Cockroaches are one of the most difficult household pests to eliminate, so it can be tough to tell if you have them or not. If you see critters scuttling around your house, they appear to be cockroaches. However, if they don't fit the usual description, they might be another type of bug altogether.
Cockroaches are one of the most common household pests in the United States. With good reason—these resilient insects are notorious for being hard to get rid of. They're often drawn to warm, wet environments like kitchens and bathrooms. One of the worst things about cockroaches is that they can breed quickly and infest almost every corner of your home, leaving little to no room for you to feel comfortable or safe at home.
If you live in an area where cockroaches are common, it can be difficult to tell these critters from the real thing at first glance. As it turns out, several bugs and beetles look very similar to cockroaches when they're young but will grow up to look very different as adults.
It's important to note that not all bugs look like cockroaches, but all cockroaches look like bugs. Many insects have six legs, antennae, and hard exoskeletons. However, some mimic cockroach characteristics—especially appearance—to trick predators. A few of these imitators include beetles, flies, and even caterpillars.
Here we will discuss the bugs that look like cockroaches but aren't. You will learn what they look like, where they live, and how you can tell them apart from cockroaches.
Cockroaches and Their Characteristics
With an origin that dates back to over 300 to 350 million years ago, cockroaches are one of the most primitive insects. Belonging to the Blattodea order, there are approximately 4,600 species of cockroaches in the world. Out of these, 30 species are associated with human habitats. Of these 30 species, only four cockroach species are well known as pests. These are the German cockroach, the American cockroach, the Oriental cockroach, and the brown-banded cockroach.
Cockroaches are nocturnal insects and are generally feared because they can easily spread diseases. They are carriers of various bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning, dysentery, and diarrhea.
Cockroaches are the most commonly found pests in houses, yet people know relatively little about them. Let’s go through the fundamental characteristics of cockroaches to understand them better.
Characteristics of Cockroaches
- Cockroaches have oval-shaped bodies and long, segmented antennae. Their body is divided into the head, thorax, and abdomen.
- They have two pairs of wings, various mouthparts, three pairs of legs, compound eyes, and sensory structures.
- The hind pair of legs is much larger and more powerful than the other pairs, which helps cockroaches to run very fast. Cockroaches can run as fast as 3 miles (4.8 km) per hour.
- They have a chitinous exoskeleton protecting them from chemicals, injuries, and water.
- In female cockroaches, the abdomen is large and broad compared to their male counterparts.
- Their size ranges from 1.27 to 5.8 cm (0.5” to 2”) in length. However, the giant cockroach from South America can grow up to 9 cm (3.5”) in size.
- Cockroaches can be brown, black, reddish-brown, or tan, depending on the species.
- Most cockroach species develop wings as they become adults; however, only a few can fly properly.
- They are nocturnal pests and are most active at night.
- Cockroaches are omnivores and will eat just about anything, including other cockroaches. They are scavengers in the wild and help clean up dead and decaying matter.
- They are found in various habitats all over the world and prefer warm, moist environments.
- Cockroaches can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes, which is helpful when they need to escape from areas that are dry or lack oxygen.
Bed bugs, which are typically smaller than cockroaches, have oval-shaped bodies. When comparing a baby cockroach to a bed bug, you'll notice two significant differences in size and shape. Bed bugs are relatively small, at 0.5 cm (3/16") long, compared to baby cockroaches that grow up to 1 cm (3/8") long. In addition, they tend to be darker in color and have more of an elongated appearance. Adult bed bugs are light brown or tan with an oval-shaped body much shorter than a baby cockroach.
As well as these differences in shape and size, several other visual clues can help you differentiate between these insects. The bed bug has more of a shiny appearance, and its body is often covered with small dark spots. Baby cockroaches have no marks on their bodies and tend to be brown or black.
If you find an insect with an elongated appearance, it's likely a baby cockroach. However, if you see an insect that is light brown or tan in color, it's probably a bed bug. Another distinguishing factor between these two insects is their preferred habitats. Bed bugs prefer living in places where people sleep, such as beds and sofas; they are also known to hide in furniture crevices and cracks in walls, while baby cockroaches tend to stay around wet places.
