Can Cockroaches Fly? | Information and Facts

Cockroaches are one of the most hated and annoying pests. There are almost 4600 different known species of cockroaches, and more than 30 of them are considered to be pests. They are found in a variety of habitats mostly in warm and moist places. You may find them crawling all over your kitchen counter, pantry, in bathrooms, and anywhere near food reserves or moisture.

The cockroaches live on filth and have the potential to carry bacteria and viruses in your house. The thought of how they enter your house, whether cockroaches fly or crawl has probably crossed your mind and that is exactly what we are going to talk about in this article.

Can cockroaches fly? Among the thousands of identified species of cockroaches, many have wings, but only a few of them use wings for flying or traveling. Most of the flying cockroaches can glide or fly only for short distances. In contrast, others prefer crawling. The cockroaches usually fly in search of food, shelter, mating, or for self-protection.

In the following section, we have listed the types of flying cockroaches and what attracts them to your house. Additionally, we have provided a complete fact sheet of flying cockroaches. Let’s begin!

Flying Cockroaches | Information

Most of the known species of flying cockroaches share common characteristics and anatomy. They prefer to live in a warm and moist climate. However, they can also thrive in harsh environmental conditions. Most of the species of cockroaches are nocturnal, and they become active during the night time. They can enter your house by being attracted to light and heat or in search of food and shelter.


Do Cockroaches Have Wings?

As there are around 4600 identified species of cockroaches. Most of them have similar traits and anatomical features but they can be categorized into different groups by separating them into winged or wingless species of cockroaches.

Upon reaching the adult stage, flying cockroaches have 2 pairs of wings, while other types may have under-developed wings or are completely wingless.

Examples of cockroach species having developed wings are:

  • Smoky brown cockroaches,
  • Asian cockroaches,
  • American cockroaches,
  • Australian cockroaches,
  • Pennsylvania woods cockroaches,
  • Cuban cockroaches,
  • Megalobatta

These are just some of the most common examples. They may use their wings for gliding or for short distances flights when needed.

Cockroaches that have underdeveloped wing pads are female Oriental cockroaches, female brown-banded cockroaches, etc. The wingless species of cockroaches include Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Calolampra elegans (wingless cockroach), C. Solida (wingless female), etc.


Where Do Flying Cockroaches Come From?

Cockroaches are one of the oldest known living species on earth. According to fossils record of cockroaches, they can be dated back to the Carboniferous era (around 320 million years ago).  

Cockroaches have an amazing ability to adapt to harsh environmental conditions. They are cold-blooded or ectothermic insects that spend 75% of their lifetime hibernating. Cockroaches can survive under 32°F and can grow as long as 6 inches. They belong to the order of insects called Blattodea.

Some species of cockroaches are common household pests. The crawling cockroaches enter your house through holes, drainpipes of kitchen or bathrooms, and through small cracks in exterior walls. The flying cockroaches have more options, for example, they can fly from the rooftop, through tree branches, windows, doors, etc.


Do Cockroaches Fly or Jump?

Do Cockroaches Fly or Jump

There are multiple known species of flying cockroaches, they fly using the pair of wings on their back. However, many species of cockroaches cannot fly (even if they have wings), they only glide from one place to another for a short time period. For instance, smoky brown cockroaches and male Pennsylvania wood cockroaches are short-distance fliers.

Whereas the American cockroaches can only glide from a higher surface using a pair of wings. The reason that they cannot fly for a long distance is their large body mass which does not allow them long-distance flying.

The cockroaches do not jump like other insects but glide from the higher surface to reach the lower level. However, there is an exception, jumping small cockroach (Leaproach) can use legs to jump like some other insects.


Do All Cockroaches Fly?

Although, many species of cockroaches have developed wings at the adult stage not all of them use wings for flying. They glide to move from one spot to another. Even, the flying cockroaches are not fond of long-distance flights, they prefer to fly for short distances when feeling threatened.

The other category of cockroaches is wingless which cannot fly at all. Such as Madagascar hissing cockroach, this is an immobile species of cockroach and also female Oriental cockroaches do not have developed wing pads for flying. Similarly, many other species of cockroaches do not develop wings until the later stages of their life cycle.


Why Do Cockroaches Fly?

Cockroaches fly for various reasons such as for self-protection, for food and shelter, or for mating purposes. Flying cockroaches quickly fly away to escape threats or when they sense any change in surroundings. Due to their strong sensing abilities, cockroaches can survive for a longer time.

