While those living in Florida and other southern states are already familiar with flying cockroaches, New Yorkers are in the midst of a heat wave and a somewhat unnerving revelation about these common pests. Although they can fly, roaches typically opt not to. In extreme heat and humidity, however, the insects seem to prefer flying to walking. As a result, many in New York and other northern states rarely see see a cockroach take flight and are shocked when they do.
Technically, American cockroaches glide rather than fly due to their large size. The difference is moot in the eyes of some who have witnessed airborne roaches, however. Entomologists believe that roaches use their wings during warm weather simply because they are better able to. Heat and humidity relax the muscles, allowing roaches to use more of them, including the ones required to take flight. Like other insects, roaches are cold-blooded and rely on external heat to warm themselves.
It is also thought that roaches usually fail to fly in New York because they simply don’t need to. The city offers an abundance of trash cans, litter and other food sources, creating a buffet for a hungry roach. They need not travel far to find food, water or mates, making walking an adequate means of getting where they’re going.
With the heat wave in full swing, those living in New York may find roaches invading their homes as well as flying. Just like humans, roaches may opt to seek out the cooler, more comfortable temperatures of indoor spaces rather than staying in the sewers and subway tunnels they typically call home.
It is of note that while a flying cockroach may startle even the most seasoned city dweller, the insects are harmless and are not on the attack. Due to their size, American cockroaches lack the control and grace of butterflies and other flying creatures. The result can sometimes be an unfortunate crash into an unsuspecting human. Once your heart stops racing, however, an encounter with a flying roach will leave you with no ill effects and may provide a funny story to tell your friends and coworkers.