A beetle is a type of insect in the order Coleoptera. Cockroaches are also insects and belong to their order (Blattodea). Adult beetles can grow to be about 7.5 cm (3′′) long, whereas adult roaches rarely grow to be more than 5.08 cm (2′′). Beetles usually have a hard shell made from chitin that protects them from predators and may come in colors like black, brown, green, red, or blue. In many beetles, the patterns on their wing covers (also called elytra) are vibrant colors. Cockroaches tend to be dark brown or black, with yellowish-brown legs.
There are several different types of cockroaches in existence. The American cockroach is about 5.08–7.62 cm (2–3") long and is typically brown with a reddish cast on its head and behind its antennae. Other roaches include Oriental, German, brown-banded, and Australian woodcock. Among these varieties, none possess brightly colored exoskeletons as beetles do.
Beetles and cockroaches live in different habitats. Beetles are generally found in temperate forests and tropical rainforests, and on islands far from landmasses. They are also present in deserts, grasslands, tundra, and mountainsides, while cockroaches prefer more tropical climates to survive. Aside from human structures, cockroaches can be found almost anywhere on Earth with enough food to sustain them.
Asian Longhorned Beetles
These bugs are frequently confused, but there are distinct differences. Asian long-horned beetles have antennae with a club at their ends that can be up to 2.54 cm (1″) in length; cockroaches' antennae are straight, thin, and pointed. Asian long-horned beetles display pink, white, or yellow spots on their wing covers, while cockroaches have dark brownish or black wing covers.
A common ground is that Asian long-horned beetles are shiny, brownish, or black in color, with wings extending beyond their bodies, whereas roaches have a dull appearance. Some Asian long-horned beetles display white or yellow on their wing covers. Asian long-horned beetles are shorter in length than most roaches, measuring 2.54 cm vs. 2.54-5.08 cm (1′′ vs. 1-2′′). However, larger varieties can be mistaken for cockroaches as well.
Both of these insects can spread various human diseases. Asian long-horned beetles prefer to live in trees, while roaches are found on land and water. Asian long-horned beetles eat leaves, and roaches feed on various food sources, including dead animals, garbage, plants, fruits, and vegetables.
Palo Verde Beetles
The palo verde beetle looks like a cockroach but has a pair of pincer-like appendages at its rear. Its diet consists of leaves, pollen, and nectar. It produces a sweet substance that attracts other insects. They are active both day and night, and under extreme weather conditions, they will come indoors looking for warmth.
Palo verde beetles are small and reddish-brown, while cockroaches may be brown. They have a shiny appearance lacking in cockroaches. They can both fly, but their wingspan is different. The palo verde beetle has smaller wings than a cockroach, and it doesn't fly as fast or as far. They live outdoors, so you will rarely see them indoors unless it's an emergency.
Palo verde beetles are found in coastal regions from southern Texas to northern Argentina. They live under flat rocks, logs, and shrubs near moist soil or rainy areas. They rarely venture far from their hiding places. Their presence is usually a sign of an infestation in your area, so keep an eye out for these critters.
For many people, roaches are synonymous with water bugs in general. Most water bugs look like ordinary household roaches. However, if you pay close attention to the details of their appearance and behavior patterns, you'll see that they're entirely different creatures.
Water bugs are a subfamily of shield-back bugs with rounded, flat bodies. They don't have any wings and are light brown or tan, with prominent dark brown spots on their backs and legs. There are six flattened, blade-like appendages on their thoraxes called scutellum that act as shields.
Some cockroach species favor warm, dark spaces where they can efficiently scavenge for food. In contrast, others make their homes humid environments like tropical forests. Water bugs prefer damp habitats such as marshes and swamps. They may be found around trees and other greenery in these areas, where they feed on algae and other microorganisms.
Both cockroaches and wood-boring beetles are very similar in appearance. These insects have wings that allow them to fly. However, although many cockroaches also fly, not all wood-boring beetles do. The bodies of both cockroaches and wood-boring beetles are very long, thin, and flat. This makes it easy for them to move through narrow spaces and fit into tight cracks or crevices where they might be able to hide from predators.
Wood-boring beetles tend to be larger than most common cockroach species (although some may be slightly larger). The largest type of beetle is called Goliathus regius, and it is native to Africa. Both cockroaches and wood-boring beetles have similar habitats. Both insects prefer living in dark places hidden from view, such as inside walls or floorboards. But wood-boring beetles also like to live in trees, while most cockroaches like to live in or near places where they can find food, like garbage cans or sewers.
