Though more prevalent throughout the U.S. Great Plains region, the woods cockroach,Parcoblatta pennsylvatica, is also common through various parts of North America. The insects live outdoors in heavily wooded areas. Many entomologists refer to the insect as a relatively harmless species due to the less-invasive nature of the woods cockroach compared to other species. Woods cockroaches not only prefer to live outdoors but suffer significant decreases in life expectancy when residing indoors.
What do woods cockroaches look like?
Woods cockroaches feature many similar physical characteristics as other species of cockroaches. Male specimens generally grow up to an inch in length, while females grow to 3/4-inch. Some entomologists have reported males in excess of 1 1/4 inches in length. Males possess long, body-length wings and are generally strong fliers. The wings found on females are much shorter and serve no purpose as females do not fly. Both males and females are brownish or tannish in color, with six spiny legs and two large antennae protruding from the head. Woods cockroaches also have a transparent or whitish stripe on the thorax, which can be seen in both the nymph and adult stages.
As previously mentioned, woods cockroaches live outdoors and are commonly found in the rotting wood of uprooted or dying trees and under large piles of discarded or purposed firewood. The insects prefer to live in very moist areas. Woods cockroaches do not acclimate well to dry living conditions and typically die within a few days of gaining entry indoors. The males of the species typically congregate in larger numbers and are attracted to bright lights at night.
What do woods cockroaches eat?
Primary food sources include decaying organic matter, such as leaves, dead animals, or decomposing timbers. Unaccustomed to living indoors, the wood roach typically dessicates or starves inside homes and other well-ventilated structures.
The mating season, and the time period of greatest activity, for wood cockroaches spans the months of May and June. Female woods cockroaches produce yellowish-brown egg cases, which contain up to three dozen individual eggs. The eggs hatch roughly 30 days later. The nymphal life stage lasts generally lasts from 10 months to a full year. Adult woods cockroaches generally live for several months. The dryer fall and winter climates often affect overall life expectancy.
Problems Caused by woods cockroaches
The main difference between other cockroach species and the woods cockroach is that the woods cockroach lives exclusively outdoors. Woods cockroach infestations may occur in instances where firewood inhabited by the roaches is brought indoors or male woods cockroaches are attracted by light and fly into a structure. However, the woods cockroach generally dies off within a few days due to lack of access to adequate or desirable food sources and dryer living conditions. The insects carry no known diseases and are harmless in households. The only known cases of property damage by woods cockroaches resulted from infestations in rotting wooden siding or shingles.
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.