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German Roaches vs. American Roaches

Different species of cockroaches vary in size, color, and behaviors. The first thing to do to help you get rid of a roach infestation at home is to identify and better know what species of cockroach you are dealing with. But one thing is common among all cockroach species: No one likes having them at home.

Is One Roach a Sign of Infestation?

Is one cockroach a sign of infestation?

Cockroaches frequent areas heavily infested with bacteria and other contaminants, which they spread everywhere they go. They also reproduce quite quickly. If you have cockroaches at home, depending on the size of the infestation, they may make allergy and asthmatic symptoms worse. And once you have a few cockroaches indoors, you can have an infestation that grows to several hundred to thousands more in a relatively short period of time. Keep in mind that they are difficult to get rid of once they've established a presence in your home.

Of the over 4,500 species of cockroaches worldwide, only about 30 can live around human beings, and out of those, there are only about four species that you can expect to encounter in the United States and Canada:

  • German roaches

  • American roaches

  • Brown-banded roaches

  • Oriental roaches

The two most common of these roach species you'll encounter bear some similarities, but more differences: German vs. American cockroaches. Cockroach control is a major concern for homeowners, as well as renters. Keep reading for more information about them, differences between them, and for some tips to know to get rid of both types of these invading pests at home.

German Cockroaches vs. American Cockroaches Overview 

German roaches and American roaches are different to the point that how you approach preventing them in your home. 

German Cockroaches (Blattella germanica). German roaches (also known as "kitchen roaches") are the most common cockroach species in homes and apartments. They are small, lighter brown cockroaches, about 1/2" to 5/8" in length. They live practically their entire lives indoors, and have two distinct stripes running down their bodies. Since German cockroaches love kitchens so much, one concern you should have as a homeowner is their bacteria-ridden presence in and around food and areas designated for food preparation.

German cockroach

American cockroaches (Blattidae). American roaches (also known as "Palmetto bugs") are quite a bit larger than their German counterparts (1-1/2" to 2" in length), and reddish-brown to dark brown in color, with yellowish stripes around their circumference. They are the largest cockroach species in the U.S. They are the second most common cockroaches indoors. These cockroaches spend most of their time outdoors, especially in warm, humid climates (e.g., Florida), but will head indoors to nest if in an area where outdoor temperatures start to drop in the fall. Outdoors, you might see these cockroaches circling around outdoor lights, and flying (more like gliding) downward from trees and rooftops. 

American cockroach

Why Are there German Cockroaches in America?

Cockroaches are estimated to have been around for some hundreds of millions of years. German cockroaches actually originated in Southeast Asia, and were introduced into Europe around the end of the 13th Century via explorers and traders going back and forth between the two continents. Later, during the exploration and colonization of the Americas, these little invaders made it over here to this side of the world. Which brings us to dealing with them today.

There are several ways German roaches can get into your home. You may: 

  • Bring them in cardboard boxes you're bringing in from storage.

  • Bring them in used electronics or furniture. 

  • Bring them in boxed food from the store. 

  • Have a visitor that brings them in their clothing or a purse.

  • Live in an apartment building, and have them come into your home through a vent from a nest in your neighbor's apartment. 

German cockroaches live anywhere humans have built heated structures, which is why they're so common in homes and apartments. They are usually found in kitchens, bathrooms, and other secluded areas (that provide food, shelter, and water) like behind and under appliances, in cracks and crevices, behind and under cabinets, in drawers, wall voids, around plumbing, etc. These roaches particularly love hiding out in appliance motors (i.e., refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers). 

German cockroaches love to eat human food, pet food, and a wide range of other food and non-food items.

Do American Roaches Infest?

American cockroaches most commonly live in dark, damp areas like sewers, steam tunnels, storm drains, as well as in tree holes and damp landscaping and vegetation. They like to feed on rotting organic materials as well as on a variety of other types of food and non-food items.

Like other roach species and other bugs, American roaches come into homes in search of water, food, and shelter. They can enter through damaged screens, cracks, and crevices around the outdoor of your home, underneath doors, as well as through basement windows and garages. Once inside, they usually head to kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, crawlspaces, and the basement. 

How To Get Rid of Roaches Permanently

The faster you act to treat for cockroaches once you've discovered them, the sooner you can eliminate an infestation in your home.

  • Clean your kitchen, and home, being careful to wipe up all spills, grease, and crumbs on counter tops and underneath/between appliances, in cupboards, etc (You want to eliminate any and all of their food sources).

  • Seal up cracks in your home’s foundation, make sure screens and weatherproofing are in good repair, cover vents with mesh, seal gaps between windows and doors and outer walls, and seal areas where utility hardware enters your house.

  • Get rid of roach hangouts like empty boxes, newspapers, magazines, etc.

  • Repair any leaky plumbing/pipes/faucets indoors and outdoors.

Treat With a Reliable Cockroach Killer

Cockroaches can be spot-treated and killed directly by spraying them with an effective plant-powered roach killer spray like Maggie's Farm Ant & Roach Killer Spray or Maggie’s Farm Home Bug SprayMaggie's Farm Roach Killer Gel , Maggie's Farm Spider & Insect Dust, or Maggie’s Farm Bed Bug Killer are longer-lasting treatments for out-of the-way areas where you've seen roach activity including underneath counter tops, inside cabinets, in wall voids, etc.  

Always follow directions on any pest control product you use.

How Long Does It Take to Get Rid of Cockroaches?

How long it takes to get rid of a cockroach infestation depends on several different factors, including:

  • How many roaches there are
  • How fast you respond once you discover cockroach activity (remember, they multiply quickly!)
  • How old your home is (older homes mean more cracks/crevices/wall voids)
  • How clean/tidy you keep your home (Don't fret too much - even the cleanest homes can get cockroaches)

Cockroach infestations in general typically take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to eliminate. Keeping up with prevention methods and consistent treatments is key for making roaches feel unwelcome in your home.

For more information on getting rid of cockroaches, check out:

Get Rid of Roaches

Cockroaches: Control Strategies and Products

Cockroach Control Checklist

Types of Cockroaches

Got tips and tricks to get rid of cockroaches at home? Post a comment. We’d love to hear from you!


For scientifically-tested, effective cockroach control in your home that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.

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