Difference Between a Wood Roach and a Cockroach? | Quick Guide

Cockroaches have a bad reputation, whether they like it or not. Their presence alone can also make people freak out. Not to mention, they carry some bacteria that can contaminate food and cause illnesses. But are all roach species really the same? What about wood cockroaches? Are they also very hard to kill?

How can you tell the difference between a wood roach and a cockroach? The main difference between a wood cockroach and a common cockroach is their behavior. Wood roaches are mostly outdoors and don’t cause indoor infestation. They are also considered “clean” because you will not see them in garbage cans.

Wood cockroaches are very interesting insects since they differ a lot from the roaches that you normally encounter at home. But still, they are creepy to look at. It is therefore acceptable to be afraid of them. To help ease your fear, this article explains everything about wood roaches and how you should deal with them.

Wood Cockroach Identification

Wood Cockroach Identification

General Description

The wood cockroach (or wood roach) is a roach species that belongs to the genus Parcoblatta. There are around 12 species of wood roaches that are found in the United States. Nonetheless, the most common wood roach species is the Pennsylvania wood cockroach, scientifically known as Parcoblatta pensylvanica.


Generally speaking, wood cockroaches look very similar to other cockroach species in terms of physical appearance. They are usually light reddish-brown to dark brown, with flat bodies, long antennae, and six long, spiny legs. Males have four wings and can fly, while females have short wings and are mostly flightless.


Adult wood cockroaches are 3/4-1 1/4 inches (19.0-31.8 mm) long, depending on the species. Males are usually longer and bigger than females. The wings of the males are longer than their bodies, while the wings of the females are only about two-thirds of their body length. Wingless nymphs are only about 0.5 mm long.


Wood cockroaches have an incomplete life cycle, which means that they only undergo three life stages – egg, nymph, and adult. Eggs typically hatch in 34 days, while the larval stage may take about 10-12 months. Adults have an average lifespan of 6 months. However, they may live shorter when indoors.


Wood cockroaches are native to North America and are typically found in the Eastern, Southern, and Central states. They are considered outdoor dwellers rather than indoors. Wood roaches are accidental home invaders and rarely breed indoors. They live in leaf litter, loose bark, rotten wood, and wood piles.


The main diet of wood cockroaches is decaying organic matter. This includes leaves, rotting wood, and dead trees. But although “wood” is attached to their name, wood roaches don’t eat wooden structures such as furniture, walls, and floors. They are also not fond of eating human food and waste or garbage.


Since wood cockroaches are mostly outdoors, they have quite a lot of natural predators such as spiders and insects, including praying mantises and parasitic wasps. Amphibians and reptiles such as frogs, toads, bearded dragons, and iguanas also eat wood roaches. Indoors, they can easily be killed by fly swatters.

Related: Wood Cockroaches | Information and Control Guide

What Are the Distinct Similarities Between Wood Cockroaches and Other Cockroaches?

What Are the Distinct Similarities Between Wood Cockroaches and Other Cockroaches

Wood cockroaches and other roaches look the same, especially in terms of color and body parts. In fact, Pennsylvania wood cockroaches can sometimes be mistaken for American cockroaches (Periplaneta Americana). Both of them also undergo the same incomplete metamorphosis.

What Are the Differences Between Wood Cockroaches and Other Cockroaches?

What Are the Differences Between Wood Cockroaches and Other Cockroaches

Wood cockroaches and other roach species may have some obvious similarities, but it does not necessarily mean it’s difficult to distinguish wood roaches from the others. They also have a lot of interesting characteristics that might surprise you. Below are the differences between wood roaches and other cockroaches. 

  • Wood cockroaches are bigger than the common household cockroach, the German cockroach, which is 13-16 mm long. On the other hand, they are slightly smaller than the American cockroach, which is 34–53 mm long.
  • While most cockroaches are nocturnal, wood cockroaches are active night and day.
  • Unlike other cockroaches that are sensitive to light, wood roaches are attracted to light. Adult males are attracted to bright lights at night.
  • Most cockroach species will run and hide once they see you. On the other hand, wood cockroaches are not secretive and will not run away when approached.
  • Cockroaches normally eat garbage and feces. On the contrary, wood roaches prefer eating plant materials and “clean” decaying organic matter.
  • Household cockroaches can be found in the bathroom and kitchen. Wood roaches may also enter homes but rarely and will not stay indoors for long.

