Amber cockroaches - extraordinary garden dwellers

Amber cockroaches - extraordinary garden dwellers

the essentials in brief

  • The amber cockroach is not dangerous to humans and does not eat fresh plants or our supplies
  • This cockroach is useful because it forms humus
  • Fighting is not necessary; however, specimens that have got lost in the house can be caught in traps and transported outside
  • Strong smells like those of garlic, catnip or peppermint and clove oil keep amber cockroaches away

Harmful or useful?

The amber forest cockroach is completely harmless to humans. It is not one of the storage pests and only occasionally gets lost in houses and apartments. Since the insects only feed on plant material in an advanced stage of decomposition, they cannot find any food in human dwellings and die within a very short time.

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Amber cockroaches are neither harmful nor dangerous to humans. They even take on important tasks in the forest ecosystem.

Humus formation

Wood cockroaches are involved in the decomposition of plant material and accelerate the formation of humus. In this way, amber cockroaches ensure that the plant residues are used and the nutrients they contain are made available to the plants more quickly.

Forest cockroaches have a more restricted food spectrum than kitchen cockroaches, but they can do valuable services on the compost, where the animals also seek protection from cold temperatures.


Cockroaches for kitchen waste

In east China's Shandong Province, people are taking advantage of cockroaches instead of fighting them. Every day there is tons of kitchen waste from restaurants, which contains a lot of foreign substances, water and oil. The organic waste is used by the cockroaches. The insects produce heat which is used to grow vegetables in winter. When the cockroaches die, they are processed into protein-rich animal food.

Is fighting necessary?

amber cockroach

Since amber cockroaches are not stored pests and do not transmit diseases, control is neither necessary nor recommended. A massive occurrence is favored by warm summer temperatures and mild winters, whereby amber cockroaches are sometimes viewed as a nuisance. Various cities such as Stuttgart or Munich were affected by this in 2017 and 2018. Nevertheless, they only occur en masse in houses in exceptional cases.

Identify the species

Use a flashlight to help check the behavior of the insect. Cockroaches immediately flee when the lights are turned on. They hide in crevices and niches under cupboards. Forest cockroaches show no flight instinct. They crawl around aimlessly during the day and move towards the light source at night.

Avoid chemical agents

Insecticides kill the cockroaches within a very short time. However, numerous agents also pose health risks. Insecticides are not selective. Other insects can also be killed by the use of chemical agents.


If there are several animals in the apartment, you can build a trap and attract the insects with attractants. A plastic bottle with a wide opening can be converted into a trap in just a few steps. The insects are attracted by the smell of the food and fly into it. Since the animals can hardly hold on to the smooth surface, there is no escape from the trap. In order not to harm the wood cockroaches, you should check the containers regularly and release the animals in the garden.

How to build the trap:

  • Cut the bottle in the upper third
  • Fill the lower part of the bottle with leaves and plant residues
  • Insert the upper part with the opening in the lower part


If necessary, set up several of these traps in the home. You don't have to make sure that the food is particularly fresh.


Equip your windows with fly screens if you want to ventilate the room in the evening with the lights on. To make sure that no wood cockroach gets lost in the apartment, you should keep the windows closed during the main activity time in the evening.

Essential oils

Cockroaches don't like the intense smell of various oils. Catnip, peppermint and clove oil have proven to be disgusting substances. Garlic cloves or grated catnip leaves also have a deterrent effect on the insects. Essential oils can be evaporated in an aroma lamp. If you find the intense smell off-putting, you can put intensely fragrant plants in pots.


amber cockroach

The amber cockroach (Ectobius vittiventris) belongs to the subfamily of forest cockroaches and originally comes from southern Europe. It needs warm temperatures and cannot develop in areas with extended cold spells. Rising temperatures increase the insects' likelihood of survival, so that they are increasingly spreading northwards. In midsummer the cockroaches sometimes fly in large numbers. The name comes from the light brown color that is reminiscent of amber.

general characteristics

This species is comparatively slender and long. The amber forest cockroach can move quickly with its six legs. The insects are between nine and 14 millimeters long, with their antennae as long as the body. You can clearly recognize amber cockroaches by the color of the pronotum. This is colored light brown and translucent at the edge.

The thorny legs, which are typical of the forest cockroaches, are also striking. In the amber cockroach, the wings protrude above the tip of the abdomen. Some of them can be finely spotted. Large dark spots are absent, which distinguishes the species from similar cockroaches.

Further identifying features:

  • one or two thorns on the middle and hind legs
  • Egg packet of the females clearly visible and slightly curved
  • Surface of the egg packets with fine longitudinal ribs

Way of life

Amber cockroaches are nocturnal and hide during the day under leaves and stones or under flower pots and in roller shutter boxes. In warm weather, a particularly high level of flight activity can be seen. Both males and females then fly frequently.


From summer to autumn, the female insects lay their egg packages. Nymphs do not hatch until after wintering in the following spring. Shortly before the second hibernation, the larvae molt once or twice. The last molt to become an adult insect takes place in the following summer. This two-year development is typical for the amber wood cockroach and for other species of the genus Ectobius. It is not yet known how old the adult insects can get. In particularly hot summer months, there can be a mass increase.


Egg packets with anti-fray protection

The egg packets, also called ootheca, are typical of all cockroaches and differ in shape and color between the species. The insects have developed a special protection against predators. The egg packets are surrounded by a hard shell in which calcium oxalate is stored. This substance is also found in many plants such as rhubarb or parsnip and is considered the main component of kidney stones.


