may need to be called in to handle a cockroach infestation.
Professional exterminators may need to be called in to handle a cockroach infestation.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


I hate those things.


I just saw a flying cockroach in my apt in NYC! I've seen plenty of roaches here, but never one that flew! So creepy!


I have seen a flying cockroach flying out of my bathroom sink yesterday,but we killed it before it could get out. Eeewwww. Alsom I had one crawl on my face. That thing was the size of a ring in a binder. I've been paranoid since.


I recently went into the bathroom and saw a massive cockroach on the wall and got some spray but before I got the chance to spray it flew around the room. I managed to catch it, well, my dad did. I live in Sydney, Australia, and from what I've gathered, it's not supposed to be common here for a flying cockroach of this size. Is this okay? Should I get it checked out at all?


I just saw a flying cockroach flying in the upstairs game room. And I am terrified of these nasty little things, does that mean that there's a lot more??


So I get up this a.m. to get my kids ready for school, and lo and behold something is flying around my living room. To me it is very big, about the size of a golf ball. It lands on the floor, and I go to kill it and it's a cockroach! Ewww! Never knew they flew! --ashley


Just take a trip to New Orleans and you can see flying cockroaches any time you want. Mostly though, you see them when you don't want to.


I have a friend from Venezuela who said the cockroaches there were huge and also flew! She has a fear of cockroaches from those experiences!


A cockroach with a seven inch wing span?! What a nightmare!

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, where cockroaches are extremely rare. When I moved to the Sacramento area for school however, I had to get used to these cringe-inducing pests. I'm sure this is probably the case in all regions of the U.S., but the roaches here are extremely aggressive. When I was walking home late one night I almost stepped on one and it started making this horrible hissing sound and skittering around like the apocalypse was coming. That sound is forever ingrained in my mind.

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