American cockroaches are large insects. Adults can reach almost 20.5″ in length. They look even larger because the male's wings extend past the end of its abdomen. These roaches are common in most areas of the United States. In some places they are known as Palmetto Bugs.
The American cockroach is a moderately good flier. In some studies, researchers tossed American cockroaches up into the air. Some of the roaches fluttered and came down to the ground. However, some of the roaches flew up into the air and out of sight.
Scientists have reported seeing American cockroaches flying around streetlights in cities along the Texas Gulf coast. They have also reported seeing American cockroaches migrate from one building to another by flying.
In homes, American cockroaches have often been observed flying when they could launch themselves from a high place. In basements, they often drop from the joists and fly toward windows or doors.
Besides their flying ability, American cockroaches are surprisingly fast runners. Scientific studies have found that they can pick up their front legs and run on just the very back pair of legs. The cockroaches were able to run at a speed of 50 body lengths per second. The scientists estimated that if a person could match that rate, he would be running more than 200 miles per hour.
American cockroaches can run and fly, but they usually enter homes and buildings by walking. They sometimes enter through drains, especially floor drains that are not used.
More commonly, American cockroaches enter buildings through doors and ground-level windows. They live in humid environments, such as under ground-covering plants. During the extremes of winter and summer, American cockroaches often crawl under doors to get into the building.
Controlling American cockroaches begins outside the building. Hiding places should be reduced or eliminated. Ivy and other ground cover should be cut back away from the foundation. A zone of 24″ that is free of plants, mulch, and dead leaves helps prevent insects like American cockroaches from invading the building.
Make sure exterior doors fit tightly and replace missing weather-stripping. Homes that have crawl spaces should have access doors that close securely. Screens on vents should be repaired.
Insecticide treatments should be made outside. Many granular roach baits are water-resistant. They can be used effectively in flowerbeds and ground cover. Liquid insecticide can be used as a barrier on the foundation. The barrier will have to be re-applied because sun and rain will break it down quickly. Many people prefer to have pest control professionals make these applications.