Seeing cockroaches scurrying across the floor can be a scary sight, but do cockroaches fly? Fortunately, not all cockroaches fly but some certainly do but it’s not that common.
Cockroaches are a common household pest that can be difficult to eliminate once they have established themselves in your home.
While many people are familiar with the way that cockroaches scurry across the floor, fewer are aware that some species of cockroaches are also capable of flight.
Whether you are dealing with a current cockroach problem or simply want to be prepared for potential infestations, understanding how cockroaches fly can help you to better protect your living space from these unwelcome pests.
In this article, we will answer the question ‘do cockroaches fly,’ and also explore which species of cockroaches are able to fly, how they fly, and what you can do to prevent and eliminate infestations of flying cockroaches in your home or business.
Do Cockroaches Fly?
Yes, cockroaches can fly. Cockroaches come in two varieties: flying and non-flying. Although the majority of cockroach species possess wings, they are unable to use them for flight.
Even though almost all species of cockroaches eventually grow wings as adults, few of them actually use them to fly. Most types of roaches that live in homes can’t fly at all.
They use their wings to glide or to slow down when they’re falling. Only a few cockroaches species can use their wings to fly.
Cockroaches that can fly are rare in the wild, and they rarely attack people.
The ones who can fly only do so in rare circumstances and under particular temperature and humidity conditions. This is because their wing muscles are weak and they need heat from the outside to give them enough energy to fly. As a result, flying cockroaches are typically observed during the summer.
Moreover, because cockroach wing muscles are significantly less powerful than their leg muscles, roaches will nearly always prefer running over flying when threatened.
So, in a nutshell, can roaches fly? Yes, they can fly, but it doesn’t happen very often.
How Exactly Do Cockroaches Fly?
While most cockroach species have two pairs of wings, only one set is used for flying. These two sets are the forewings and the hindwings.
The outermost set of wings functions as a protective layer. Most of the time, these forewings are thick and the same color as the rest of the roach’s body. When not in use, this set of wings lies flat on their backs.
The hindwings are the set of wings that are hidden beneath the outer set are used for flying and gliding. The wings are nearly translucent, thin, and membraneous.
Cockroaches raise their forewings to expose their hindwings in preparation for flight. During flight, the forewings aren’t used at all. Instead, they just stay up and out of the way until the cockroach lands again.
What Causes Cockroaches to Fly?
Most cockroach species have evolved to be significantly faster when crawling than when flying. However, there are certain situations where they may choose to fly instead. Let’s look at what these are:
1. When Threatened or Disturbed
Flying cockroaches generally fly in situations where they need to escape from danger, such as when they are being chased by a predator or when their habitat has been disturbed. They may also fly in order to find a new location if their current environment becomes unfavorable, such as if it becomes too dry.
2. In Search of Food
Roaches may also fly to find food in situations where their usual food sources become scarce or depleted. For example, if a cockroach infestation has consumed all the available food in an area, flying cockroaches may fly to other locations in search of new food sources.
3. To Find a Mate
Flying cockroaches may also fly in order to find a mate. In some species, the males use their wings to fly to a higher location, where they can produce sounds to attract females. Females may also use their wings to fly to a higher location to find a mate or to deposit their eggs in a safe location.
4. When the Temperature Gets Warmer
Flying cockroaches are cold-blooded pests, which means that their activity levels increase as the temperature gets warmer. They are unable to generate their own body heat, so their activity levels and metabolic rate are directly influenced by the temperature of their environment and this is why they start flying more often when it gets warmer since they then have more energy.
Are Flying Cockroaches Dangerous?
When flying towards you or generally flying outside, these flying pests are not necessarily dangerous. However, they pose a risk of spreading harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella by contaminating any soil they disturb.
Plus, bacteria and germs spread by cockroaches can cause food poisoning or dysentery in homeowners. And what’s worse is that allergens from cockroach droppings or the skin they shed can trigger asthma and allergic reactions as well.
Cockroaches, however, do not typically bite but they can in certain situations. Read our article on do cockroaches bite for more information.
Common Species of Flying Cockroaches
Let’s look at some of the most common species of flying cockroaches:
American roaches, also known as Periplaneta americana, like places that are cool and light and have fresh water. They mostly inhabit the outdoors and can cause damage when they enter homes.
