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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Stoddard

What Are American Cockroaches and Palmetto Bugs?

How To Identify American Cockroaches and Palmetto Bugs

American Cockroach and Palmetto Bug Identification:

American Cockroach

The American Cockroach has a shiny appearance with color variations from dark brown to reddish-brown colors with a prominent yellow band behind adults' heads. Juvenile American cockroaches share the same color variations; however, they have yellow markings on the abdomen and do not have fully developed wings. American cockroaches are anatomically very similar to most other cockroaches species, with their heads comprised of a mouth, eyes, salivary glands, and antennae. The American Cockroach have bodies that are flat and oblong. The American Cockroach, like other cockroach species, has an exoskeleton that protects its body.

Female Vs. Male American Cockroach Identification

Both Male and Female American Cockroaches have a similar visual appearance, and both can reach the same size in adulthood. The Male American Cockroach and the Female both have a Cerci at the top of the abdomens that help the American Cockroach to detect airflow, so the American Cockroach is aware of its surroundings. However, male American Cockroaches have a pair of styli on their abdomens, located between the cerci, unlike the Female American Cockroach. The Styli are smaller than the Cerci and can identify the Male American Cockroach from the Female American Cockroach.

American Cockroach Mating Procedure

American male and female cockroaches engage in heterosexual courtship rituals before mating. The Female American Cockroach begins the calling position, a courtship, by raising her wings, revealing her genital chambers, and releasing a male attracting pheromone who will flap his wings to show interest in her. As the male connects physically with the female in a rear-end to rear-end position, he will deposit sperm, starting the new American Cockroach life cycle.

What Is The Life Cycle Of American Cockroaches?

Life Cycle of a Palmetto Bug

American Cockroach Eggs / Oothecae

Three to seven days after the American Cockroach mates, the female American cockroach produces Oothecas, a fancy scientific name for egg cases that contains roughly 15 embryos. The same American Female Cockroach will generate between six and fourteen total oothecae in her lifetime. After the Female American cockroach shelters, the egg case on the end of her abdomen for hours up to a couple of days time, the female deposits and attaches the oothecae in a discrete location with saliva that acts like glue.

American Cockroach Nymphs:

With Ideal conditions and optimal temperatures, The American Cockroach eggs will hatch within 24 - 38 days into nymphs, which are immature juvenile cockroaches. American Cockroach Nymphs undergo a metamorphosis, which will change their appearances as they grow into adulthood. As the American Cockroach grows, it will shed its exoskeleton after the molting process has reached 10 to 13 times, it will have reached maturity.

Adult American Cockroaches:

American Cockroaches, sometimes also referred to as a Palmetto Bug, reach around three inches long in adulthood, with some slightly exceeding 4cm in length. After the cockroach undergoes the final molt, the cockroach is then equipped with a set of wings and now has reproductive capabilities. The full process spans between six months to over a year. American cockroaches live for approximately one year.

Can American Cockroaches / Palmetto Bugs Fly?

Palmetto Bug Flying

American Cockroach Nymphs lack wings and are incapable of flight. However, adults have prominent wings and care capable of flight but prefer to scatter on foot quickly. American Cockroaches' flight is not a controlled flight like that of a Fly; it is more used to glide from higher locations to lower areas.

What Do American Cockroaches / Palmetto Bugs Eat?

American Cockroach Feeding On Toothpaste From A Toothbrush Sitting Out

The American cockroach has an omnivorous diet and will consume a wide array of foods and products. Cockroaches in a person's home will readily feed on glue, soap, book bindings, available food, and crumbs. However, in nature, the American Cockroach does serve as a beneficial insect that consumes organic matter and is responsible for recycling nutrients back into the environment.

American Cockroach / Palmetto Bugs, Natural Predators.

Cockroach Being Eaten by A Man

American Cockroaches / Palmetto Bugs are a nutritious food source; therefore, they are a delicacy to a vast host of birds, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. American cockroaches have been noted in the stomachs of frogs, birds, salamanders, and larger mammals such as monkeys and cats. Because American Cockroaches are known to carry parasites, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, they can easily sicken hosts subject to direct contact or indirect contacts like cross-contamination from food or surface areas.

