Got wood roaches in your home or garden? Don’t worry!
Okay, that’s probably making you more worried. But why?
Because they don’t infest the house! Congrats…
But seriously though, you still want to get rid of them. They’re ugly. They’re big. They’re a nuisance.
Thankfully though, they’re usually just lone wanderers that got lost inside your home.
But if you have them in the yard, they’re likely to find their way in over and over.
In this guide, you’ll learn about:
- How to identify wood roaches
- Ways to get rid of them naturally
- How to keep them out of your home/garden
If you have questions about your specific infestation, please leave a comment at the end of this guide. I’ll try to get back to you ASAP- as usual!
Let’s dive in and send those roaches back where they came from!
What’s a wood roach?
Wood roaches are often confused with German, American, or the Smoky Brown cockroach.
These pests generally inhabit the outdoors, but may find their way into your house.
You may have heard wood roaches referred to as the following aliases:
- Pennsylvania roaches
- Virginia roaches
- Dusky roaches
- American roach or German roach (incorrectly)
The males have a tan coloration because of their wings.
The females have no wings and are not often seen because they hide. Both sexes have a clear stripe on the outside edge of their thorax, wings, and body.
The body is very similar to a German roach, but the behavior is different. While it may look like your typical household roach, they’re very different in how they act.
For instance, wood cockroaches don’t mind the light while other roaches will scatter when you flip on the switch. Wood roaches also come out during the day and night.
They aren’t skittish, so they won’t be afraid of you or the environment. They’re less likely to run away from you. They’ll wander around your garden, house, or garage.
There are a handful of common species of wood roach:
- Brown-hooded wood roach (Cryptocercus punctulatus)
- Pennsylvania wood roach (Parcoblatta pennsylvanica)
- Dusky cockroach (Ectobius lapponicus)
- Fulvous wood cockroach (Parcoblatta fulvescens)
- Virginia wood cockroach (Parcoblatta virginica)
- Spotted Mediterranean or tawny cockroach (Ectobius pallidus)
Wood roach vs. other roaches – How to tell the difference?
It’s important you correctly identify that you’re dealing with wood roaches rather than German or American cockroaches.
Using the wrong method to get rid of it will waste your time/money.
Here are some ways to tell the differences:
Wood roaches are very similar to the American cockroach. They have flat bodies with long antennae, legs, and visible spines. They’re smaller than the adult American roach.
They’re brown just like most other common household roaches.
These guys can get up to almost 2” in length. But most are under 1”.
Males can fly, but females can’t. Males can fly long distances and can mate with females far away.
Females have wings, but can’t fly. Females are smaller, shinier, darker, and have shorter wings with smaller wing pads.
Adults have cream stripes on their outer edges. Nymphs may have this feature too.
Do they bite? Are they dangerous?
These roaches don’t bite. They also aren’t known to carry pathogens. So you don’t have to worry about them.
Of course, if you see them in your kitchen, you should throw out food items that may have been exposed.
Why? Because their body fluids, poop, shed skin, and other waste products can cause adverse reactions. So while they won’t bite you, they’re still “dirty.”
Unlike other roaches, they don’t infest homes so they’re not a pest. While they’re scary, they’re harmless.
They don’t damage furniture, houses, or other items. Adults will fly around inside your house during mating season, but that’s about as annoying as they can get.
Can they infest your house?
These guys won’t infest your house or apartment because they require moisture and wood to thrive.
If you find one inside, it’s probably a lost wanderer. Just get rid of it by tossing it back out. If you find a lot of them, you may want to assess the situation.
They can be coming in because of poor garden hygiene or they’re native to your area.
Perhaps you have a wet room in your house? Consider the humidity levels. That’s the key to finding where they’re coming from.
They tend to favor zones with plenty of hiding places combined with very high humidity levels so they can thrive.
They feed on wood or rotting organic materials. So you must have that present too.
Where do they come from? Why do I have them in the house?
They can get inside from any of the common pathways like any other pest.
Unlike other cockroaches, they’re drawn to light sources.
So they can come in through window openings, crawl spaces, under your door, foundation cracks, houseplant hitchhiking, or even through firewood.
The males will be drawn towards bright lights at night. So if your home is “leaky” with a light source, they’ll come inside wherever the light leaks.
Wood roaches are found globally, but are native to the US. They’re found in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and other nearby regions. They live in the forest in moist woodlands with softwood logs.
You can also find them in plant waste, rain gutters, barks, leaf piles, wood piles, wooden siding, or other plant materials.
They often hide in garages, sheds, cabinets, crawl spaces, wood pits, or other zones that are wet. If you live near woody areas, you may see more of them because they’re natives.
Signs of infestation
Wood roaches are easily spotted visually. They’re not like regular roaches.
For example, they enter your house without caution. They remain active during the day and night.
They don’t scatter when you approach them. They aren’t afraid of you. A regular household roach will only come out at night in normal circumstances.
They’re also quick to scatter when they sense danger. Wood roaches just don’t care. They wander around inside your house in search of food (or a way to exit).
But they can’t mate inside, which is a good thing. You won’t find them in the dozens unless you’re in a woody area.
