The American cockroach, Periplaneta americana (Linnaeus), is the largest of the common peridomestic cockroaches measuring on average 4 cm in length. It occurs in buildings throughout Florida especially in commercial buildings. In the northern United States the cockroach is mainly found in steam heat tunnels or large institutional buildings. The American cockroach is second only to the German cockroach in abundance.
Forty-seven species are included in the genus Periplaneta, none of which are endemic to the U.S. (Bell and Adiyodi 1981). The American cockroach (P. americana) was introduced to the United States from Africa as early as 1625 (Bell and Adiyodi 1981). The American cockroach has spread throughout the world by commerce. The cockroach is often found residing indoors as well as outdoors. It is found mainly in basements, sewers, steam tunnels, and drainage systems (Rust et. al. 1991). This cockroach is readily found in commercial and large buildings such as restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and where food is prepared and stored. The American cockroach is rarely found in houses, however after heavy rain infestations of the cockroach can occur in homes. They can develop to enormous numbers, greater than 5,000 sometimes being found in individual sewer manholes (Rust et. al. 1991).
American cockroaches are found in moist shady areas outdoors, in yards, hollow trees, wood piles, and mulch. They are occasionally found under roof shingles and in attics. The cockroaches dwell outside but will wander indoors for food and water or during extremes in weather conditions. In Florida, areas such as trees, woodpiles, garbage facilities, and accumulations of organic debris around homes provide adequate food, water, and harborages for peridomestic cockroaches such as the American cockroach (Hagenbuch et al. 1988). Mass migrations of the American cockroaches are common (Ebeling 1975). They migrate by crawling or flying into structures often entering houses and apartments from sewers via the plumbing, by trees and shrubs located alongside buildings or trees with branches overhanging roofs facilitate the entry of cockroaches into the home. During the day the American cockroach, which responds negatively to light, rests in harborages close to water pipes, sinks, baths, and toilets, for example, where the microclimate is suitable for survival (Bell and Adiyodi 1981).