Spotted Mediterranean cockroaches

These harmless insects would rather be visiting flowers than be on our kitchen counters.

An adult spotted Mediterranean cockroach on a goldenrod flower
An adult spotted Mediterranean cockroach on a goldenrod flower (Solidago spp.) Photo by Nate Walton, MSU Extension.

Until 2008, the spotted Mediterranean cockroach, Ectobius pallidus (Blattellidae), was only known to occur in the United States in Massachusetts and southeast Michigan. Then, it was found in Grand Traverse County by Duke Elsner of Michigan State University Extension, now retired. According to Elsner, it has been expanding its range in and around the Traverse City, Michigan, area ever since.

This small European species of cockroach was first discovered in the United States in 1948 on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It is not known when it first arrived in southeast Michigan. Sometimes called the tawny cockroach, this species is normally encountered outdoors and generally does not infest food or goods indoors. Outdoors, immatures and adults can be found in a variety of habitats and are often seen visiting flowers during the growing season. They can sometimes become a nuisance when attracted to dwellings by lights that are left on at night.

The spotted Mediterranean cockroach is a pale-brown cockroach that is smaller than the German cockroach and lacks the dark lines on the pronotum that characterize the German cockroach. The wings have many tiny, dark spots that can be seen only with the aid of a hand lens. The immature nymphs are also pale brown but lack wings.

Immature spotted Mediterranean cockroach - Nate Walton MSUE.jpeg
An immature spotted Mediterranean cockroach on a motherwort flower (Leonurus cardiaca). Photo by Nate Walton, MSU Extension.

These insects sometimes enter our living spaces accidentally and become trapped when they can’t find their way back outside. They can be discouraged from entering homes by keeping weather seals around windows and doors in good condition. Keeping landscape plants pruned back so that they do not touch the structure and maintaining a 6-inch strip of bare soil around the foundation will help reduce the numbers of these and other insects entering homes.

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