Amber cockroaches overwinter in protected habitats under leaves or in compost heaps. Occasionally, the insects look for suitable winter quarters in houses and apartments. The nymphs survive two winters from oviposition to molt to adult insect.

distribution and habitat

Ectobius vittiventris is widespread in southern Europe. Originally, Ticino represented the northern border of the natural range in Switzerland. In the 1980s, the species spread increasingly in northern Switzerland. The amber cockroach was first detected in southern Baden in 2002. The distribution area of ​​the species now extends from Rhineland-Palatinate to Bavaria and Thuringia. In 2015 the insects were discovered in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Good to know:

  • Cold affects development
  • Development proceeds faster at higher temperatures
  • ideal temperature: 30 degrees Celsius

House and apartment

Since amber cockroaches are capable of flight, they are occasionally found indoors. It is noticeable that the animals appear more and more in houses that are in close proximity to a forest. Amber cockroaches are attracted by the light and probably also by the heat radiation from house facades.

While most cockroaches have no chance of survival inside buildings because the humidity is too low, amber cockroaches can survive a little longer in houses. Here the insects are also active during the day and crawl around aimlessly and awkwardly on the ground. The species cannot reproduce in apartments.

Natural habitats

In the wild, the insects live in low bushes and on the edges of forests. Since they are particularly comfortable in hedges, amber cockroaches also appear in the garden. They crawl on leaves and branches of various shrubs, although they do not specialize in any plant species. The animals can also be observed under flower pots. The insects are now found in urban gardens and parks.

Amber cockroaches need:

  • Vegetation : loose planting with low bushes
  • Light : sunny places
  • Soil : sheltered and warm places


The amber forest cockroach can easily be confused with other cockroaches, which is why its appearance causes fear or discomfort in many people.


Forest cockroaches

The species of this subfamily live on the forest floor and have a similar food spectrum. They are between nine and 14 millimeters long and are light brown to brown in color, which is why the species can easily be confused. The amber forest cockroach stands out due to its reddish hues.


There is a greater likelihood of confusion between the amber cockroach and the German cockroach, which occurs as a storage pest. Both types are similar in shape, size and color. The most important difference to the cockroach is the pronotum. But the cockroaches also differ in behavior. While the German cockroach is flightless and can only survive in buildings in Central Europe, the amber cockroach moves on the fly and avoids houses. The storage pest does not crawl around aimlessly, but immediately crawls into a crevice.

sizePronotumHouse pest
German cockroach12 to 15 mmbrown with two dark vertical stripesYes
Common wood cockroach9 to 12 mmdark spotNo
Real forest cockroach7.5 to 11 mmdark brown to blackNo

Neck shield as a distinguishing feature


Like all forest cockroaches, the amber cockroach mainly feeds on vegetable food. The insects have specialized in the utilization of dead plant materials that are already in the decomposition stage. Fallen leaves or plant residues on the compost provide valuable sources of food.

Create natural living space

Forest cockroaches are favored by certain climatic conditions so that they can occur in large numbers. However, this also means that natural enemies occur more frequently. The populations of different insectivores are determined by the food available, so that there are constant natural fluctuations between predator and prey. Also encourage insectivores in your garden to reduce the mass spread.

Natural enemies:

  • Birds : reed warbler, gray shrike, thrushes
  • Reptiles : turtles, iguanas, geckos
  • Arthropods : spiders


The amber cockroach feels particularly comfortable in lush ivy tendrils. Avoid similar plants in your garden if you do not want to provide a habitat for the cockroaches.

A diverse garden

The cockroach's natural enemies feel particularly comfortable in a habitat made up of various small-scale mosaics. Make your garden as varied as possible with piles of dead wood, dry stone walls and flower beds. If you have space, you can create a wetland habitat with a pond. You can also create different living spaces on the balcony by equipping flower pots with native wild plants. A zinc tub is ideal as a mini pond.

Way of lifespecialized in forest cockroaches
Hunger waspsparasitize in egg packetsYes
Fan beetleparasitize in egg packetsNo
Jewel waspparasitize in adult cockroachesNo

frequently asked Questions

What to do against amber cockroaches in the apartment?

Occasionally, an amber forest cockroach also gets lost in apartments and houses, because the flying animals are attracted by light sources and warm house facades. If an animal is crawling aimlessly out of the ground, no panic is necessary. However, the six-legged are very nimble. Put a glass over the insect and slide a sheet of paper under it. You can then take it outside and release it.

What do amber cockroaches eat?

Like all forest cockroaches, the insects feed on dead plant remains. Their menu consists mainly of fallen leaves and withered herbaceous plants that are already rotting. The animals are not storage pests, because they cannot do much with human food.

Do amber cockroaches transmit diseases?

Cockroaches can transmit many diseases because of their way of life. They spread bacteria, fungi and viruses that can cause various diseases on contact. Molecular residues occasionally cause allergies. Forest cockroaches, which also include the amber cockroach, are completely harmless. They don't crawl around in rubbish scraps or garbage pits, but live on the forest floor. This means that they are out of the question as carriers of the disease.

Are Amber Cockroaches Harmful?

This species belongs to the forest cockroaches and has a restricted food spectrum. Dead plant remains are on their menu. The insects spurn human food or leftovers so that they do not appear as storage pests. So if an animal has lost its way into your home, you don't have to worry. Amber cockroaches are not harmful.

How long do amber cockroaches live?

The lifespan of adult amber cockroaches is not yet known. It takes up to two years for cockroaches to develop from the egg packets. The nymphs molt several times and hibernate. This development can take place more quickly under particularly warm conditions.