Combat

Pest Identification

Learn More About the Pests Invading Your Home

Do Giant Cockroaches Inhabit North America?

If you switch on the light and see a few roaches scurrying up your walls at three miles per hour, they probably look gigantic to you. But most cockroaches in North America are not all that big, they just seem that way when they’re in your house. At 1 to 2 inches in length, the reddish brown American cockroach is the largest of common cockroach species considered pests. German and Asian cockroaches are about half that size. If you want to see a truly giant cockroach, you have to travel to the island nation of Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa.

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is oval-shaped, shiny brown, equipped with a single pair of antennae, and (fortunately) devoid of wings. They can grow up to 3 inches and weigh in at an impressive 22 grams—about ¾ of an ounce. Male Madagascar roaches are aggressive and armed with a pair of horns which they use to battle one another for the love of lady roaches. During these horned duels, the bugs emit loud hisses which give the roach its name. The winners hiss louder than the losers so the hissing is considered a victory song.

But the hissing Madagascars have nothing on Blaberus giganteus, the Central American Giant Cockroach which can grow to about 4 inches, or more than twice the size of its American cousin. Fortunately, the Giant Cockroach is not the type to invade your kitchen. The insects live in Central and South American rainforests and prefer dark, damp hidey holes like caves, tree hollows, and cracks under rocks. They mostly live on decaying plants material but, like other cockroaches, will eat just about anything they can find including fruit, dead animals, and bat guano.

Weighing in at 35 grams, or 1.2 ounces, the huge rhinoceros cockroach of Australia rounds out the contenders in the “giant” field. While “only” 3 inches long, these heavyweights are also called giant burrowing cockroaches since they make their homes underground. Like other giants, rhino roaches are not considered pests and will never live in North America. However, some people consider these big roaches to be beautiful and keep them as pets. Others prefer the Madagascar which is docile and easy to handle. So if you see a cockroach bigger than your average American pest, don’t stomp on it. It might be someone’s beloved giant cockroach pet.

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