Can Cockroaches Climb Walls? Exploring the Anatomy and Abilities of Different Roach Species

Can cockroaches climb walls? Yes, absolutely; one of the fascinating aspects of these insects is their ability to climb walls. Most walls have enough texture to allow a roach to grip and climb quickly.

Cockroaches are one of the many resilient creatures on the planet. They are known for surviving in almost any environment and even withstand harsh conditions. But can how do roaches climb walls?

A cockroach’s anatomy makes it so good at climbing walls. These insects have 6 legs, making contact with the wall. Each foot has specialized pads that allow them to grip onto surfaces, even smooth and vertical ones. Furthermore, their tarsal segments have tiny hairs, which create a larger surface area for them to grasp.

Plus, they use their flexible tarsal and tarso-pretarsal joints. These loose joints help with pushing and pulling when climbing up or down vertical walls. 

Lastly, their legs are strong and flexible, allowing them to maneuver around obstacles as they climb. Just be aware that if you see a bug on your wall, it may be one of the other bugs that look like cockroaches.

Can cockroaches climb walls

Which Types of Cockroaches Can Climb Walls?

There are over 4,000 different species of cockroaches worldwide, but only a few are known for their climbing abilities. The most common climbing cockroach is the German cockroach; we find it in homes and buildings worldwide.

The American cockroach is also a skilled climber, often coming out of sewers and other damp environments. Other climbing cockroaches include the oriental, Australian cockroach, wood roach, and brown-banded cockroach.

roach on bathroom wall

Can Cockroaches Climb Walls?

Cockroaches are resilient pests that can withstand many things. If you see black spots on your walls, it may be roaches. Learn more about what types of bugs can leave black spots on walls here.

These insects can survive in harsh environments and can even climb walls with ease. But how do they do it?

Anatomy of a Cockroach That Helps it Climb Walls

cockroach anatomy


Cockroaches have six legs that are designed for climbing. The legs are strong and can support and help with the pushing and pulling needed to scale walls.

Australian cockroach leg zoomed in showing hairs

Specifically, the cockroach legs do a lot of the initial pushing and pulling that help the roach get up the wall. Not only that, but they have flexible joints in their legs that allow them to gain speed and quickly launch up a wall.

Learn more in this research article: “ Pushing versus pulling: division of labour between tarsal attachment pads in cockroaches.”


When a roach runs fast toward a wall, it intentionally bangs its head into the wall. Doing this acts as a bumper and helps propel the insect up the wall. What it does is help them channel their momentum in an upward trajectory. You can read more about it in this study documented on Live Science.


The feet of a cockroach have tiny hairs that help them stick to surfaces. These hairs create a larger surface area, increasing friction between the feet and the surface.

These extra hairs and larger surface areas allow the cockroach to climb walls and other surfaces without slipping. Scientists have developed robots that can climb walls fashioned after the anatomy of a cockroach.

SEM of a roach leg

Furthermore, they also have well-adapted pads that allow them to adhere to rough substrates easily.

Friction Pads

Cockroaches also have friction pads on their feet that help them climb smooth surfaces. These pads are made up of tiny hairs that create a suction-like effect. The friction pads can interlock on rough surfaces.

Common Types of Cockroaches and Can They Climb Walls?

American Cockroach

The American cockroach clocks in as one of larger cockroach species. They are reddish-brown and can grow up to 3 inches long. They are commonly found in warm, humid environments and can easily climb walls and other surfaces.

Furthermore, these cockroaches are known for their ability to fly short distances (learn more: about roaches that can fly) and their love for scavenging food, making them a common household pest. Unfortunately, they are also known to carry diseases and can trigger allergies and asthma in some people.

If you see one climbing on your wall, you’ll want to call in the professionals. Pest professionals can help you come up with a plan of attack.

German Cockroach

The German cockroach is a smaller species that quickly climb on any surface, including walls and ceilings. They are light brown and have two dark stripes on their back.

Since they have a sticky pad on their feet, called an arolium, they are excellent climbers. Furthermore, it allows them to climb smooth surfaces like porcelain and plastic. However, most roaches cannot climb glass.

Oriental Cockroach

The Oriental cockroach is a shiny dark brown or black species of cockroach. You’ll find them in damp environments like basements and sewers. They are not as good at climbing walls as other species of cockroaches. However, they can climb rough surfaces like concrete and brick.

Wood Roach

You’ll find these creatures outdoors; they look similar to the American roach. You’ll likely see these wood roaches climbing on your walls if you see them indoors. However, if you have a tree that attracts them in the summer, they may slip into your home through a crack or crevice.

5 Reasons Why Cockroaches Climb Walls

Seeking food:

Cockroaches are scavengers and can climb walls in search of food. For example, if a piece of food is stuck on the wall, a cockroach might climb up to get it.

roach climbing up a white bowl

They can also climb up walls to access food storage areas, such as kitchen cabinets or pantries. Definitely invest in some cockroach-proof containers if you see these critters in your home.

Escaping predators:

Cockroaches are prey to many animals, including centipedes, birds, lizards, and spiders. When threatened, a cockroach might climb a wall to escape its predator.

For instance, if a centipede is trying to catch a cockroach, the cockroach might climb up a wall to get out of reach. Pro tip: House centipedes eat roaches, so they are beneficial!

Finding shelter:

Cockroaches are nocturnal creatures and prefer to hide during the day. They can climb walls to find shelter in small cracks or crevices.

For example, a cockroach might climb up a wall to hide behind a picture frame, outlet, or molding.

Moving to a new location:

Cockroaches can climb walls to move from one area to another. For instance, if a cockroach is in a room and wants to move to another room, it might climb up a wall to get there. A roach may use the wall instead of walking on the floor where it’s more visible.

Cockroach climbing down a wall


Cockroaches communicate with each other through pheromones, and climbing walls can be a way to find a mate. For example, a male cockroach might climb up a wall to release pheromones that attract a female cockroach.

Final Thoughts for “Can Cockroaches Climb Walls?”

Cockroaches can climb walls, thanks to their flexible joints in the legs and feet that provide traction. They can also stick to surfaces with tiny hairs on their feet and friction pads, which create suction-like effects.

Different species of cockroaches vary in how well they can climb; some are better than others at scaling smooth or rough surfaces. If you see any cockroaches climbing your walls, it’s best to call a pest professional for help as soon as possible before an infestation occurs.

With proper prevention methods, you can protect your home from these disease-infested critters!

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