How to Recognize (and Survive) Roaches in Massachusetts

The speedy German cockroach and giant American cockroach are just two common types of cockroaches in Massachusetts.
Written by Laura Salvas
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
There are five species of cockroaches in
. Keep them out of your home by sealing cracks and other points of entry and cleaning diligently. You may have to use a natural or chemical insecticide to stamp out an active infestation. 
A cockroach in your home evokes feelings more intense than seeing a Yankees jersey at Fenway. The Curse of the Bambino is nothing compared to the curse of dozens of newly hatched cockroaches scuttling through your home, ready to birth hundreds of babies inside your bathroom walls. 
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Massachusetts cockroaches 101: How to recognize a roach

ranks in the top 10 worst cities for roaches in America, with the German and brown banded roaches being the most common species seen. 
Of the 50 cockroach species that pledge allegiance to the United States, there are five species of cockroaches that plague Massachusetts. Here’s what to know about them: 

German cockroaches

These light brown nightmares are most likely to ruin your appetite. They hang out in your kitchen or bathroom, creeping around your sinks, slinking through your cupboards, and hiding between plates or under dishrags. 
Adults are half an inch long, while babies are the size of a grain of rice. German roaches have dark stripes running between the head and wings and can scurry at a rate of nearly a foot per second

American cockroaches

Bigger isn’t better when it comes to the roaches infesting your home. These mahogany brown monsters grow up to three inches long and will eat literally anything. The good news is that, while these bugs might shack up in your basement or crawl space, they are more likely to be found in sewers or industrial buildings. 

Brown-banded cockroaches

The smallest roach of the bunch, this little pest is distinguished by its dark brown and tan colors and light brown bands across its abdomen
While other roaches are drawn to moisture, this tech-savvy critter likes to take up residence in areas like your TV and electrical fixtures, munching on everything from your wallpaper to your books. 

Oriental cockroaches

Not as quick as its invasive counterparts, the Oriental roach is squatter, darker, and stinkier. Moving into the dampest regions of your home, such as crawl spaces or floor drains, this roach is considered the dirtiest in the state. 
Their six little legs can spread E. Coli and salmonella, so kick their shiny little bodies to the curb ASAP.

Pennsylvania wood cockroaches

At an inch long with some off-white markings, these bugs are outdoorsy and prefer your compost or mulch to your kitchen crumbs. 
While you may find wood cockroaches living in your basement or garage, they generally find houses too dry to live in. 
MORE: How to remove bugs, tar, and sap from car paint

A guide to cockroach identification

Could you pick your home invaders out of a roach lineup? This Massachusetts cockroach identification table will help you distinguish one type of roach from another at a glance.
Type of roach
Average length
Can it fly?
Where to spot them
German cockroaches
0.5 inches
Light brown
Kitchens, bathrooms, garbage cans
American cockroach
2-3 inches
Drains, crawlspaces, food storage
0.5 inches
Dark, tan, and light brown with bands
Ceilings, cabinets, electronics
Oriental cockroach
1.25 inches
Shiny black/dark brown
Basements, woodpiles, crawl spaces
Pennsylvania Wood cockroach
1-1.5 inches
Dark brown with cream trim
Yes, males
Firewood, compost, dead plants
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But be careful not to falsely accuse an innocent bug of being a roach. There are some other critters out there just minding their own business that are often mistaken for the enemy.
  • Crickets say hello with a pleasant if annoying chirp, while roaches are stealthy. Both bugs are of a similar size and color.  
  • June bugs fly around lights and pine trees and make a clickety-clack noise as they bump into things. They are smaller and rounder and are usually seen outdoors at dusk.
  • Giant water bugs live on the water and are wider than roaches. It’s probably not a waterbug you’re seeing unless you live on a houseboat.
  • Bedbugs resemble baby roaches. Cockroaches don’t bite, grow larger, and scurry faster. If you aren’t sure whether you’re seeing bedbugs or baby cockroaches, we can assure you both options are terrible. Time for pest control.
MORE: How to check for Massachusetts road closures