They are one of the largest roach species in the United States, growing to be 1-2 inches long with reddish-brown bodies and huge wings that cover their entire abdomen. They are commonly found in humid places such as plumbing lines, bathrooms, basements, boiler rooms, and even trash compactors.
This species of cockroach may occasionally fly short distances, but only when temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
American cockroaches more commonly use their wings for gliding than for actual “flying.” In search of food or water, this species will sometimes use its wings to slow its fall from a high place like the top of a kitchen cabinet to a lower spot.
Australian cockroaches, also known as Periplaneta australasiae, are a species of cockroach that is not native to the United States.
These cockroaches are believed to have been introduced to the US through the transportation of goods and have since established themselves in several regions of the country, and are most prevalent in Florida and the coastal southeastern states.
One notable characteristic of Australian cockroaches is their ability to fly. While many species of cockroaches are capable of gliding or making short hops, Australian cockroaches are one of the few species that are true fliers, meaning they can sustain flight for long distances.
Australian cockroaches are attracted to warm and humid environments and are often found in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. These roaches prefer hiding near sources of water such as leaky water pipes or faucets. They are also known to infest outdoor areas such as gardens and mulch beds.
The Asian cockroach, also known as Blattella asahinai, is a small roach found primarily along the Gulf Coast of the United States. They have a light brown color and are around the size of German roaches.
One notable characteristic of Asian cockroaches is their ability to fly. Like Australian cockroaches, Asian cockroaches are true fliers and are capable of sustained flight for long distances.They are generally strong flyers and are drawn to artificial light.
If the window is open and the light is on, they may enter your home. They lay their egg capsules on mulch, grass, and other shady surfaces.
Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach
The Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach, also known as Parcoblatta pennsylvanica, is a species of cockroach found primarily in the eastern United States. It is commonly found in wooded areas and is known to occasionally infest homes.
Unlike most cockroaches, these like to remain outside during the day. Both males and females have relatively light wings, but only males can fly.
Pennsylvania Wood Cockroaches are attracted to moist, decaying wood and are commonly found in tree stumps, logs, and other wood debris. They are also known to infest homes, particularly in areas with high humidity levels.
Cuban cockroaches, also known as Panchlora nivea, have wings and prefer to fly more than other cockroach species. Unlike other cockroach species that are usually a shade of brown or tan, these roaches have a distinctive leaf-like pale green color.
The Cuban cockroach is strongly drawn to light and can be seen flying toward light fixtures and lights. In fact, they’ll fly toward anything shining nearby, which includes outdoor lights, headlights, TV screens, etc.
Non-Flying Cockroach Species
Non-flying cockroaches are those that don’t have wings and can’t fly even if they wanted to, or the ones that have wings but not the ability to fly.
Regardless of species, cockroach nymphs lack wings and are unable to fly until they reach adulthood. The German cockroach, one of the most common species found indoors in the US, cannot fly at all.
As an adult, the Madagascar hissing cockroach lacks wings, while the Oriental cockroach, like its relative, has poorly formed wing pads. They cannot both fly.
It’s also important to note that the majority of cockroaches fly at night.
How to Get Rid of Flying Cockroaches
If you suspect you have a cockroach problem or, even worse, a flying cockroach infestation, it’s important to act fast. Getting rid of flying cockroaches can be a challenging task, but there are several steps that you can take to help eliminate them from your home or business:
- Identify the source: First, you need to identify where the cockroaches are coming from. Look for signs of cockroach activity, such as droppings or shed skin, and determine where the cockroaches are congregating.
- Clean and sanitize: Once you have identified the source, thoroughly clean and sanitize the area. Cockroaches are attracted to food and moisture, so it is important to remove any sources of food and water that may be attracting them.
- Seal entry points: Cockroaches can enter through small cracks and gaps in walls, floors, and doors. Seal these entry points to prevent cockroaches from entering your home or business.
- Use insecticides: There are several insecticides available that are specifically designed to target flying cockroaches. Be sure to read and follow the label instructions carefully when using insecticides.
- Use cockroach control methods: In general, the control methods you can use to get rid of flying cockroaches are typically the same as other types of cockroaches. We have written a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to help you get rid of cockroaches
Remember that preventing cockroach infestations is easier than eliminating them once they are established. Taking steps to reduce humidity levels, eliminate sources of food and water, and seal entry points can help to prevent future infestations of flying cockroaches.
Other Cockroach Guides from Planet Natural:
Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.