American Cockroach and Palmetto Bug Diseases

Cockroaches can spread various diseases. However, unlike fleas, ticks, and mosquitos, they do not directly pass pathogens unless the host consumes the insect or waste directly. Cockroaches are also known to be a significant contributor to asthma and streptococcus and staphylococcus. The transmission of diseases from American Cockroaches mostly occurs indirectly. Most Cockroach transmitted diseases are as follows.:

  • Cholera

  • Gastroenteritis

  • Leprosy

  • Salmonellosis

  • Plague

  • Campylobacteriosis

  • Listeriosis

  • Dysentery

  • Typhoid Fever

  • E Coli

Cholera Transmission from Cockroaches

Vibrio Cholerae Bacteria

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by the Vibrio cholera bacterium. It is most common in underdeveloped countries with inadequate drinking water locations such as city municipal water supply or places that lack regulated clean water forcing its people to drink from possible contaminated sites like ponds, stagnant water locations, etc. Infection occurs through ingestion of contaminated water or food that has the bacteria present. If exposed, the American Cockroaches are subject to bacteria; the cockroaches will spread the bacteria through their fecal matter and regurgitation, resulting in the cross-contamination of surfaces and food.

The symptoms of cholera can vary from host to host. After the bacteria enters the small intestine, some may have no to mild symptoms. The most common symptoms noted are diarrhea, vomiting, and muscle cramps, as well as dehydration.

Gastroenteritis Transmission From Palmetto Bugs


Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the intestinal lining caused by bacteria, a virus, or parasites. Viral Gastroenteritis takes the number 2 spot as one of the most common illnesses in the United States. Gastroenteritis caused by the Norovirus infection spreads from American Cockroaches / Palmetto Bugs from cross-contaminated food or water by contacting the cockroach who has walked through a contaminated location indirectly spread the virus to an unknowing host. Common symptoms of Gastroenteritis include cramps, nausea, low-grade fevers, and vomiting.

Leprosy Transmission From Cockroaches

Leprosy vector illustration. Labeled medical bacterial infection

Cockroaches and other insects are known carriers of the bacillus mycobacterium leprae, which is responsible for leprosy.

Cockroaches are capable of spreading leprosy through their feces. If left untreated, the leprosy bacteria can cause permanent damage to the victims' nerves, skin, and/or eyes. This can lead to disfigurement and deformities to the host infected. In most cases, cockroach cross-contamination is not usually known as the culprit since

Leprosy has an incubation period of roughly five years, with symptoms sometimes taking as long as 20 years to appear.

Salmonellosis Transmission From American Cockroaches

Symptoms of salmonellosis. The structure of salmonella

Like rats and other rodents, cockroaches also transmit the Salmonella bacteria responsible for salmonellosis, which affects humans with symptoms similar to food poisoning.

As Cockroaches feed on cross-contaminated food sources, the Salmonella bacteria remain in the cockroach's digestive system for a month, in some cases longer. The Salmonella bacteria are deposited through the cockroach's excrement or regurgitation.

Since the host can't see the bacteria, smell its presence, or taste the bacteria, it is not commonly traced back to Cockroaches. Salmonella's typical symptoms are diarrhea, fever, upset stomach and discomfort, and cramping in your belly.

Plague Transmission From Cockroaches

Bubonic plague bacteria Yersinia pestis

"The Plague" is often thought to be a rodent-borne disease from the transmission of Fleas. Although this is true, all cockroaches are suspected of spreading Yersinia pestis bacterium, which is known to cause the bubonic Plague. It is common for most individuals to think the Plague is a disease of the past; however, cases of this disease still turn up all of the time, with it being more common than most people think.

Bubonic Plague symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Pain in the lymph nodes

  • Chills

  • Cramping of the muscles

  • High-temperature fevers

Luckily, with advances in medicine, antibiotics introduced 24 hours after infection help to avoid severe consequences.

Campylobacteriosis Transmission From Cockroaches

3D illustration Intestinal villi. Intestine lining

Campylobacteriosis is another bacterial infection, this one caused by the campylobacter bacterium. This bacterial infection is a common foodborne illness. This bacteria has been found on the external exoskeleton surfaces of American cockroaches, Palmetto Bugs, and Oriental cockroaches.