How to get rid of roaches in Massachusetts

Cockroaches usually prowl your home unseen at night, so you might have a roach problem if you start seeing them during the day, or find roach droppings in your home (these look a bit like coffee grounds, but keep you up at night for different reasons). 
Act fast because each reproductive cockroach might birth 50 babies with one egg and can produce a new egg every six weeks. 
The first step in eradicating roaches from your home is to prep your living space for success:
  • Clean thoroughly: The cleaner your home, the less appealing it is to roaches. Emptying garbage daily and keeping crumbs and water off counters and floors can only help.
  • Seal any gaps: A caulking gun is one of the best tools for keeping roaches out, as roaches can squeeze their hideous bodies through any crack. Seal off all baseboards and holes. 
  • Choose an extermination method: You can go slow and natural or quick and chemical-y. As long as you’re keeping kids and pets safe, both methods have advantages.  
You may be hoping you can simply Pied-Piper the vermin away with a catchy tune, but—while we won’t discourage you from taking up the flute—you’ll probably need something stronger than folktale magic to deal with your roaches.

Five natural roach killers

The natural route is the best one to try first if you have tiny mouths (children and pets) around. 
  • Baking soda: What can’t baking soda do? Mix in a tiny bit of sugar and leave it out for your roach enemies. The baking soda will cause gas to build in their tiny roach tummies, causing them to burst.  
  • Boric acid: Safe around people in small amounts, leave some in high traffic roach areas so it sticks to their little feet. When they ingest it they’ll be goners.
  • Glue traps: You can leave these anywhere roaches skulk, like in cupboards or hard to reach crevices. They smell the bait, they enter, and they’re stuck.
  • Dish soap: The best way to kill a roach on the go. Keep a spray bottle of soap and water handy, and when you see a roach scurry by, spray it down. The soap will block all their pores, suffocating them in seconds. 
  • Borax: A product used for laundry, this can be mixed with sugar and sprinkled near roach territory. It will kill them through dehydration.
Avoid squashing a roach; pregnant females can eject an active egg sack from their bodies when they get crushed. It can hatch a batch of evil roach babies even if she’s gone. 
The downsides to using natural methods are that you’ll need to clean up the dead roaches yourself and these methods often work slowly.

Chemical roach killers—and when to hire an exterminator

If you want to act fast, chemical options are your best bet for making roaches disappear.
  • Bait stations: Cockroaches will eat this poisonous bait and scurry back to their nest, where they will swiftly die. Their roach family and friends will eat their poisoned corpse, and they’ll die, too. 
  • Insecticide gel: A brown gel you can squeeze into roach hotspots, this roach killer will be brought back to the nest and help deplete a colony. 
  • Roach spray: Let this spray seep into baseboards and crevices and your filthy little housemates will trek back to their nests with this poison on their feet, which they never, ever wipe clean.
Living with children or animals means it’s extra important both to get rid of roaches quickly and to do so safely. Before using any chemicals, ensure they are safe around your family members and use them with caution. 
If these DIY methods aren’t getting the job done (or if the thought of dealing with the bodies yourself makes you queasy), it may be time to call a professional exterminator. They’ll know how to pinpoint the main sources of roaches and can deal with the problem swiftly, though it may still take weeks or months for complete elimination. 

How to keep cockroaches from coming back

Once the roaches have vacated your home, the last thing you want is for them to come crawling back. It can be work, but keeping your home unwelcoming to roaches is key.
  • Keep your home dry by running a dehumidifier.
  • Limit food consumption to one room in your home (or have a strict cleaning schedule).
  • Seal leaks and cracks, as these are paradise to roaches. 
  • Keep a daily cleaning routine by emptying garbage, cleaning floors and counters after food prep, and washing dishes as you use them. Tightly seal food containers and store food scraps in your freezer. 

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Roaches love the Massachusetts summer because of the humidity. This is when they are most active, looking for food and procreating more than anyone wants to think about. 
In the winter, roaches may hide so well you think they’ve moved out (they haven’t).
A roach that dies on its back has either been poisoned and suffered nervous system damage that caused it to flip or it fell off a ledge onto its back and couldn’t turn over.
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