How to Recognize (and Survive) Roaches in California

In California, roaches are quite common, with German cockroaches being the most commonly found species in homes.
Written by Lynell Spencer
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Apr 11, 2022
residents are likely to see German, American, Oriental, Brownbanded, and Turkistan cockroaches in their state. Knowing which you are dealing with will make extermination easier. 
They skitter, scurry, and sneak—leaving smelly, oily tracks, and contaminating your food and your home’s surfaces. Just the idea of a cockroach infestation makes your skin crawl. 
Unfortunately, roaches happen, especially in warm, humid climates like California. There are things you can do to help prevent an infestation, but it is important to know what to do if and when you see a roach in your home.
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California cockroaches 101: How to recognize a roach

There are so many different species of cockroach—and frankly, you probably don’t want to examine any of them too closely, especially in your home. Just the possibility of a cockroach sighting is enough to send some of us into a bit of a panic. 
But the California climate is exactly what roaches look for, so residents who know what to look for will have an easier time getting rid of these pests if they know what they are dealing with. There are five types of roach commonly found in California:

German cockroaches

The German cockroach is the most commonly identified roach in California. These roaches are about 0.5 inches long, light brown, with two brown stripes on their backs. German cockroaches breed faster than other roaches. 
A single female and her offspring can birth up to 30,000 roaches in a year. 

American cockroaches

American cockroaches are the big baddies that you shudder to think about. These bugs grow to about 2” long, are light brown, and the adults of the species can fly. These roaches like warm, humid conditions and tend to live outdoors—but will happily come inside basements or ground floors through cracks and pipes. 

Brownbanded cockroaches

These roaches are about 0.5 inches long and range from golden tan (males) to darker brown (females) in color. They have darker stripes across their backs. 

Oriental cockroaches

Oriental cockroaches are about 1.5 inches in length, and almost black. These guys don’t fly, but they will make themselves at home in your house, garage, or basement—they prefer slightly cooler temperatures than other roaches. 

Turkistan cockroaches

The Turkistan cockroach is an invasive species that is newer to California. These cockroaches are often sold as live food for insect-eating reptiles and other pets. 
The adult females are about 1 inch long with cream-colored markings along the edges behind the head and around the wings; males are slightly smaller with yellowish-tan wings and cream-colored stripes along the edges. The male Turkistan cockroach can fly. 

A guide to cockroach identification

Knowing the exact type of cockroach you’re dealing with is important—especially if you have an unexpected run-in with one. Check out the table below for a breakdown of how to identify different cockroaches:
Type of roach
Average Length
Can it fly?
Where to spot them
German cockroach
golden brown with dark stripes on back
inside homes, restaurants, grocery stores, anywhere food is stored or prepared
American cockroach
sewers, water meter boxes, storm drains, steam tunnels, animal-rearing facilities, and zoos
Turkistan cockroach
light to dark brown with cream-colored markings
water meter boxes, cracks in concrete, compost piles, leaf piles, potted plants, and sewer systems
Brownbanded cockroach
light to dark brown with light bands on back
crevices near electrical appliances, behind the artwork on walls, in hollow legs of furniture, and clutter
Oriental cockroach
nearly black
garages, basements, water meter boxes, and drains
You may also encounter bugs in California that are often mistaken for cockroaches. Most of these bugs are harmless, but it is better to be safe than sorry!
  • Crickets are similar in size, shape, and color, but their jumping and chirping will make them more readily identifiable.
  • Palo Verde Beetles are common in the southwest and look very similar to cockroaches. These peace-loving guys will not normally invade your house, they prefer to nest outdoors, under palo verde trees. 
  • June bugs are smaller than most cockroaches, and they’ve got a distinctive rotund shape.
  • Ground beetles and wood-boring beetles both appear like cockroaches. Ground beetles are harmless, but wood-boring insects may wreak havoc. If it looks like a roach, trap it and take it to an expert.
  • Giant water bugs (as the name suggests) stick to bodies of water—so if you’re at the lake, you’re probably looking at a water bug. They also tend to be much wider than roaches.

How to get rid of roaches in California

Now that you know how to identify them, let’s discuss how to rid your home of these pests! Of course, you always have the option of hiring a professional. The cost in California is $100-$400 per treatment, and you may need several treatments to take care of your problem. 
If you want to handle the problem yourself, though, there are several methods you can try:

Five natural roach killers

  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE): DE is a shell-based abrasive powder. Apply a small layer of powdered powder on roach paths. It will cling to their exoskeleton, causing dehydration. DE powder only acts when dry, so don’t use it in moist areas.
  • Boric Acid or Borax: Boric acid (or its laundry detergent counterpart borax) can be mixed with sugar to bait roaches into eating it. This mixture kills roaches when they eat enough of it. 
  • Baking soda and sugar: Baking soda is also toxic to roaches, and can be mixed with sugar to entice them to eat it. One major benefit of this is that it is completely non-toxic to kids and pets. 
  • Natural roach killer sprays: There are several of these on the market, and they can be helpful when you see a single bug, but may not be as effective with an infestation. 
  • Glue traps: Also known as the “roach motel”—scented glue lures roaches into a small box where they are trapped in the glue and can not leave. Once full, discard the trap and replace it with a fresh one. 

Chemical roach killers—and when to hire an exterminator

It's time to bring out the big guns if you're comfortable with a more aggressive approach. These traditional roach elimination methods work fast and effectively:
  • Gel bait: Many exterminators use gel bait to deal with roach infestations. Gel baits are applied with a syringe in areas where roaches are active. They eat it, go back to the nest and die. The poison in their system will kill other roaches that eat their bodies and feces. 
  • Fumigation tent: A fumigation tent can be put over your entire home, trapping poison and allowing it to permeate the entire region. In general, this is not the best approach for roaches. They do a great job of hiding underneath furniture or decor to avoid poison. 
  • Indoxacarb is a highly effective insecticide that is often used by exterminators in conjunction with gel baits. The spray works the same—by killing the roach, and then poisoning others that come to eat its body. 
  • Hydramethylnon is used in most professional roach baits for its delayed action. Roaches ingest it at the source and then carry it back to the nest where others will be poisoned as well. 

How to keep cockroaches from coming back

Your best tools against cockroaches are home maintenance, proper food storage, and general cleaning.
  • Maintain your home and yard in a way that discourages roach entry. Seal any cracks in floors, windows, and walls. Repair any standing water or leaky pipes. 
  • Store food in sealed containers. This includes pet food. Cockroaches will eat just about anything, so make sure they can’t get into the food you have in your home. 
  • Clean regularly, including appliances, under and behind furniture and art, and in filing cabinets or storage/linen closets. 

How to save money on home and car insurance in 

From cockroaches to wildfires, owning a home in California can come with some things to worry about. Keeping your home safe and protected is your top priority. And saving you money while you do it is
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