The bacteria is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food sources and drinks such as undercooked poultry and contaminated drink sources.

Common symptoms of campylobacteriosis may result in cramps, abdominal pain, fevers, diarrhea, with some extreme cases causing blood in the stool. Campylobacteriosis typically requires little if any medical treatment and lasts 2-10 days on average.

Listeriosis Transmission From American Cockroaches

Meat steak invaded by Listeria Monocytogenes Bacteria

Listeriosis is a severe bacterial infection caused by a germ known as the bacterium listeria monocytogenes. This bacterial infection is usually contracted by cross-contamination from food or drinks.

Listeriosissemems to have a more pronounced effect on people with weakened or compromised immune systems. Women who are pregnant, elderly individuals, and newborns/ toddlers appear to be those most affected by Listeriosis. This does not mean that those whose immune systems are in excellent condition can not be affected by Listeriosis.

Symptoms of Listeriosis, like other bacterial infections, can vary. Some common symptoms are fever, diarrhea, and muscle aches, headaches, confusion, and in extreme cases, convulsions.

Dysentery Transmission From Cockroaches


Dysentery is another type of Gastroenteritis. Dysentery, however, results in diarrhea with blood in the stool. For most people, dysentery sufferers experience mostly mild symptoms, with recovery reported within a week roughly without seeking medical attention.

The two types of Dysentery are as follows:

  • Amoebic Dysentery: This Dysentery is caused by a parasite that is single-celled called entamoeba. This variation is most common in tropical locations.

  • Bacillary Dysentery: Bacillary Dysentery, also known as shigellosis, is caused by the shigella bacteria.

Both Dysentery variations are typically spread through unsanitary hand washing practices and the consumption of cross-contaminated food and drinks which contain the organism. Dysentery symptoms are diarrhea containing blood and mucus, nausea, stomach cramps with pain, vomiting, and a high-temperature fever.

Typhoid fever From Cockroaches

Typhoid fever. infographics. pathogen.

Typhoid fever, another type of bacterial infection, is caused by the salmonella typhi bacterium. This disease is highly infectious. Cockroaches become subject carriers of this disease by consuming feces that have been contaminated with the bacteria.

Typhoid fever is most common in underdeveloped countries that consist of poor sanitation and limited access to clean water. Typhoid Fever seems to affect the elderly or those with low immune systems, including children.

The symptoms of typhoid fever include, but are not limited to:

  • Headaches

  • Muscle aches

  • Fever with a high temperature

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Dull or sharp stomach Pain

Medical Treatments are available with Typhoid Fever and, in most cases, quickly improve within 3-5 days.

E.coli infections Due To Cockroaches

Escherichia coli also known as Ecoli bacteria

Escherichia coli, also commonly known as (E. coli), is a bacterium commonly found in humans' gut. Most strains of the bacteria do not harm those affected by it. However, in some cases, it can cause severe food poisoning.

The most common symptoms of an E. coli infection are painful abdominal cramping with diarrhea that has watery discharge. Other symptoms are:

  • Chills

  • Nausea

  • Fever

  • Muscle aches

Symptoms from E.Coli in most cases last up to three weeks and do not require medical support. Like other diseases, cockroaches spread the infection through contaminated food and drink.

Intestinal Infections

Sanitation Practices for Cockroach Control

cleaning supplies

One of the primary essential control to cockroach elimination and reducing the chance of cockroach related illnesses is sanitation. Keeping a home clean with practices to eliminate alternative food sources, cleanliness, and proper sanitation surfaces while employing proper handwashing technics is vital in controlling cockroaches.

How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs and American Cockroaches.

If you suspect cockroaches in your home, it is imperative that you seek the services of a professional exterminator. Cockroach identification is key to understanding the locations that cockroaches may be hiding in. Different species of cockroaches have other habits from species to species. A professional pest control company will be able to identify the cockroach species that may be affecting your home and designate a program to rid you of those particular insects. In this Pest Control blog post article, all content was handwritten by Jonathan Stoddard, a certified entomologist, to show the pest control industry's expertise and is Copywrite.


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