Can cockroaches fly? – the answer may surprise you

It is no secret that homeowners hate cockroaches. These creatures can be a real menace running around the house and hiding in crevices and openings. Can it get any worse? Yes! It gets spooky when you come across flying cockroaches. So, can cockroaches fly?

To answer the question, we undertook an extensive study to try and answer that question adequately. Some cockroaches can fly while others cannot, although all species have wings. All in all, roaches are not good flyers at all. Cockroaches use their wings to stabilize and find balance while crawling rather than flying.

How do you tell the difference between flying and non-flying cockroaches? Let’s take a look at the flight capability of different cockroach species!

· The American cockroach

The American cockroach ranges between mahogany and dark brown color. The species, however, has a distinct yellow line on the back of its head, setting it apart from the other species. The roach grows up to 3.1 inches as an adult and has wings spreading 4-9 mm from its body. The female counterparts tend to have smaller bodies and wings compared to the male counterpart.

The size of wings of an American cockroach enables it to glide from place to place. However, the most American cockroach can do is to glide from elevated places to lower locations. The flying technique is not very effective.

Both males and females have wings and can fly. Baby roaches do not have developed wings until they become adults.

· Oriental Cockroach

The oriental cockroach is a very common domestic roach. The cockroach is large and dark brown colored with a shiny top, hence referred to as the black beetle cockroach. They grow to 25 mm in length. They also have underdeveloped wings. Neither the male or the female of the species can fly.

· Smoky Brown Cockroach

The smoky brown cockroach is black-brown in color, with a shiny brown covering on top. The species is generally smaller as they grow up to 1.25 inches only. The males are slightly bigger than their female counterparts. The wings of these roaches extend over the body.

Since their wings are extended, these cockroaches are one of the greatest flyers known. They are pretty steady in the air, jumping from chimneys to countertops.

· Madagascar Hissing Roach

The Madagascar Hissing roach gets its name from the hissing sound it makes when looking for food, mating, or communicating about possible danger. The cockroach is brown in color and measure over 3 inches in length. Unlike other cockroach species, the Madagascar Hissing roach does not have wings.

It is one of the many flightless roaches. To make up for the lightlessness, the cockroach is very fast on its feet.

· Pennsylvania Woods cockroach

The Pennsylvania woods cockroach is one unusual species. The cockroach is oval and reddish-brown to brown in color. The roaches are generally small, growing to three-quatre of an inch. The male has developed wings that are longer than the body. Females, on the other hand, have smaller, underdeveloped wings that cover up to two-thirds of their bodies. Therefore, male Pennsylvania wood roaches can fly while the females cannot.

· Cuban cockroach

The Cuban roach is not a frequenter of human residence unless conditions in the wild get tough. The Cuban roach is light greenish in color. The cockroach can grow to 0.75 inches and are very light. These roaches are attracted to the light.

The Cuban cockroach is common in the US and Central America. These roaches are very thin and light with well-developed wings, which allow them to fly.

· Australian cockroach

The Australian and American cockroaches are similar in size and color. They are both mostly brown in color, although the American roach has a distinct line on the bark. Australian cockroaches are adapted to hot and humid areas.

These cockroaches grow to about 1.5 inches in length. However, they have light bodies, which makes it easy to fly. Both the male and female Australian cockroaches have wings and are great fliers.

Flying is not the go-to means of movement for a cockroach. Many will prefer to crawl around since they are lightning-fast while crawling. Cockroaches are rather awkward in the air. So, why would a cockroach resolve to flight?

· Protection

A cockroach may opt to fly if it faces any danger. Cockroaches have more enemies than you think, starting with the homeowner, the home pets, and other natural predators like mice and lizards. Although not invincible, the flight can save a roach’s life.

· For mating

Surprisingly, male cockroaches become active flyers during the mating season. Maybe it’s a means of becoming more attractive to the potential partner, maybe! Roaches will prefer to travel short distances by flying to look for mates. During mating season, it is common to find these creatures on the windowpane of well-lit windows since they are more attracted to the light.

· Food and shelter

In search of food and shelter, cockroaches will also fly. The cockroach may climb all the way to the sink with a pile of dirty dishes and come down from the sink top flying. Also, wild cockroaches may climb on trees and fly to the rooftop of the house for shelter.

· Body temperatures

Cockroaches are endothermic, meaning they are cold-blooded like other insects. Their body temperature changes depending on the environment. Therefore, cockroaches fly from place to place to regulate their body temperature to avoid malfunction of the body parts.

A cockroach’s ideal temperature is between 75-85 degrees. When the temperatures are above 85 degrees, the roach will use its wings to move from a higher place to a cooler place. It will hide in warmer places when the temperatures are not ideal. In winter, cockroaches will clam up in drainages and sewers to avoid using their wings and to retain warmth.

Conclusion

There are over 3000 species of cockroaches, and more are getting discovered. Although all have wings, different species have different flying capabilities. Some fly faster and cover longer distances than others, depending on the size and strength of wings as well as the weight of the body. Some cannot fly, but they can glide or jump from one place to another.

Reference: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0094056

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