Woods cockroaches get their name from the areas where they normally live. These cockroaches live in tree holes, under bark of dead trees, and under woodpiles. They also hide under piles of dead leaves on the ground.
There are two types of woods cockroach in the United States. One type is the Florida woods cockroach. This is a large insect. Adults can reach almost 2″ in length and are almost 1″ wide. Florida woods cockroaches do not fly because they do not have fully developed wings.
Many people call this roach the Florida Stinkroach because it can produce a foul-smelling liquid when it is disturbed. The scientific name is Eurycotis floridana (Walker). It is common throughout Florida. It is also found in Georgia and along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi and Alabama.
The other woods cockroach is known as the Pennsylvania woods cockroach. Despite its name, this roach is common in the eastern, southern, and midwestern states. The scientific name of this roach is Parcoblatta pennsylvanica (DeGeer). Two other species, P. fulvescens and P. virginica are sometimes grouped together with the Pennsylvania woods cockroach. Other Parcoblatta cockroaches are found across the United States, as far west as the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.
The Pennsylvania woods cockroach is a smaller insect. Males are about one inch long and females are slightly smaller. They are chestnut brown and there is usually a white edge on the front of the wing and the shield that covers the head.
The male Pennsylvania woods cockroach has fully developed wings. It is a good flier and often flies toward the lights of homes at night. Females do not have fully developed wings and do not fly.
These woods cockroaches feed on decaying plant material. People sometimes find them in rain gutters that are filled with leaves. They seldom invade homes and do not reproduce indoors when they come inside.
The first step in controlling woods cockroaches is to eliminate their hiding places around the house. Move firewood as far away from the house as possible. If possible, store it on a rack off of the ground. Rake up dead leaves and remove leaves from rain gutters.
Make sure exterior doors close tightly and replace missing weather-stripping. Secure the access door to the crawl space and repair any screens that are damaged. Changing porch lights to the yellow “bug light” bulbs may make the home less attractive.
Liquid insecticide may help prevent the roaches from gathering near the home. A barrier can be applied on the outside foundation. Because of rain and weather, the barrier will have to be re-applied periodically.
Granular roach bait can be applied outdoors. Many brands of bait are water-resistant, so they can be applied in ground cover and in flowerbeds. The bait will have to be re-applied when new roach populations appear. Many homeowners prefer to have a pest control professional take care of the insecticide and bait applications.