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The life cycle of the Pennsylvania wood roach, from egg case to immature, and adult. You can see the differences in males and females are pronounced.

There’s nothing better on a cold winter’s night than to sit next to a roaring fire in your fireplace. As traditional wood fireplaces become popular again, more and more of us are bringing pieces of firewood into the home. Along with your logs though, sometimes you may bring in the occasional insect hitchhiker and the Pennsylvania wood cockroach is one the more common accidental invaders.

Pennsylvania wood cockroaches, or wood roaches for short, are not the serious indoor pest that some of their cockroach cousins can be. In fact, they don’t like to be indoors at all. Naturally, the wood roach lives in the wooded areas, typically finding harborage behind the bark of a fallen log or in a hollowed out tree stump. Their diet consists of decaying organic matter, such as old leaves or decomposing wood. The most common way they are introduced to the home is by bringing firewood that the roach was hiding in, but occasionally they will enter homes to seek refuge from the cold. When wood roaches find their way into your home they will behave differently than other species of cockroach. Most roaches are secretive and nocturnal; the wood roach will be active during the day and will be out in the open.

Identification of wood roaches can be difficult because the males and females each resemble a different species of pest cockroach. Female wood roaches are about 3/4 inch long, lack wings, and are black-brown in color, superficially resembling an Oriental cockroach. The males though are an inch long, have full length tan colored wings, and a dark thorax and head, superficially resembling an American cockroach.  Male wood roaches can fly, but not far. If you need help identifying your cockroach you can always consult your local extension office or you can go to: to find identification guides.

The good news is that wood roaches don’t end up infesting homes as our indoor environments lack the moisture and food they need. Control of wood roaches is mainly dependent upon prevention. Don’t keep firewood indoors as it may attract and harbor wood roaches. You can also prevent their entry by checking all the seals around doors and windows and caulking shut any gaps you find. Chemical control indoors is unnecessary and likely will be unsuccessful. If you find wood roaches in the house you can simply smash the ones you see as there aren’t likely to be others. If you live in a wooded area and deal with wood roaches annually, you can treat the exterior of your home with a product such as Ortho Home Defense or other outdoor insecticide to prevent them from entering in the fall. Reducing wood piles touching the house will also reduce attraction to the home.

Image of Jonathan Larson
Jonathan Larson
Extension Educator - Entomology

Jonathan Larson is the Nebraska Extension entomologist for Douglas and Sarpy counties. His main focus is lawn and landscape pests but he also helps with bed bugs, roaches, and any other home invader that has six or more legs. Jonathan has his Bachelor of Science in Entomology from Purdue University, and his Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Kentucky.

Contact Jonathan at:
Douglas/Sarpy County Extension
8015 W Center Rd.
Omaha, NE 68124-3175
(402) 444-7804