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Within the cockroach world, American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) are undeniably on the big side. However, individuals within the species don't have to be especially massive to fly. Fully mature American cockroaches do have flying capabilities, which is not the case with all cockroaches in general.
Fully mature individuals generally grow to lengths of between 1 and 1.5 inches. They usually are a reddish-brown color. Their pronotal shields, which are situated in the backs of their heads, have subtle borders that are either yellow or pale brown. Male and female American cockroaches alike are equipped with wings that encompass the full portions of their undersides. Though the common name of the species is misleading, American cockroaches did not originate in the United States or anywhere else in the Americas. They are believed to have come from Africa, although they are presently found internationally.
Youngsters Can't Fly
The youngsters of the species -- or "nymphs" -- look a lot like the adults, although the adults are much bigger. Immature specimens also are devoid of wings, and as a result cannot fly. Nymphs generally start out brownish-gray in coloring, only to turn reddish-brown over time.
Although American cockroaches can fly, it isn't their strong suit, and they are more comfortable with running. When they are frightened or bothered by something, they usual opt to run rather than fly away. When they do fly, it usually is to travel directly from one specific spot to another, rather than the sustained flying typical among many other species of flying insects. American cockroaches live all over the country, but flying is more uncommon in the United States' northern portions. Flying occurs normally at night, but in warmer temperatures.
Other Cockroaches and Flying
American cockroaches aren't the only flying roaches. Brownbanded cockroaches (Supella longipalpa), for instance, are capable of flying -- but only the males. Pennsylvania wood cockroaches (Parcoblatta pennsylvanica) also can fly, but again, only the males, who are adept at flying. Oriental cockroaches (Blatta orientalis) are an example of cockroaches incapable of flight, although male Oriental cockroaches do possess small wings and females have tiny stumps of wings.
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: American Cockroach
- Penn State University Entomology: American Cockroaches
- Diagnostic Services at Michigan State University: American Cockroach
- University of Florida IFAS: American Cockroach
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Tips for Safer Roach Control
- Maryland Cooperative Extension: Cockroaches
- Clemson University Entomology, Soils and Plant Sciences: Understanding Cockroach Control
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: American Cockroach
- University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program: Cockroaches
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Periplaneta americana
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images