They can be quite a nuisance, but they won’t stay inside because they don’t get enough moisture inside. But if you have areas with high humidity, they can nest.
Note that they’re not common household pests. They’re in by accident. You may have brought them in with wood or soil. They may also seek shelter from the temperature.
If there’s a lack of food, they can come in. They can also enter because of lighting, such as indoor lights on porch lighting. Garden lights can also draw them to your yard.
Where do they hide? Nest?
Wooden roaches generally stay outside in moist woodlands.
But because roaches are often found cohabiting with humans, you may find them in your garden and eventually in your house.
They hide in wood piles, dirt, mulch, bark, or logs. They love organic matter where they can breed and nest.
These roaches require environments that are consistently moist so they can properly breed. Wood roaches won’t breed indoors due to the difference in humidity, so they’ll either leave your home or find a way out since they can’t breed.
The female wood roach rarely goes indoors.
She stays out in the moist environment to deposit egg capsules in loose barks of logs or stumps. This keeps them hidden from predators.
They’re easiest to spot if you know where to look. They naturally forage in forests, jungles, yards, etc.
They don’t come inside buildings. They don’t breed inside either. If you find one, it’s probably seeking relief from the temperature.
Once they get in, they look for warmth, moisture, food, and water. They may not know how to get back out.
So while it may look like they’re infesting your house, they’re just lost.
These roaches don’t usually infest the house like most other cockroaches. But you may spot one or two inside your house occasionally, especially when the weather changes.
If it’s too hot or cold outside, they may come inside for temporary shelter. So there’s no need to worry about them taking over your house. They’ll go away on their own unless you have them outside your house!
When they’re indoors, they will leave after the spring season.
What do they eat?
They eat organic materials like decaying litter, leaves, or other natural foliage. They don’t damage or eat your home’s structure.
They also don’t damage furniture, clothing, or other man-made goods. If they get inside your home, they may be eating dirt, houseplants, fungus, mold, waste, trash, or food bits that you dropped.
Without moisture, they won’t breed. So you can use that to your benefit- if you remove the moisture from the room, they’ll leave on their own.
When are they active?
Wood roaches are most active during the summer months of May through June, which is their breeding season. Males and females seek out light and find each other in wooden logs in the forest.
They breed and then stay inside the log for years to raise the offspring. A single female can deposit up to 100 eggs in the same log!
Just like household roaches, they can infest your garden in huge numbers. This is why if you’re living in a woody area, you’ll likely find them natively in your yard.
How to get rid of wood roaches naturally
These guys rarely need any intervention because they don’t infest houses.
They go away on their own in the summertime. I’m sure you’ve already heard that mentioned multiple times already.
However, there are some things you can do if you have a lot of wood roaches exploring your property. Try the following DIY techniques to keep them out.
Get rid of firewood
This is probably the most effective thing you can do to keep wood roaches out.
You likely have some source of wood or organic matter nearby that they’re using as a temporary shelter. It doesn’t matter if it’s fireplace wood, piles of wood, bark, pallets, logs, etc. Whatever is wood is food.
They wander into your house from this shelter when they’re actively hunting or breeding. If you have firewood, make sure that you store it properly or completely get rid of it.
The same goes for anything else that’s wood or natural material. It can be where the roaches are hiding. Wood piles and logs should be stored away from your house as far as possible.
They should also be elevated so they can’t be easily infested by bugs. Never spray pesticides on firewood.
Store firewood as far as possible from your house. Moving the wood roach breeding site can help prevent infestation. Clean any firewood you bring inside.
Manually remove roaches
If you see any wood roaches inside your house, just vacuum them up or sweep them with a broom. Then discard them.
There’s no reason to freak out because they’re not interested in you- they just want to forage for food or hide from the weather. Be sure to clean up any roach guts because they’re food sources for OTHER roaches.
Remove dead roaches
Roaches that you kill should be removed immediately.
Once killed, the roach body will bring in other roaches that feast on it. Do not use a vacuum cleaner to kill roaches.
They get cut up inside the appliance and you’ll have to clean it even more. Use a brush/dustpan or gloves to pick it up. Sanitize the roach area free of guts.
What smell do they hate?
Roaches, in general, don’t like the smell of cedar.
You can use cedar wood around the garden to keep roaches out. You can also put them around your property like a fence. They also despise some scents like onion, garlic, or citrus.
Citrus oils work well as a natural, organic repellent. Dip cotton balls in the oil then place them in your house. It acts like a small bug bomb.
Reduce unnecessary lighting
Switch off lights on your patio, kitchen, porch, or garden that are not necessary. Male wood roaches will gravitate towards light in the mating season. Female roaches are also drawn to light as well.
By turning off lights, you remove their ability to seek out your property. You can also use curtains or blinds if you need to use light inside to stop the light from bleeding out into the yard where they’re scavenging.
Remove pathway markers if possible. They also drawn in bugs. Since they turn on at night, this is what gets them to your garden.
You’ll want to remove them if you don’t need them. Most pathway or patio lights are LED too, which is bug bait!