Some species of male cockroaches develop wings during mating season for short or long-distance traveling. Cockroaches take a short flight and climb up the kitchen counters, cabinets, rooftops, trees, and other places for food and shelter.

Why Do Cockroaches Fly

Additionally, they use wings to glide from a high surface to get down at ground level. Otherwise, they prefer crawling, American cockroaches can run as fast as 3.4 miles per hour which is 50 body lengths per second (3 times the speed of a cheetah).

However, the flying cockroaches also fly away when the environmental conditions are not favoring them. The ideal thriving temperature for cockroaches is between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When the temperature exceeds 85 degrees, cockroaches glide to find cooler places as the higher temperature causes them to consume more energy to survive.


When Did Cockroaches Start Flying?

Flying cockroaches are wingless at the nymph stage, they start flying when they have fully developed wings (at the adult stage). Most of the species of the flying cockroaches only glide or fly for a short distance when they feel threatened.

They have 2 sets of wings, the front pair covers the back and provides a protective shield covering to their body. The hind pair of wings are clear and delicate, used for flying. When cockroaches fly, they lift the front wing to expose the hind wings so that they can travel in the air.


How High Can Cockroaches Fly?

The capability of cockroaches to fly varies depending upon their wings’ strength and the size of their body. Some of them are strong fliers that can fly for over 100 feet.

Most of the flying cockroaches can fly or glide for a short distance as high as an average tree top. However, many of the flying cockroaches prefer crawling instead of flying.


Do German Cockroaches Fly?

Do German Cockroaches Fly

German cockroaches (Blattella germanica) are notorious pests due to their worldwide spread. They can be distinguished from other species by the presence of 2 dark parallel stripes (on the pronotum). These cockroaches live in a humid and warmer climate and harbor multiple pathogens. 

The male and females German cockroaches both have a pair of developed wings but their flying muscles are not strong like in other flying cockroaches. Therefore, they rarely fly (during threat) and prefer to crawl and scamper in most of cases.


Can American Cockroaches Fly?

The American cockroach is one of the largest roach pests that invade residential and commercial areas. They have long and narrow, well-developed pairs of wings longer than the body in males, and in females. Also, their wings cover the abdomen. 

The American cockroaches are wingless at the nymph stage and cannot fly. The adult American cockroaches can fly for short distances or can glide from high places. Despite their ability to fly, they prefer to run or crawl.


Can Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches Fly?

Madagascar hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) are nocturnal creatures, found only on the island of Madagascar. They do not prefer light and live only in tropical lowland forests and forest floors. This is a large wingless variety of cockroaches, therefore, they cannot fly or glide like flying cockroaches. However, they have special pads on their feet which help them to climb on most of the surfaces.


Can Oriental Cockroaches Fly?

Oriental cockroaches (Blatta orientalis) thrive in a damp or moist environment, therefore, they are called also water bugs. The male and female oriental cockroaches both have wings but they are underdeveloped and do not help in flying. Male wings cover over 3/4 of its abdomen. They run or crawl in case of threat and in search of food or shelter.


Do Baby Cockroaches Fly?

Baby cockroaches or nymphs are immature roaches they may look like adults but they cannot fly due to the absence of wings. The nymph develops into an adult cockroach after it goes through a series of molting and shedding (may take over a year). The time period of development can vary depending upon the species of cockroach.


What Does a Flying Cockroach Look Like?

Most of the cockroaches have antennas, head, thorax, abdomen, forelegs, hind legs, and two pairs of wings. The first pair of wings cover the entire body of the cockroach over the back and act as a shield while the other pair of wings helps during flight. Some species of cockroaches do not have wings at all such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Most flying cockroaches have a light brown, reddish-brown, dark brown or golden appearance whereas Cuban cockroach has bright leaf green body. Adult cockroaches can grow up to 2 inches long or more. However, their size can vary from species to species.

What Does a Flying Cockroach Look Like

They have two compound eyes, each with 2,000 lenses. With the help of a flexible mouth (that can move at both sides) and a pair of antenna, cockroaches can chew and smell food. They have six sensitive legs that have the potential to re-grow when lost.

The abdomen of cockroaches is equipped with a pair of appendages (named cerci) and contains sensory organs to detect the slightest change in surroundings. Cockroaches respire through spiracles located at the sides of the abdomen. They can travel as fast as 3 miles per hour and can easily hide in small crevices and other narrow spaces.

