Cockroach Control: How to Get Rid of Cockroaches for Good

American cockroach

When most people think about cockroaches, feelings of disgust encompass them imagining these filth and germ-ridden pests scurrying across surfaces inside the home.However, not all cockroaches live indoors. Various types prefer an outdoor habitat where they still reside in filth, dirt and debris. We’ve outlined the most common outdoor cockroach species, their hiding places and what you can do in the form of pest-control and preventing your outdoor roach problem.

Pest control ad for Get Sunday

Cockroaches: The Basics

Cockroaches have been crawling around the planet for over 300 million years and because they seem so indestructible, some believe they’ll be the only survivors of a nuclear holocaust. With over 4,500 known species of cockroaches and around 69 species of cockroaches calling the United States home, the roach family is quite large.

According to the University of Florida, outdoor cockroaches serve a role. They function as decomposers, existing by feeding upon dead and dying plant matter, as well as dead animals. Even outdoor roaches pose health hazards to humans, as they are carriers of diseases including Salmonella. They also spark allergic reactions in some people, causing asthma and skin disorders. Therefore, dealing with an outdoor roach problem is imperative before the germ-ridden pest finds a way indoors.

Cold Climate versus Warm Climate

If there’s anything positive about outdoor cockroaches, you’re likely to come across only several of the six most common roaches that call the great outdoors their home. In addition, not all of these cockroach species reside in both the colder regions of the United States and the warmer areas.

Those living in colder northern locales will see a reduction in outdoor cockroach infestations as the weather cools in fall and winter. On the other hand, those living in southern regions or consistently warm areas of the United States will deal with outdoor cockroach infestations year-round, as the warmer temperatures allow the cockroaches to be active all year. This raises your level of pest-control efforts to keep the outdoor roach problem under control.

Typical Outdoor Cockroach Hiding Places

Regardless of where you live in the United States, you’ll find that all species of cockroaches prefer the same type of outdoor hiding places in the landscape. The first and maybe the most important step in cockroach control and eliminating your outdoor roach problem is locating their hiding places. This allows you to perform important pest-control and prevention tactics where the roaches feel most at home.

Cockroaches are nocturnal, so you’ll find most activity in the evening hours when they come out to feed, although during the daylight they’ll most likely be hanging out in their hiding place. Common outdoor places where cockroaches hide include:

  • Flowerbeds, especially in mulch
  • Piles of wood
  • Garbage Cans
  • Open Compost Piles
  • Damp areas
  • Outdoor food sources
  • Sewage systems
  • Trash piles
  • Areas with high organic matter
  • Piles of leaves and organic debris
  • Inside tree holes and trees like palm trees

Once you discover where the cockroaches are hiding during the day, you can then carry out your prevention and pest-control options to control the population and prevent further infestations that can help in preventing the roaches from making their way indoors.

Common Outdoor Cockroach Species

Certain species of roaches prefer to nest in certain locations in the landscape. Some of these species prefer to remain in an outdoor environment and only mistakenly make their way indoors, while some types can also live quite happily invading your indoor spaces. Many types of outdoor roaches will try to find an entry point into the home when outdoor conditions are especially hot and dry.

Common roach species you are likely to find outdoors include:

Florida Woods Cockroach  

Florida woods cockroach
Florida woods cockroach. Credit: Mike Leffler, CC by-SA 2.0

Woods cockroaches’ name says it all — they prefer to live outdoors and cannot live for long in an indoor environment. The insects range in size from around 3/4 inches long to 1 1/4 inches in length and are tannish to light brown in color. Outdoors, they prefer living in damp areas like mulch piles, rotten logs, woodpiles and under the loose bark in trees. Alice Covington, a horticultural specialist with Nelson’s Landscape and Nursery in Grant, Fla., notes, “Don’t be surprised to find one when you dig in the soil of your flower beds while doing garden maintenance or planting.”

American Cockroach

American cockroach
American cockroach. Credit: dilettantiquity CC by-SA 2.0

The largest of the cockroach species found in the United States and often referred to as palmetto bugs, American cockroaches average around 2 inches long are a reddish-brown color with a yellow figure-eight pattern on their head. American cockroaches happily make their homes both outside and inside the home, preferring warm and humid outdoor locations. When the weather cools in winter, the cockroach will make its way indoors through available entry points. Preferred outdoor locations are compost piles, trash cans and trash piles, moist areas and around sources of water, in mulch and in decaying plant debris, sewer systems, steam tunnels, wood piles and pet feeding areas. American cockroaches can fly.

Oriental Cockroach

Oriental cockroach
Oriental cockroach. Credit: gailhampshire, CC 2.0

Found mainly in northern climates of the United States, Oriental cockroaches are often mistaken for beetles due to their thick and round shape or water bugs, as they typically enter homes through water drains. Oriental cockroaches are dark brown to almost black and average around 1 1/4 inches long and don’t fly. Due to the foul odor they emit, they are considered one of the filthiest roaches. Outdoors, Oriental roaches live in damp areas like sewer systems, drain pipes, woodpiles, water meter boxes, trash cans and trash piles, pet feeding areas, under moist areas of the house and in densely vegetated flower beds.

Smokeybrown Cockroach

Smokeybrown cockroach
Smokeybrown cockroach. Credit: Toby Hudson, CC by-SA 2.0

Often mistaken for an American cockroach, the Smokeybrown cockroach is uniformly dark brown or mahogany colored and shiny and lacks the yellow markings on the head. It averages around 1-1/4 inches long and is a good flyer. Although typically found in warm locations, the roach can also inhabit northern locales. These cockroaches require water every three to four days, so you are likely to find them outdoors in damp areas that are warm and dark. Typical hiding places include the canopy of palm trees, holes in trees, inside mulch in flower beds and cracks in block walls.