While both cockroaches and palmetto bugs can appear black, there are some key differences; the palmetto bug has distinctive red stripes and patterns on its wings, while a cockroach doesn't have any markings or colors on its wings. Palmetto bugs also live in warm climates like Florida, while roaches are cold-weather creatures that don't thrive at temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6°C).
There are other key differences between cockroaches and palmetto bugs. Although they may look similar, palmetto bugs have a much shorter lifespan than roaches. Palmetto bugs can survive just three months in their native habitat of Florida, while cockroaches can live up to a year in captivity.
The most noticeable difference between these two bugs is their size. While a palmetto bug can be as small as 4 cm (1.6"), cockroaches grow to an average of 5.08 cm (2"). These differences in appearance and climate make it easy to tell if you're dealing with a cockroach or a palmetto bug.
Water boatmen are in a completely different order than cockroaches and Hemiptera, so they aren't even closely related. As you probably know, most bugs that look like cockroaches aren't even insects. Aside from that, water boatmen are much smaller, about 1.27 cm (1/2″) long, and have very distinctive red eyes.
Therefore, the best way to know if a bug is a cockroach or a water boatman is by looking at their overall body shape and structure. The abdomen of water boatmen is more triangular than oval-shaped in most roaches, and they also have much smaller wings.
Both cockroaches and water boatmen are found in aquatic environments. However, they are very different when it comes to their specific habitat. Water boatmen can be found throughout North America, but they live in calm, shallow waters. They are often seen around freshwater plants near lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers.
It's easy to mistake a cockroach for a termite. Both are brown and can be similar in size (especially when dealing with baby roaches or worker termites). The easiest way to tell them apart is to look at their antennae: Termites have long, straight and smooth antennae, while cockroaches have shorter segmented antennas.
Another way to tell them apart is to look at their legs. If they are spotted, they're termites. If they're striped, they're cockroaches. Some cockroach species can have dark and light stripes on their legs, which might be confusing at first glance. In addition, cockroach wings sit flush with their backs; wingless termites have two pairs of wings (one on each side of their bodies).
Cockroaches like to live in warm, moist places – and are often found inside houses. Termites prefer to live outside and will usually only invade a home if their typical habitat is compromised. If you're seeing termites inside your home, they've moved out of their nest to seek shelter, indicating it's time for pest control.
Many insects live in homes and appear to be cockroaches but aren't. One such example is crickets. Crickets have flat bodies, long legs, and antennae. They feed on plants and other household items rather than human food, which makes them less likely to come into contact with your food supply or invade your living space.
A cricket can appear black or tan, whereas a cockroach is almost always brown. Crickets are generally light in color and have wings that cover their bodies when they fly; roaches are darker in color and have wings that rest flat against their bodies. Cockroaches also have shiny exoskeletons, while crickets' exoskeletons are duller and covered with hairs.
Crickets prefer the outdoors, while cockroaches generally live indoors. This is because of their different environmental needs: roaches need food and water sources to survive, whereas crickets only need water. They also have different population growth rates and life spans: cockroaches can produce up to 200-300 offspring in a lifetime; crickets make about 2,000.
Both cockroaches and ground beetles are winged insects with hard-shelled backs, but they don't look identical. In addition to their appearance, how bugs live also sets them apart. Ground beetles spend most of their time on land, while cockroaches prefer dark, moist environments like sewers and basements. Suppose you do find a ground beetle in your home. In that case, it's likely an indoor species that somehow found its way in—not an indication of a cockroach infestation.
Ground beetles typically have broader, more compact bodies with prominent, long legs that are often spread out when they walk. In contrast, cockroaches have thin bodies and short, stubby legs. A ground beetle's body is dark gray or black, while a cockroach has a tan to reddish-brown shell that can be somewhat translucent in darker individuals.
The bodies of both beetles and cockroaches vary in shape depending on the species. Additionally, some species have wings while others don't. While most ground beetles are winged, you might find some that have lost their wings through molting or accident.
June Bugs (May beetle)
Though these two bugs look alike, it's easy to tell them apart. June bug adults are only about 2.54 cm (1") long, whereas cockroaches (American roaches in particular) can grow up to 5.08 cm (2") long. Both have an exoskeleton, but a cockroach is darker and harder than a June bug.