Flying cockroaches are creepy and can leave a horrifying experience. They can be confused with other flying insects due to the presence of long antennae, oval body, brown wings, and six pairs of legs. For instance, the Locust borer beetle looks similar to the cockroaches during the flight but they can be easily distinguished due to red, yellow, or black markings on their back. The Palo verde beetle also looks similar to the American cockroaches during flight.

The interesting fact about the cockroaches is that they can live for up to 30 days without their head because they do not need their head for breathing and can survive for a much longer time without food.


Life Cycle

Cockroaches have 3 main stages in their life cycle: egg, nymph, and adult stage. The female cockroach deposits eggs in groups enclosed in a bean-shaped, leathery case known as ootheca. Most of the species of female cockroaches carry this deposit of eggs on their back for 1 or 2 days whereas German cockroaches carry it for several weeks.

The characteristics of ootheca also help to determine the species of cockroach. The eggs hatch after 30 to 90 days. However, the number of days can vary depending upon the surrounding temperature and humidity.

The nymphs or young cockroaches do not have wings and are a few millimeters long. They are white in color when hatched, become darker after a few hours. Nymph develops into an adult after continuous shedding of their skin.


Types of Flying Cockroaches | Complete List

Flying cockroaches can be distinguished from other cockroaches by the presence of their well-developed wings and capability to fly or glide. In the following sections, we will talk more about the specific types of flying cockroaches.


The American Cockroaches

The American cockroaches

The American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) are widely distributed species of cockroaches, just after German cockroaches. They are about 35 to 40 mm long and have a shiny reddish-brown body. Female roaches lay eggs in capsules that are hatched in 30 to 60 days.

Nymph develops into an adult in around 6 to 12 months or as long as 15 months. With the help of their well-developed wings, they can glide or fly at short distances but prefer to run. They are found in dark and humid areas such as kitchen, basements, bathrooms, pipelines, roof voids, etc.


Asian Cockroaches

Asian Cockroaches

Asian cockroaches (Blattella asahinai) look similar to German cockroaches. They are light brown in color and have two parallel lines at the pronotum. The adult Asian cockroaches range between 13 to 16 mm in length. Female lays eggs in 4 capsules and nymph reaches adulthood in about 67 days. They prefer to live outside, are attracted to your house due to the light. They are active at dusk and are capable of flying long distances.


Smoky Brown Cockroaches

Smoky Brown Cockroaches

Smoky brown cockroaches (Periplaneta fuliginosa) are shiny brown roaches, measuring between 3 to 35 mm long. In males, wings are longer than their bodies, and they are strong fliers. The nymph develops into an adult in about 6 to 12 months. They are nocturnal insects and make shelters under floors and barks.


Brown-Banded Cockroaches

Brown-Banded Cockroaches

Brown-banded cockroaches (Supella longipalpa) prefer to live in a warm and humid environment. They are active during the night and can fly into your ceilings, attics, or in other narrow spaces. They are one of the smallest cockroaches which range between 10 to 15 mm.

The brown-banded adults have yellow-brown lines at the abdomen. Each ootheca contains 14 to 18 eggs, the egg develops into an adult in 90 to 276 days depending upon the surrounding temperature.


Cuban Cockroaches

Cuban Cockroaches

Cuban cockroaches (Panchlora nivea) have a green body and they can grow up to 2 inches long. They do not commonly invade your house. These cockroaches are short distance fliers. They are easily attracted to light or illuminating lamps. The Cuban cockroaches have large ootheca that can carry up to 100 eggs. The eggs develop into nymphs in about 2 months and reach adulthood in 100 days.


Australian Cockroaches

Australian Cockroaches

Australian cockroaches (Periplaneta australasiae) are strong fliers and look similar to the American cockroaches. They are light brown in color, measuring between 30 to 38 mm long. Female lays up to 24 eggs in ootheca that hatch in a day and nymph develops into an adult in 6 to 12 months. They enter your house from debris or garden waste at night.


Pennsylvania Woods Cockroaches

Pennsylvania wood cockroaches (Parcoblatta pensylvanica) are active during daytime unlike other species of cockroaches. Male wood cockroaches are up to an inch long whereas females are a little smaller in comparison to males cockroaches. They have a dark brown body with light wings. 

In male roaches, wings are longer which improves their ability to fly. However, in females, wings are smaller and function-less. They feed on decaying organic matter and mostly are found in woodpiles and roof shingles. Females lay eggs in ootheca which are hatched in a month and the nymph develops into an adult in a time period of 10 months to 2 years.