Brown-Banded Cockroach

Brownbanded cockroach
A male brownbanded cockroach. Credit: National Pest Management Association

Brown-banded cockroaches were first introduced from Cuba into Miami, and now reside in all portions of the United States. Due to their small size of around 5/8 inches long, they are often mistaken for German cockroaches. Females are reddish-brown to dark-brown and males are dark-brown, with both having two yellow bands across their bodies. Only the males can fly. The roach prefers a warm outdoor environment and reside around electrical equipment, pet feeding stations, frames around windows and any warm and secluded location.

Turkestan Cockroach

Turkestan cockroach
Light-colored Turkestan cockroach. Credit: Happy1892, CC by-SA 3.0

Turkestan cockroaches are around 1 inch long, with females often being confused with Oriental roaches and the males with the American cockroach. However, you can distinguish the females by the cream-colored markings on their bodies and the males are smaller than American types, with tannish-yellow wings and edges that are cream-colored. Outdoors, you can usually find them in potted plants, leaf debris, compost piles, water meter boxes, and cracks and crevices in concrete.

Once you are able to identify the particular cockroach species, you are better able to find their hiding place and perform methods of pest-control and prevention to control present and future roach problems.

Outdoor Cockroach Management Tips

Controlling and the prevention of an outdoor roach problem involve several steps. The University of Florida notes that an integrated pest management approach (IPM) is 80 percent successful in the elimination of the roach infestation and prevention of future roach problems.

The first step in managing your outdoor cockroaches is prevention and sanitation, which also assists in preventing the roaches from finding an entry point inside the home. Prevention and sanitation are broken into four categories: exclusion, and eliminating water sources, food sources and harborages.

1. Exclusion

  • Keep doors and windows leading from the outside shut.
  • Repair any opening in soffit and window screens to prevent roach entry into the home.
  • Caulk openings around pipes or plumbing, cracks around windows, doors and electrical outlets entering the home.
  • Screen or seal openings around sewer vents or drainage lines and attic vents.

2. Eliminate Sources of Water

  • Eliminate outdoor water collection areas such as old tires, holes in trees, waste such as old pans and cans lying around.
  • Don’t overwater your plants where the area remains wet for long periods.
  • Repair leaking hoses or plumbing pipes.
  • Empty outdoor water dishes for pets daily.

3. Eliminate Sources of Food

  • Keep compost piles sealed.
  • Dispose of outdoor trash properly and don’t leave laying around.
  • Keep lids on trash cans.
  • Empty outdoor food bowls for pets daily.

4. Harborages Elimination

  • Seal cracks and crevices around the outside of the home, as an adult cockroach can fit into spaces as small as 1/16th of an inch.
  • Keep any organic mulch pulled back from the house by about 1 foot, as adult roaches prolifically breed in the organic matter. Alice Covington suggests replacing organic flower bedmulches, especially around the house with an inorganic material like gravel or pebbles, as the roaches won’t take up home or breed in those materials.
  • Keep any firewood or woodpiles stacked off the ground and kept away from the house.
  • Keep any shrubbery planted around the house trimmed and maintained so it doesn’t touch the house or roof area. According to the University of Florida, roaches find ivy a favorite breeding location.
  • Fill any holes in trees with cement.
  • Clean up any trash or debris in the yard where roaches can find a safe place to hide.

Chemical Pest Control

After taking the four steps above, it’s time to break out the roach-killing chemicals.


Using cockroach baits are suggested due to their effectiveness and the application being targeted. Baits come in various forms but when used outdoors, granules and gels work best. When using cockroach baits, never use a spray insecticide in the same location, as it will repel any cockroach species from entering the area.

  • Apply granule cockroach baits around the perimeter of your house, in flower beds and mulched areas.
  • Apply cockroach gel baits in any crevices or cracks in outdoor walls, foundations or around doors and windows.

Insecticidal Sprays

As long as you aren’t applying in baited areas outdoors, insecticidal sprays labeled for outdoor use can also be effective. When using any type of pest-control product, always follow directions on use and repeat applications. Keep children and pets out of the treated areas.

  • Spray any cracks or crevices around doors or windows where you suspect the cockroaches are using as a hiding place.
  • Seal any foundation cracks or crevices. Spray around the perimeter of the home’s foundation and any entry points into the home where larger cockroaches can enter.

Always wash your hands after applying any insecticide or use protective gloves when applying.

Expert Tip:  Although there are insecticidal dusts used for cockroach problems, the vast majority contain boric acid. It is highly toxic to plants and becomes ineffective once wet. Their use is most effective when controlling an indoor cockroach infestation.

Staying Roach-Free

If you don’t feel like tackling the outdoor roach problem yourself or just the thought of the dirty pest gives you the heebie jeebies, you can always call in a professional pest-control company. Professionals are licensed to use products that aren’t available to the general public. They also have experience dealing with cockroaches in the landscape.

Whether you decide to do the job yourself or hire someone else, some chores are on you.

  • Periodically go out and making sure the outside area is clean.
  • Trim vegetation.
  • Seal any cracks or crevices in the home.
  • Eliminate any potential hiding places.

Taking these steps will go a long way in preventing future outdoor cockroach infestations. Although nothing can guarantee a perfectly roach-free landscape, continued maintenance of your outdoor space and pest-control treatments will eliminate the vast majority of the filthy pests.

Main image credit: American cockroach, Mr. TinDC, CC 2.0

Joyce Starr

Joyce Starr

Joyce Starr has been writing on horticultural and landscaping topics for over 15 years. In addition, for the past 20 years she’s owned and operated a landscaping and design business. She shares her experience and passion for all things green through her writing.