About 55 of the 3,500 or so cockroach species live in the United States, although few of these are the hated household pests that give the entire group a bad name. Wood roaches, sometimes called wood cockroaches, are outdoor-living cockroaches that don't seek out buildings and don't breed indoors, although you may see one on occasion. Their behavior and preferences are the simplest way of distinguishing them from pests. Telling them apart from other roaches based on appearance may be difficult, but it's not impossible.
Common House-Invading Pests
The sight of a cockroach scurrying about your kitchen as you flip on the light may send you -- and nearly everybody in the house -- into a slight panic. House-invading cockroaches multiply quickly and are often associated with unsanitary conditions. Common home-invading species in various parts of the U.S. include the German cockroach, American cockroach, brown-banded cockroach and oriental cockroach. Most are 1/2- to 1-inch long, although a few, including the American cockroach, grow up to 1 1/2-inches long.
Wood roaches look very similar to their house-dwelling relatives, although there are slight differences. Many wood roaches are between 3/4- and 1 1/4-inch long and the males appear tan due to the color of their wings. Many females are wingless and rarely encountered. These roaches live in moist, outdoor areas such as wood piles, inside decaying logs and under the loose bark of trees, logs or branches.
Wood Roaches Inside
Although wood roaches don't infest homes like other species of roaches, you may encounter a specimen inside your home. They'll often hitch a ride in bundles of firewood brought into the home, and males often are attracted to the lights of your house at night and will crawl in through a window or other opening. Wood roaches generally aren't light-sensitive like the house-invading species, and they aren't secretive: you're likely to encounter them during any time of the day.
Identification and Control
Infestations of home-invading species often require control of the nest as they reproduce quickly inside and will overrun your kitchen and other areas. Many insecticides exist for the control of these types of cockroaches, although professional control may be necessary. Wood roaches, on the other hand, don't require this kind of control. Excluding them from the home and switching some of your habits can reduce the likelihood of encounters. Carry firewood inside only when you're ready to burn it, move firewood piles away from the home and seal small openings where males might wander inside.
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.