How to Recognize (and Survive) Roaches in Florida

From the colossal American cockroach to the sneaky German roach, here’s how you can identify and destroy roaches in Florida.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Cockroaches are a common problem for Florida homeowners, but you can prevent most infestations through rigorous attention to sanitation and potential entry points. If you do notice a growing colony, natural and chemical insecticides can stop a roach problem in its tracks. 
Shiny brown bodies, six creepy-crawly legs, hungry little mouths, and (gulp) wings—roaches are a nightmare for homeowners. In Florida, where high levels of humidity create a roach’s moist paradise, knowing how to prevent and stop an infestation is an essential skill for homeowners. 
Now, it’s true that some cockroaches can survive a nuclear war. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless against them! With help from
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Florida cockroaches 101: how to recognize a roach

Unfortunately, roaches are a part of life in the Sunshine State. The densest cockroach populations in the United States can be found in southern Florida, and according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 30.4% of homeowners in the state report at least one roach infestation per year
But not all cockroaches are created equal. In order to live with (and fight back against!) Florida’s mighty cockroach community, it’s important to know the difference between the major types of roach commonly found in Florida. 

American cockroaches

When you think about a big, bad, nasty cockroach, the American cockroach (also known as a palmetto bug) is the guy you’re picturing. Usually between two and three inches, these huge flying roaches are a nutty reddish-brown and live mostly (mostly) outdoors, feasting on stuff like rotten food and decaying mulch

Smokybrown cockroaches

Like American roaches, smokybrowns can fly, but they’re smaller and darker than their cousins. About an inch long, skinny, and deep mahogany-brown, smokybrowns like to nest high up, often outdoors. They’re also obsessed with lights, so you can think of them as the moths of the roach family. 

Florida wood cockroaches

Short, stout, and stinky, the Florida wood roach is a wingless, armored menace with a powerful odoriferous defense system. They’re longer than smokybrowns and shorter than American roaches, and fatter than both, but they’re less likely to cause an indoor infestation. Florida wood roaches prefer to live outside, burrowing under rocks and into piles of delicious dead wood.

German cockroaches

Measuring about half an inch long, the German cockroach is Florida’s smallest roach—and its most destructive. Watch out for these strictly-indoor pests in the dark, humid spaces of your home (think garages and basements) or near any food preparation area. They’re most active at night, and you’ll recognize them by their light-brown, transparent wings and the tiny dark stripes right behind their heads.  
MORE: How to get bugs off your car: A handy guide

A guide to cockroach identification

It’s important to know which roach you’re dealing with when you’re surprised by an unexpected bathroom attendant at 2
Type of roach
Average length
Can it fly?
Where to spot them
American cockroach
2-3 inches
Basements, drains, crawl spaces
Smokybrown cockroach
1 inch
Dark brown
Attics, gutters, palm branches
Florida wood cockroach
1.5 inches
Dark reddish-brown
Compost heaps, wood piles
German cockroaches
0.5 inches
Light brown
Kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages
1.5 inches
Dark reddish-brown
Greenhouses, wood piles, bathrooms
0.5 inches
Alternating dark and light brown bands
Anywhere but the kitchen
1.25 inches
Black or dark brown
Basements, drains, crawl spaces
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Keep in mind that some bugs may just look like roaches! Look out for these roach impostors. 
  • Crickets are a similar size, shape, and color, but they jump and chirp instead of flying in silence. 
  • June bugs are smaller than most cockroaches, and they’ve got a distinctive rotund shape.
  • 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 Florida

So you’ve noticed cockroaches in your home. One roach isn’t necessarily cause for panic—but if you’re seeing more than one, or if you notice their droppings around the house, you may be looking at a growing colony
The first step for dealing with any kind of roach infestation is strict sanitation. That means washing dirty dishes, sweeping and mopping floors, emptying trash bins, and wiping up any spills, crumbs, or other possible sources of food. Remember, roaches are here to eat your trash: the less you have in your home, the less attractive it will be to them! 
Your next step is exclusion: try to identify and seal off any possible entrances allowing roaches into your home (or vehicle!). If you’re lucky, you’ll keep the roaches out just by cleaning and covering up gaps. 
If not, it’s time to go on the offensive. You can stick to all-natural remedies if you’ve got young kids or pets, go with a traditional method like bait traps, or—if all else fails—call in the professionals. 