Why Am I Seeing Wood Roaches in My House?

Why Am I Seeing Wood Roaches in My House

Wood roaches are uncommon indoors. This means that if you see some of them inside your house, they may have entered accidentally. Males are likely to enter your house if you have an open window or outdoor light. Nymphs may pass through tiny cracks and crevices or will hitchhike via firewood.

Where Do Wood Roaches Hide?

You may rarely see wood cockroaches in your house, but it does not mean they are hiding from you. In fact, they don’t hide at all. If you see wood cockroaches anywhere, they will not avoid you and don’t mind being seen. Wood roaches are not known for biting humans, and will run or fly away if you try to catch them.

Can Wood Roaches Infest Your House?

Wood roaches cannot infest your house. To start with, they are very unlikely to reproduce indoors. This is because they require high humidity levels and a lot of moisture to survive and breed. They may not also find sufficient sources of food in your home. If these crawlers do not leave your house soon, they will die.

Are Wood Cockroaches Attracted to Wood?

Are Wood Cockroaches Attracted to Wood

Wood cockroaches are attracted to wood but only those found outdoors such as rotting trees. Fortunately, they are not attracted to healthy trees and dry wood. This cockroach species prefer decaying wood because of its high moisture content. This is also why they are very unlikely to damage wooden structures.

What Do Wood Roaches Hate?

Wood roaches hate low humidity levels and dry areas. These factors prevent them from reproducing and make them uncomfortable. There are no records showing that wood cockroaches hate the smell of essential oils and household products such as vinegar. But then, these cockroaches are easy to manage.

Do Wood Roaches Fly?

Wood roaches fly but only males since females have non-functioning wings. Nymphs don’t have wings yet until they become adults. Male wood cockroaches are fast fliers and usually travel in groups. They can fly at a considerable distance but not that far and are the only ones that go indoors.

When Are Wood Roaches Most Active?

Wood roaches are most active from the last part of spring until early summer, from May to June. This is also their breeding season. Nymphs are inactive during winter and spend the cold months in protected areas, while adults die shortly after fall. As previously mentioned, these roach species are active day and night.

How to Get Rid of Wood Cockroaches?

Getting rid of wood cockroaches is easy as compared to other roach species. Aside from being mostly outdoors, they don’t hide from humans. Since wood roaches are also attracted to lights, you can easily see them even at night. Nevertheless, here are some simple but useful ways to get rid of wood roaches:

  • Alternatively, you can vacuum them. But since roaches don’t usually die when vacuumed, put them in soapy water.
  • For slowly-crawling roaches, you can use a broom and a dust pan.
  • For wood roaches outdoors, you can spray them with Raid Ant & Roach Killer. For safety purposes, read the product label before using it.

How Can I Prevent Wood Cockroaches From Invading?

After getting rid of wood cockroaches, you should conduct some preventive measures to avoid them from coming back. Again, these cockroaches are easier to control than other roach species. Therefore, it is also not difficult to prevent them from invading your property. Below are some helpful exclusion techniques:

  • Place firewood far from your house. Store them in a place with a shed or cover.
  • Check firewood carefully before bringing them inside your house.
  • Seal all tiny gaps, small openings, and other potential points of entry.
  • Repair damaged screens on doors and windows.
  • Turn off unnecessary indoor and outdoor lights, especially at night.
  • Clean your yard. Remove plant debris, especially fallen leaves and wet wood.

As you most probably know by now, wood cockroaches are not dangerous or harmful to humans. Nevertheless, they can still be annoying, especially when they enter your house. Aside from that, you might not be able to recognize them at once. Therefore, keeping your house cockroach-free is the best solution.

List of Sources

Wood Cockroach

Pennsylvania Wood Cockroaches

Cockroach Species in New Jersey and Their Control Strategies