Can Cockroaches Fly? Do They Have Wings?

Is there a huge different reaction human have when we bumped into a cockroach and a flying cockroach? Yes, there is. Some may not fear of cockroach and could even catch a cockroach with their bare hands. Whereas, the story changes when there’s a flying cockroach. It seems scarier to us when it can fly. Have you thought of can all cockroaches fly? How many types of cockroaches are there in the world?

The short answer is: it depends on the cockroach species.

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There are about 4000 different species of cockroaches around the world. Only about 40 species are considered as pests. The other species are beneficial in their natural habitat. According to the fossil evidence, cockroaches have been around for more than 300 million years. Due to their resilience and adaptability, cockroaches can survive in most environments. The flying capability of cockroaches varies according to species and gender. There are many species of cockroaches with wings, but not all can fly.  Some can only crawl, whereas, some uses their wings to stabilise themselves when they jump which appear as flight. Generally, cockroaches are not great flyers.

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Summary of The Flying Capabilities of Different Types of Cockroaches

Type of Cockroaches Flying Capability
Male Female
American Cockroach
Smokybrown Cockroach
Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach X
Oriental Cockroach X X
Madagascar Hissing Cockroach X X

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Cockroaches Flight Capability

American Cockroach (Fly by gliding)

Length     :35mm-50mm
Colour     : Reddish brown or mahogany. Area behind their heads is outlined with a yellow band

Both the male and female American cockroach use their wings to glide from higher elevations to lower surfaces. The male is slightly longer than the female because their wings extend about 4 to 8 mm beyond the tip of the abdomen. Infant American cockroach does not have wings, the wings only develop when the cockroach becomes adult. American cockroach prefers warm and humid environment such as basements, drains and sewers. At outdoors, it can be found in moist shady areas such as hollow trees and wood piles. American cockroach is an omnivorous. It eats almost anything such as leaves, fungi, algae, small insects, crumbs, spilled food, paper, hair, bread etc.

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Smokybrown Cockroach (Strong Flier)

Length: 38mm

Colour: Uniformly a black, mahogany

Smokybrown cockroach is a strong flier where has wings that extend beyond their body. It is often found in leaf litter so as it can camouflage itself against the predators. Smokybrown cockroach likes areas that are warm with high humidity and wooded areas. It can be found in tree holes, ground cover, gutters, etc. It is nocturnal, so Smokybrown cockroach is mostly active during night. Smokybrown cockroach likes to feed on decaying plant matter, it will also eat any food that is available such as, meats, starches, sweets, dead insects etc.

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Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach (depending on gender)

Male

Length: 25mm

Colour: deep dark chestnut brown

Wings: fully developed wings

Female
Length: 19mm

Colour: deep dark chestnut brown
Wings: under developed wings

Pennsylvania wood cockroach has similar appearance as the American cockroach, but it is slightly smaller. This species of cockroach, only the male cockroach can fly short distant because it has full developed wing, whereas the wings of the female is under developed, thus, female Pennsylvania wood cockroach cannot fly. Male Pennsylvania wood cockroach are attracted to light sources such as car headlights, thus it tends to fly towards the direction of the light source.  Pennsylvania wood cockroach feed on decaying organic matter, sweets, and starchy materials. It is more active during winter.

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Oriental Cockroach (Can’t fly)

Length: 31mm
Colour: dark-brown or glossy-black

Both the male and female cockroach are incapable of flying due to the structure of their wings. The wings of the male is shorter than it’s body and the female wings is undeveloped. Oriental cockroach can be found in cool, damp areas like the basements and sewers. It feed on decaying plant, animal matter and starchy human scraps.

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Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (No wings)

Length: 7.5cm
Colour: brown

Madagascar hissing cockroach is one of the largest cockroach species and it does not have wings. Therefore, it cannot fly. It is an omnivore whereby it feeds on rotting plant, small insects, animal carcasses and fallen fruit. It can be found on the forest floors, tropical areas and beneath rotten logs. Madagascar hissing cockroach is capable of hissing. The female hissed only when disturbed whereas for the male, it is a form of communication to attract mates, scare off enemies and warn others.

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Watch this hilarious women battling the flying roach (skip to 0.25s).


Final Thoughts

The species of the cockroaches determines its flying capability. Generally, cockroaches are not great flyers. For the species of cockroaches that can fly, they can only fly a short distant, or uses their wings to glide. Some cockroaches have wings but do not fly whereas some species does not even have wings. The structure of the wings and body mass also determined the cockroaches flying capability. Some have wings but undeveloped, thus it could not fly. Others can fly but they seldom fly, they rather crawl.

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