How to Recognize (and Survive) Roaches in Michigan

If you’ve discovered a cockroach infestation in your Michigan home, here are some approaches you can take to evict those unwelcome guests.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Five types of cockroaches are active in
. You can keep cockroaches at bay by keeping your house clean and sealing off cracks and other points of entry. If you have an active infestation, try some natural approaches before calling an exterminator. 
While cockroaches’ hardiness as a species is admittedly impressive, they can wreak a lot of havoc in a human home. Cockroaches aren’t just creepy—they can damage fabrics or important papers and exacerbate health issues like asthma or allergies. 
If cockroaches give you the creepy crawlies, don’t fret! The
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Michigan cockroaches 101: How to recognize a roach

Like it or not, living on this planet means sharing it with roaches. There are more than 4,000 known cockroach species worldwide, and each one has its own distinct characteristics. Almost 100 species call North America home—and that includes the Great Lakes State.
While there’s plenty of variance from one cockroach species to the next, there are some general characteristics that cockroaches share. Most range in size from half an inch to a couple inches long and are reddish, brown, or black in color. They also have wings, although not all cockroaches are able to fly (thankfully).
If you live in Michigan, you’re most likely to come across the following cockroach species:

American cockroaches

This is the United States’ largest and most common cockroach, although the species isn’t actually native to North America. The American cockroach is a reddish brown with a yellowish figure 8 shape on the back of its head. They can be an inch and a half to two inches long, but in some cases they can grow even larger. 

German cockroaches

The German cockroach in particular tends to like indoor spaces. They’re light brown or tan with two dark stripes by the head. They’re about half an inch long and they like dark, warm, and moist environments. 

Brown-banded cockroaches

These roaches are also about a half-inch long, dark brown, and have two distinctive stripes across their backs. Males have a full set of working wings, while females are shorter and wider with ineffective wings that don’t cover their whole back. 
They like warm, dry areas and tend to avoid water. They tend to chew on non-food items like papers and fabrics.

Oriental cockroaches

At about an inch or so long, oriental cockroaches are a very dark brown or black and appear to have a glossy coating. They have small wings but can’t fly and are partial to cool, damp spaces like basements.

Wood cockroaches

The only roaches native to Michigan, wood roaches are a light to medium brown with white near the head and at the wing edges. They’re more commonly found outdoors in places like hollowed-out trees, but they can also be found in gutters and even under roof shingles. 
Wood roaches are attracted to light, which is one of the factors that can lead them indoors. Males are about an inch long and females are about half an inch long. Adult males have a full set of working wings, while females have shorter wings and don’t fly. 
MORE: How to get bugs off your car: A handy guide

A guide to cockroach identification

Wondering what sort of cockroach you just discovered invading your home? Here are some characteristics of some of Michigan’s most common cockroaches.
Type of roach
Average length
Can it fly?
Where to spot them
American cockroach
1.5-2 inches
Yes, they but usually don’t
Basements, drains, crawl spaces
German cockroaches
0.5 inches
Light brown
Kitchens, bathrooms, most indoor spaces
Wood cockroach
0.5-1.5 inches
Dark reddish-brown
Males yes, females no
Compost heaps, wood piles; occasionally, gutters, under shingles, garages
Brown-banded cockroaches
0.5 inches
Dark brown with lighter stripes
Males yes, females no
Cabinets, pantries, closets, furniture
Oriental cockroaches
1-1.25 inches
Black or dark brown
Basements, drains, crawl spaces

Cockroach lookalikes

Here are some insects that commonly get mistaken for cockroaches, but don’t cause the same problems as the notorious pests:
  • Beetles: As with cockroaches, there’s plenty of variance among different beetle species. One way to distinguish most beetles from a cockroach is to pay attention to their bodies. A beetle’s head and body (thorax) are separate segments, while a cockroach’s head and body aren’t as noticeably distinct.
  • Giant water bugs: While cockroaches like moist environments, they won’t necessarily congregate around them. However, water bugs really have an affinity for standing water. Water bugs are predatory insects and have pincer-like parts around their mouth for hunting. Cockroaches don’t.
  • June bugs: While June bugs can appear similar to cockroaches, June bugs have more bulbous bodies. Cockroaches are flatter.
  • Crickets: Unlike cockroaches, crickets can make chirping noises and have longer hind legs—plus some serious jumping power.