Switch to yellow lighting instead of white light. Adult males are attracted to bright lights. Yellow is less likely to bring in insects during the summer season.
Keep your garden clean
Your garden is likely the source of infestation for roaches. As mentioned earlier, they hide in decaying organic matter.
This includes wooden logs, stumps, bark, leaf litter, or foliage. If your garden is scattered with this kind of litter, then they have plenty of places to hide.
Keep your garden clean so you eliminate their hiding places. Doing basic things like:
- Mowing the lawn regularly
- Harvesting edibles on time
- Pruning plants
- Cleaning up grass clippings
- Clean up leaf litter
- Remove leaves, plant waste, or other debris from gutters and roofs.
- Wood, leaves, stumps, and other clutter should be removed because they’re breeding sites.
- Don’t let plant litter build-up
- Removing unnecessary plants
- Don’t plant edibles
If you suspect you have a roach infestation in the house, keep that area dry.
This will create an environment that they can breed in because of no humidity. It may force them to leave the area. You can also use fans to help evaporate water.
Keep it dry
Be sure to clean up spills or water in places where water is present. Don’t let water pool or collect stagnantly.
They only need a tiny amount of water to breed.
So it’s important to clean up spills immediately when you spill. Reduce humidity levels where possible. Running the AC may also help.
Plant insect-repelling plants
Some plants are known for their ability to repel roaches.
You may want to plant them around the perimeter of your garden like a fence to keep them out.
Here are some good plants for wood roaches:
- Bay leaves
Fix leaks in your household
These provide moisture to the roaches which will lure them into your house.
You need to fix them so the humidity doesn’t increase. Leaky plumbing is a common issue that brings bugs inside.
If you use a leak detector, you can find the source of it so you can repair it. Hire a professional if you need to.
Seal your house
Your house is your barrier from the outdoors. If it’s compromised, then that’s how they get inside. Roaches will enter your house from the tiniest of cracks or crevices.
Therefore, you must seal up your house so you keep them out.
Here are some of the most common points of infestation for roaches:
- Repair damaged screens on windows or doors
- Seal door gaps
- Fix wall damage
- Replace damaged weather-stripping
- Fix broken fencing
- Seal cracks in the foundation with caulk so they can’t sneak inside
They eat just about anything they can get but mostly are drawn to organic materials or just unhygienic conditions. Dirty homes or messy gardens are prime targets.
If you don’t know what you’re doing or how to fix something, hire a local contractor to do it for you. This investment goes more than just keeping your home free.
Hire a pro
If you don’t have the time or energy to get rid of them, hire a professional to do the work.
Find some local companies that offer green or organic pest control. They can assess the situation and then use the proper technique to eradicate the roaches.
They also have some products that are not available to the public. It’s up to you. Do you value saving money more or time more?
Of course, doing it yourself is much more rewarding and you learn how to fish. But other times, you just don’t want to deal with it.
Wood roach spray
If you must use a spray, consider using a green or organic choice.
Only do it when you’ve tried all the other DIY methods on this list. Sprays are often not good for people, pets, or the garden itself.
You can get started on Amazon for organic roach products.
If you have edible plants like fruits or vegetables, you need to use something that’s safe to spray. Be sure to use as directed. Read the label.
Wood roach prevention
When you’ve finally ridden the last wood roach, you probably don’t want to go through that again.
Sadly, if you’re in an area that has these guys natively in the surrounding area, you may find more in the future.
Here are some ways to keep the wood roaches out of your home for good:
- Replace roach traps regularly. Continue your indoor monitoring of pests even after you’ve ridden them.
- Check on them to see if new roaches have been caught. If you notice more roaches showing up on the glue, it may mean that roach season is probably taking place.
- Use sprays if you must. Apply as directed. Avoid using indoor roach sprays if possible.
- Get organic or green sprays that are rated safe for pets, people, and vegetables. This will make it safer for your garden should you have edible plants or ever plan to grow them.
- Continue keeping your garden clean and tidy. Clean your gutters, vents, window wells, etc.
- Keep plants pruned with zero leaf litter. Remove unnecessary foliage so that you eliminate hiding places.
- Keep your home in good condition. Make sure that it’s well sealed with no cracks so they can’t get inside through the crevices in the walls, foundation, doors, etc.
- Use wire mesh, caulk, or putty. Hire a professional repairperson if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you don’t have the time or expertise to DIY it, call local pest control companies. Ask for green or organic methods if possible.
You’re not trying to kill the roaches inside your property. You’re trying to discourage them from coming in. They’ll leave on their own if the conditions are unfavorable.
Try to keep your house well insulated so they can’t get in. That’s the main thing you can do.
Did you get rid of the wood roaches?
So there you have it.
You now have everything you need to know to eliminate, repel, and get rid of wood roaches without using chemicals in your property.
While they may be scary to see, you can easily get them out just by making a few small changes.
Since they don’t infest your house, you just need to make it less favorable to them. Then they’ll leave on their own.
Do you have questions about your specific wood roach problem? Leave a comment!
If you found this guide helpful, please share some feedback by letting me know!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.