Cockroaches, also known as cockroaches, are common pests in many countries. However, most of the approximately 4600 species occur primarily in tropical and subtropical regions. In Europe, on the other hand, only six cockroach species are native.
To the point
Distinction between cockroaches and forest cockroaches
only cockroaches are pests
Cockroaches often very sensitive to cold
wood cockroaches are rarely found in apartments
cockroaches transmit dangerous diseases
Cockroaches are those species of cockroaches that live primarily in human proximity or in human dwellings. The majority of these cockroaches are not native to Europe, but were (and still are) introduced from their warm home countries. They can only survive where it is warm enough: in apartments, bakeries, hotels, tropical houses, etc.
American large cockroach (Periplaneta americana).
Contrary to what you might think, the American cockroach originated in Africa. From here, this cockroach species spread by shipping to all subtropical and tropical regions of the world. There it is one of the most common cockroach species. In Europe, the American cockroach has long been found only in zoos or botanical gardens. In the meantime, however, isolated specimens are also found in this country from time to time in public facilities such as hotels, restaurants, in sewer systems, district heating shafts or combined heat and power plants. Since the species is extremely sensitive to cold, it cannot overwinter outdoors in Europe.
Coloration: reddish brown, yellowish red band at the back of the head shield
body length: up to 53 millimeters
very long antennae, can be body long or longer
both sexes winged
wings reach to the tip of the abdomen
Way of life
- can fly and climb well
- very fast runner
- mainly nocturnal
- can survive up to three months without food
- lays eggs in egg cases (ootheca)
- capsule-like, dark colored and about eight by five millimeters in size
Note: When laying eggs, the females usually attach the egg capsules, each containing around 15 to 20 eggs, near food, for example to packaging or pallets. This is how the American cockroach spreads throughout the world through trade.
Brown banded cockroach (Supella longipalpa)
The brown banded cockroach also originated in Africa, but also spread throughout the world via shipping and trade. Unlike other cockroach species, this one prefers very warm (more than 27 °C) and rather dry environments, which is why they are typically found in electrical equipment, in computer systems, cable ducts, on hot water pipes, light switches, and in and on picture frames and furniture.
Coloration: reddish yellow to reddish brown, two light horizontal stripes on the neck shield
body length: females 10 to 12 millimeters, males up to 15 millimeters
Males have pointed body
females have shorter, more rounded body
well developed wings in both sexes
Way of life
mainly nocturnal, but sighting during the day possible
flightless despite wings
oviposition in capsule-like egg cocoons (ootheca)
often deposited in cracks of furniture or floors
development depends on temperature
very sensitive to cold
Note: Since the brown banded cockroach is spread not only through food, but also through electrical appliances and (second-hand) furniture, it is also known as the “furniture cockroach”.
European cockroach (Blattella germanica)
Also widespread in buildings worldwide is the fully winged European cockroach or house cockroach, which is also one of the most common pests in this country. In Central Europe, this cockroach species is mainly found in warm and humid rooms, such as those in bakeries, large kitchens, canteens, hospitals, swimming pools or greenhouses. The cockroach is also frequently found in private households under suitable living conditions. Compared to other cockroach species, this one is much less sensitive to cold: only at temperatures below four degrees Celsius are the animals no longer able to move. Their egg capsules can even survive sub-zero temperatures of up to 20°C.
Coloration: plain yellow-brown, 2 dark longitudinal stripes on neck shield
body length: 10 to 15 millimeters
well developed wings
Way of life
- despite wings not able to fly
- only gliding flight possible
- can also hibernate outdoors
- in very warm places up to four generations per year
- females lay up to 200 eggs
- egg capsules light brown to brown colored
Common cockroach (Blatta orientalis)
The warmth in bakeries, commercial kitchens and other food establishments, as well as the constant availability of food, provide a veritable El Dorado for the common cockroach, also known as the oriental cockroach or baker’s cockroach. Because this species comes into contact with and thus spreads bacteria and fungi of all kinds, its presence poses a major hygiene problem. The common cockroach cannot fly and, with the exception of Arctic and Antarctic regions, is found indoors all over the world. It is one of the most common cockroach species in the world.
Coloration: dark brown to black
body length: females 22 to 30 centimeters, males 20 to 25 centimeters
in males forewings do not reach the hind end completely
stubby wings in females
long, thread-like antennae
has stink glands
Way of life
- nocturnal and shy of light
- sensitive to cold, feels most comfortable at temperatures above 20 °C
- cannot climb well, therefore stays close to the ground
- females lay up to 190 eggs
- egg capsules up to 10 millimeters long
- initially reddish in color, later black
Note: The cockroach can squeeze through even the narrowest crevices, which is why even the smallest gaps in walls and partitions should be closed when combating it. In addition, the species is no longer able to reproduce at temperatures below 15 °C.
Strictly speaking, forest cockroaches do not belong to the cockroach species, since only cockroaches are called so. Nevertheless, both species groups belong to the zoological order of cockroaches (Blattodea).
- both species groups are closely related
- look very similar externally
- quite high risk of confusion
- wood cockroaches are not pests
- rarely found in human proximity
- habitat: forest floor
- food: decaying plant matter and small animals
- Amber Wood Cockroach (Ectobius vittiventris)
The amber wood cockroach, which immigrated from Southern Europe, is also very rarely found in human dwellings or cannot survive there due to lack of food. If you live near a forest in southern Europe, you will sometimes find one or the other specimen strayed into your home in the evening when darkness sets in – the animals are attracted by artificial light. The amber wood cockroach is also not a pest.
Coloration: light brown, pale, translucent neck shield
body length: 9 to 14 millimeters
well developed wings in both sexes
protrude the tip of the abdomen
wings sometimes finely spotted
both sexes are able to fly
The amber wood cockroach is very similar in size and coloration to the European cockroach, but unlike the pest, it does not have longitudinal stripes on its neck shield.
Note: Sometimes this cockroach species also likes to nest in the garden and can be found here mainly in low bushes or under pots.
Common wood cockroach (Ectobius lapponicus)
The native wood cockroach is widespread and quite common in and on the herbaceous and soil layers of deciduous, mixed and also coniferous forests, as well as in parks, hedgerows and gardens. Unlike other cockroaches, the species is diurnal, although it is also heat-loving. The male is able to fly with its well-developed hind wings, while the female has only vestigial flight wings and moves exclusively by crawling.
neck shield and wings translucent
males with dark neck shield
9 to 13 millimeters long
Note: The wood cockroach can be observed between May and October. In addition, other forest cockroach species exist in Central Europe that are very similar to this one.
Frequently asked questions
How do cockroaches get into the home?
While nocturnal wood cockroaches are often attracted by artificial light and thus fly through open windows, the pests usually enter the apartment through contaminated food or food packaging, second-hand furniture and the like. Occasionally, people also bring them back from vacation, so that they can multiply and spread at home if the living conditions are suitable. Some species also crawl inside the home through cracks and crevices in the masonry.
Are cockroaches dangerous?
With good reason, cockroaches (not wood roaches!) are considered pests and controlled because they can carry a variety of dangerous diseases. Cockroaches spread bacteria and other pathogens that cause dysentery, typhoid, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis, for example. In addition, the animals can transmit worm parasites and mold spores to humans, and their excrement causes asthma and skin eczema.
Can cockroaches bite?
Yes, since the majority of the various species of cockroaches are omnivorous, they can theoretically bite humans. However, they rarely do so, as they tend to flee from us humans. It is possible that cockroaches bite in dangerous situations where there is no possibility of escape, or when there is a lack of food or a very heavy infestation.