Signs of a cockroach infestation

These are some signs you might notice around your home if you have cockroaches present:
  • Most obviously, the roaches themselves
  • Cockroach droppings, which can be mistaken for mouse droppings, in hiding areas
  • Cockroach eggs, which have a hard casing that could range from reddish to brown or black in color. They somewhat resemble a small bean about eight mm long
  • A musty smell, which comes from cockroach pheromones 
  • Brown stains or smear marks, which cockroaches may leave behind in areas where they’ve been active
  • Damage to items, such as food, paper, or fabrics
You won’t want to put off addressing a cockroach infestation. Roaches can pose serious health risks by exacerbating allergies and asthma or carrying pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. 
Cockroaches can reproduce quickly, too, so it’s best to try to stop them in their tracks as soon as possible.

How to get rid of roaches in Michigan

If you have a roach problem or just want to make sure they stay away, experts recommend taking an integrated pest management (IPM) approach first, especially if you live in a home with pets, children, or people with serious health conditions
That’s because IPM approaches pest management by limiting the resources the pest needs to thrive rather than using harmful chemicals as a first resort.
For cockroaches, that mostly means keeping your home in a clean, sanitary condition, storing food properly, and taking steps to avoid moisture buildup, which will help limit their food and water sources. Here are some concrete steps to take:
  • Wash dishes and limit leftover food sitting out
  • Sanitize rooms and surfaces regularly
  • Keep food in sealed containers
  • Eat in one area of your home to contain food and crumbs
  • Put away pet food and water dishes at night
  • Keep trash in a sealed container
  • Use a dehumidifier in damp spaces like basements
  • Vacuum regularly (using a vacuum with a HEPA filter in areas with known roaches can help get rid of eggs and other debris that could spread through the air)
  • Fix plumbing problems and water leaks when they occur
  • Address structural problems like cracked walls
MORE: How to remove bugs, tar, and sap from car paint

Six natural roach killers

If your roach problem persists and you still want to avoid using toxic chemicals, try some of the following methods:
  • Boric acid: Boric acid has low toxicity to humans or pets. It can do a number on roaches, though. Distribute some where roaches have been congregating and wait for it to take effect.
  • Baking soda: Is there anything baking soda can’t do? You can mix baking soda with sugar to attract roaches, which will then essentially explode the roaches’ digestive systems from the inside.
  • Borax: Mix this laundry staple with sugar or other roach-tempting bait and leave it in high-traffic areas. When ingested, the borax will dehydrate and ultimately kill the cockroach.  
  • Sticky traps: Scented glue traps can help stop roaches in their tracks.
  • Baited traps: Go cockroach-catching by baiting a jar with tempting goodies like apples or banana peels. Spread some petroleum jelly around the jar’s inside lip and dust the inside with talcum powder to prevent roaches from escaping.
  • Pyrethrin: This is an insecticide that’s made from chrysanthemum and typically found as a spray. It doesn’t tend to stay on roaches long, though, so it’s most effective for using it on them directly or to get a group to come out of hiding.

Chemical roach killers—and when to hire an exterminator

If natural methods aren’t having the desired effect and you’re comfortable using stronger chemicals, roach sprays, baits, and insecticides that target roaches can be found at hardware stores, among other places. 
Still, if you’re using one of these more aggressive approaches, it’s important to follow the product's instructions and pay attention to any warnings.
If you’ve tried addressing your roach problem to no avail, it might be time to call a professional pest control company. Different roach species have different preferences, and some are resistant to pesticides.
A good professional exterminator should be able to evaluate your cockroach problem and determine the most effective way to address it based on your situation.

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Roaches are a common pest in Michigan, but you can take steps to prevent them in your home, like keeping spaces clean and storing food in sealed containers.
Different cockroach species have different preferences, but generally, they’re attracted to leftover food, garbage, and damp spaces.
Roaches are most active in the spring and summer months in Michigan.
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