Do Roaches Fly & Do They Have Wings?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on August 12, 2018
    Last Updated: November 25, 2020

Cockroaches, like many other pests, are unwelcome guests. They can spread diseases and bacteria, not to mention they are quick on their feet. That makes any encounter dreadful.

We usually see cockroaches crawl along the floor, under the sink or maybe even in the bathtub. Flying roaches, however, are not something we come across regularly. Today we will take a closer look at different species and find out if any of them can fly.

Do Cockroaches Have Wings?

More than 4,000 species of cockroaches are thought to be roaming the globe, spreading fear and goosebumps among us all. Although most look similar, apart from their size, each kind has its own unique characteristics.

Several species do have a set of wings; however, not all use them to fly. The general description of a cockroach usually states that they have a long, oval, flattened body. They are generally between 0.3 inches and 3 inches in length. On the top of their head, sits a pair of antennae. Depending on the species, some may face forward, while on other varieties, they tend to point backward.

Cockroaches typically have two wings, a forewing, and a hind wing. These sit on top of their hard, shell-like exterior and can extend when the roach senses danger.

American Cockroach

The forewing is a bit thicker, broader and sometimes longer with a dense color. The hind wing, on the other hand, is smaller, usually light in appearance, almost transparent. During these rare flying occasions, the cockroaches use their hind wing to fly. As the forewing is more prominent, it is the one most species use for stabilization.

Although there are approximately 70 known cockroach species in the United States, only about four are commonly found in homes. These include the brown-banded, German, American and the oriental cockroach.

All of these have wings, but not all will use them. The American cockroach, for example, has long wings, stretching the size of its body. Male wings are generally a bit longer. The brown-banded roach has smaller wings, marked with a light-colored band.

The oriental cockroaches are a bit different. Females have underdeveloped wings which don’t serve any purpose. Males just have short ones. This species cannot fly.

Do Any Species of Cockroach Fly?

Flying cockroaches are, fortunately, not something we see every day. The reason for this is probably their immense size. Some roaches are huge; as I said above, different species can grow to three inches, maybe even longer within the right environment.

The American and male brown-banded cockroaches do fly, but it is not their preferred way of getting around.

Male brown-banded cockroaches only spread their wings when disturbed. Generally, they prefer crawling along surfaces. American cockroaches will fly or glide, whether male or female. They are not strong flyers and can’t travel long distances through the air, so most simply float along with the wind.

There are five species of relatively strong flyers we can find here in the United States. Let’s look at them now.

The Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach

The Pennsylvania wood cockroach is not so much a house pest as the American or German, but it does venture indoors occasionally. This cockroach loves to hide inside firewood, which is one of the ways it gets inside.

We can expect to see this kind across midwestern, eastern and southern states, all the way up to Canada.

Males are about 1-inch long, whereas females have a more modest size of 0.75 inches. Both sexes have wings, but only males will use theirs to fly.

The wings on the male are longer than its body, with a yellow hue. Although they are still not the greatest flyers, they do stand a better chance of winning a race, than the American cockroach.

The Smoky Brown Cockroach

The smoky brown cockroach is a relatively large insect, reaching about 1.25 inches in its adult size.

It thrives in moist environments, which is why we often find it near the Gulf Coast. The smoky brown cockroach loves to munch on decaying plants or tree holes. Only when the weather turns colder, does it tend to seek shelter indoors.

You can easily spot these roaches by their shiny brown-blackish exterior. Their wings are quite large, which they often use when traveling from a higher point, down to the ground below. These are not the strongest flyers in the world, yet they do display more stability while in the air.

The Australian Cockroach

The Australian cockroach resembles the American roach in many ways. Only its smaller size sets it apart. The adults tend to reach a length of between 0.91 inches and 1.38 inches, with a brownish color. The top exterior has a noticeable white border. Down towards the headshield, the color turns yellow as it reaches the edges.

The wings on the Australian cockroach are quite large, enabling it to be a fairly strong flyer. Although its name may suggest otherwise, the Australian cockroach is quite common along the coastal states, such as Florida and California.

The Asian Cockroach

The Asian cockroach resembles the German house roach. First identified in 1986 in Florida, it has now spread further north, to Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

This species is rather small, reaching about 0.65 inches long, and is a very light brown color. Their wings are quite long and narrow, but unlike German roaches, they are great flyers. These are generally spotted outdoors, where they use their wings to escape the dangers on the ground.

The Cuban Cockroach

The Cuban cockroach is an uncommon variety, even though it is possible to buy one as a pet. Yes, that’s correct. This roach looks nothing like the others, instead of the typical brownish color, this breed is green.

Atop its pale green body, which stretches from about 0.75 inches to 1 inch long, it has a set of strong wings. This specific species is a strong flyer.

Cuban cockroaches find their way to the United States, mainly via banana shipments coming from Central America. They thrive in the warmer coastlines near Florida, Texas, and Alabama. This roach’s body is pear-shaped, with wings reaching beyond its length.

Do Roaches Jump?

Cockroaches don’t jump, with the exception of one, but more on that soon. Their bodies simply don’t allow them to. For most, their long slender legs cannot bend or perform the action required for jumping.

Generally, when we see a cockroach, it is the German species. This is the most widespread, found within many households around the United States. They use their wings to briefly fly away from danger, and this may resemble a jump. Other roaches merely flap their wings to escape danger.

There is only one type known to jump, the leaproach, or Saltoblattella montistabularis. Today, the only place we can find this species is in the Fynbos biome of Table Mountain, South Africa.

This rare roach is rather small in its size, reaching about 0.39 inches. The cockroach itself resembles a grasshopper, due to the location and structure of its powerful hind legs. It uses them to leap off the ground, where a jump can cover 50 lengths of its own body.

The whole body structure of this bug helps it to jump further. The eyes are wide and protruding, helping it to navigate during a long jump. By the antennae, it has a second joint which it uses to stabilize during a jump. Inside the knee joint, there is an elastic protein, assisting movement. This substance can also store energy for later use.

The leaproach jumps from plant to plant, much as a grasshopper would. These roaches thrive in high altitude, mountainous terrain. Up here, it can find its preferred heathland vegetation alongside grasshopper feces.

How Fast Do Cockroaches Move?

Cockroaches are the cheetahs of the insect world. Roaches can run approximately 59 inches per second. This is about the same as 3.4 miles per hour. Given their small size, this is an astounding speed.

This is probably also the reason why most cockroaches don’t choose to fly. Slow-moving bugs, whether in the air or on the ground, are easy prey. A quick runner can easily escape possible danger.

The cockroaches’ legs not only allow them to travel at this immense speed, but also to crawl across and beneath surfaces without falling off. Keep in mind that this is no spider. Their legs can work as claws when the occasion occurs and they seek shelter under your countertop.

However, there is one cockroach, the oriental, which is much slower than the rest. This kind tends to get stuck in bathtubs and sinks, since it is also unable to crawl on smooth or vertical surfaces.


Can cockroaches fly? Most species do have wings, but they usually avoid using them. Within the United States, we can find about seven that leap, and only five types which actually fly. These are the Pennsylvania wood cockroach, the smoky brown roach, and the Australian, Asian and Cuban cockroaches. There are, however, plenty of unrelated insects that resemble roaches, that do fly.

These creepy crawlies are never fun to encounter as they run about our feet, let alone if they’re flying around our heads. We’re lucky that not all the cockroaches roaming our premises can fly, as I’m sure you’ll agree. On the rare occasion that they do, rest assured they’re more afraid of you than you may think. They’re simply trying to escape, that’s all.