Five natural roach killers

Want to get rid of roaches without introducing toxic chemicals into your environment? Try some of these methods: 
  1. Boric acid: This natural pesticide won’t hurt humans in small amounts, but it’s deadly to roaches. Sprinkle some around high-traffic roach areas and wait. 
  2. Baking soda: That’s right, your Arm & Hammer could help you beat down a roach colony! Mix baking soda with some tempting sugar and leave it wherever you’ve seen roaches. This deadly snack will generate gasses that explode the roaches from inside. 
  3. Borax: This popular laundry additive (and slime ingredient) dehydrates roaches. Mix it with sugar or other bait and leave it in roach hot spots. 
  4. Diatomaceous earth: This magical-seeming powder is made from fossilized algae, and it kills roaches by damaging their exoskeletons. A light sprinkle on key surfaces (especially near entry points) can stop a colony in its tracks.  
  5. Glue traps: Pop a cardboard roach motel in a high-traffic area and wait. Scented glue will draw roaches in—to their death.
Although these natural methods will all kill roaches for under $10 without endangering your household, they’re not without drawbacks. Most natural methods are slow and time-consuming—and you’ll have to deal with the unsavory task of tracking down and removing dead cockroaches. 

Chemical roach killers—and when to hire an exterminator

If you’re comfortable with a more aggressive approach and don’t have small mouths to worry about, it’s time to bring out the big guns. These conventional methods of roach removal deliver swift, definitive results. 
  • Bait stations: If you want to kill a colony almost instantly, bait stations are the way to go. When a roach eats the bait in the station, it returns to its pals, who then feast on its poison-saturated corpse (we know, they’re gross). Death reigns in the colony, and your home returns to pre-roach peace. 
  • Insecticide gel: Squirt a little roach-killer gel into the cracks, gaps, and crannies that cockroaches love, and watch the infestation die at the source. 
  • Roach spray: Spray high-traffic roach areas with a specialized insecticide, and your six-legged enemies will scurry back to their dens carrying the residue—making it an effective way to deal with large infestations. 
The disadvantage of chemical roach killers, of course, is that they rely on toxic substances, making them a risky move in households with small children or pets. However, some gels and sprays come with pet-safe options! 
If you’ve tried several different approaches and you’re still seeing those hideous brown silhouettes skulking around your floorboards, it may be time to call for backup. A professional exterminator can identify entry points and choose the most effective method to put down the infestation for good. 

How to keep cockroaches from coming back

Once your roaches are gone, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief—but don’t let your guard down! Make sure to maintain good sanitation practices so they don’t return. 
  • Reduce moisture in your home by buying a dehumidifier. 
  • Limit food consumption to one room, if possible. 
  • Watch out for leaky plumbing and tempting cracks allowing pests inside. 
  • Create a nightly anti-roach routine by emptying the trash, washing your kitchen floor, and making sure all dirty dishes and food containers are cleaned up. 

How to save money on home and car insurance in Florida

Roaches are just one major headache that Florida homeowners face. From leaking pipes and invading bugs to hurricane season and the risk of theft, there’s a lot you have to worry about if you own a home in the Sunshine State. 
Homeowners insurance is one effective protection against many of the perils that threaten your home. While it won’t cover roach treatments, a good insurance policy can help you maintain your home—for instance, by covering plumbing crises that could attract unwanted six-legged guests. 
Want to save money on your home insurance premiums? Download the Jerry app and shop for home and car insurance savings in just 45 seconds. 
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Roaches are a very common pest in Florida, with over 30% of homeowners reporting at least one infestation each year.
Roaches are attracted to dirty dishes, crumbs, garbage, cardboard, leftover food, and other sources of mess in your home.
Roaches are active all year, but because they love moisture you can expect more roach activity during Florida’s rainy summer.
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