Megaloblatta

Megaloblatta cockroach

Megaloblatta (Megaloblatta longipennis) is the largest flying cockroach. They have a dark brown body and can grow up to 3.8 inches long. Their wingspan measures up to 7.9 inches which makes them a capable flier. They are commonly found in Central and South America.


What Attracts Flying Cockroaches?

Flying cockroaches are mostly attracted to food, water, and warmth. Cockroaches mostly live outside, some of them can enter your house in search of moisture or warmth. If you have leftovers, spilled food, or crumbs in your kitchen, these things can also attract cockroaches any time into your house.


Why Do Cockroaches Fly Towards You?

Cockroaches try to escape as fast as they can when they notice any change in their surroundings. They usually do not fly towards humans, and if they do then it may be due to their poor sense of direction or because they are frightened. In most cases, they are attracted to the light source behind you.


Do Cockroaches Fly Towards Light?

Some species of cockroaches are attracted to light. Flying cockroaches come out at night during mating season and are particularly attracted to light bulbs or other illuminating lamps. Some of the flying cockroach species that are attracted to light are Asian cockroaches, Australian cockroaches, smoky brown cockroaches, Pennsylvania wood cockroaches, etc.


Where Do Flying Cockroaches Live?

Flying cockroaches can live and flourish in a variety of habitats. They have tropical origins but can thrive in different temperature zones and are found all over the world due to their impressive adaptive abilities. The flying cockroaches prefer to live outside but they can fly or glide into your house for adequate warmth, moisture, food, or light.

They live in groups and most of the species are active during night time. Cockroaches are the most common indoor pests and they prefer to live in humid surroundings such as bathrooms, kitchens, cupboards, steam tunnels, basements, animal houses, drains, and other moist places.

In outdoor settings, cockroaches live in decaying matter, underwood shaving, on treetops, under hollow barks, in wall voids, in the drain, pipelines, or wherever they find a favorable environment.


Are Flying Cockroaches Dangerous?

Are Flying Cockroaches Dangerous

Flying cockroaches live in drains, decaying material, filth, and feed on almost everything including garbage and waste material. Due to these facts, they can carry a variety of pathogens in your house or on food items which can lead to different diseases such as Typhoid fever, Dysentery, cholera, food poisoning, Leproses, etc. They can also contaminate your utensils and can spoil your food. 

Allergens from cockroach wastes can trigger allergies and cause asthma. The flying cockroaches are mostly active during the night, that’s why their infestation can go unnoticed at earlier stages. The larger infestation of cockroaches can cause havoc and frustration.


Do Flying Cockroaches Bite?

Flying cockroaches usually do not bite, but it is not completely impossible. Some reports have been found of cockroaches biting at fingernails, calloused skin, or at eyelashes. The flying cockroaches could start biting people in houses where the infestation has gotten to the point that the cockroaches do not have enough food sources.

Generally, they are not considered a potential threat to humans. However, you may see a red bump and swelling at the bitten area or it may itch like other insect bites. Flying cockroaches do not contain venom but they can carry pathogens which can lead to infection.


Summary

Cockroaches are found all over the world and have an impressive capability to thrive in different temperature zones or harsh environmental conditions. There are almost 4600 identified species of cockroaches, many of them have wings but only a few can fly.

The most commonly known flying cockroaches are Asian cockroaches, Australian cockroaches, Pennsylvania woods cockroaches, the American cockroaches, smoky brown cockroaches, brown-banded cockroaches, Megaloblatta, and Cuban cockroaches.

Most of the flying cockroaches are attracted to light, moisture, and food. They have the potential to carry pathogens in your house that can cause serious diseases.

If you are dealing with cockroaches and you have no idea how to get rid of them, we suggest getting help from professionals. These pests can cause serious problems and even impact your mental state. Click on the following link if you are interested, and you will get free quotes from the best cockroach exterminators in your area. Best of luck!


List of Sources

Drees, B. M. (2010). Cockroaches in the Texas Landscape. Texas A&M: AgriLife Extension.

Malinoski, M. K. (2020). Cockroaches. Home and Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Extension.

Sutherland, A. M., Choe, D-H., and Rust, M. K. (2019). Cockroaches. UC Pest Notes: Cockroaches. University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources.

Richman, D. L. (2002). Asian Cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo (Insecta: Blattodea: Blattellidae). EDIS, 2002(8).