Aside from size, both June bugs and cockroaches have wings, but that's where their similarities end. Cockroach wings are attached to a membrane called a patagium. June bug wings are tiny and held together by hooks or claws. The front pair of legs on a June bug is long, while those on a cockroach are short. Roaches have three different parts: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. On the other hand, June bugs only have two: the head and the thorax.
June bugs are most commonly found in deciduous forests and temperate grasslands. They also populate open areas with long stretches of exposed land. Cockroaches prefer dark, damp places like cellars, basements, and bathrooms.
What is the Difference Between a Palmetto Bug and a Cockroach?
Essentially, Palmetto Bugs are a subset of cockroaches - the differences outlined above will help you narrow down whether you're dealing with a Palmetto or some other kind of roach.
There are about 4,000 recognized species of cockroaches around the globe, including 70 in the United States. Not every cockroach is known as a palmetto bug. The term "cockroach" is often used for species that prefer indoor and outdoor habitats.
The American cockroach is one of many species often known as palmetto bugs. Adults are reddish-brown with a light yellow band around their pronotum, a shield-like structure that protects their heads. They may be found across the United States in basements, sewers, landscaping materials, and wood heaps. American cockroaches are most active when it's warm outside. However, they can handle colder weather just fine, especially if they live inside.
The Smoky brown cockroach is another cockroach usually known as a palmetto bug. Adults have a rich mahogany hue and a glossy look. In addition, they like warm, moist environments, such as tree holes and beneath mulch or other landscaping materials. Whether they are cockroaches or palmetto bugs, contact a registered pest control specialist if you suspect or find an infestation in your house.
Roach or Cockroach?
The cockroach is the more scientific name, as these insects are classified as members of the Blattodea order. On the other hand, the roach is thought to be derived from the Spanish word for cockroach, Cucaracha. However, it's also possible that the word "roach" is simply a corruption of "cockroach."
Wood Roach or Cockroach?
What many people don't realize is that there are different types of cockroaches, and some are far less dangerous than others. For example, wood roaches, or Pennsylvanian cockroaches, are a type of cockroach that is relatively harmless to humans.
They tend to live outdoors in wooded areas, and they typically only come inside homes in search of food or water. Wood roaches are also much less likely to spread disease than other types of cockroaches, making them relatively harmless pests. So the next time you see a cockroach in your home, take a closer look—it might just be a wood roach.
How to Get Rid of Cockroaches?
Cockroaches are one of the most reviled pests. These flattened, winged insects are fast runners and excellent climbers. They can squeeze into tiny cracks and crevices, making them difficult to eliminate once they’ve taken up residence in your home.
There are several proven ways to do away with cockroaches. But before moving on to the methods, the first thing is to confirm that you have a cockroach problem.
Signs to Spot a Cockroach Infestation
If you see a cockroach, there is likely more hiding in cracks and crevices. To spot an infestation, look for the following signs:
- Cockroach droppings: You may find small, dark brown, or black pellets that look like coffee grounds or ground pepper.
- Smear marks: Cockroaches leave greasy smears as they travel along surfaces.
- Eggs: Cockroach eggs are small, brown, and oval-shaped. They are usually found in clusters.
- Shed skin: Cockroaches molt or shed their skin up to seven times as they grow.
- Odor: A musty, sweet smell that gets stronger as the infestation grows.
If you see any of these signs, it confirms that you have a cockroach problem.
Tips to Getting Rid of Cockroaches
The best route to eliminate cockroaches is to call a pest control professional. Pest control professionals have the knowledge, tools, and experience to eliminate cockroaches. They can assess the severity of the infestation better and recommend the best course of action.
However, if you want to try to get rid of cockroaches on your own, there are a few things you can do:
Stop Them from Getting Into Your Home
The best way to get rid of cockroaches is to prevent them from getting into your home in the first place. You need to seal all cracks and crevices around your home to do this. Check for gaps around windows, doors, pipes, and wires. You can use weather-stripping or caulk to seal these openings and keep roaches from coming in.
Keep Your Home Clean
Cockroaches are attracted to food and water, so keeping your home clean is essential. Wipe spills immediately, and don’t leave food out overnight. Store food in airtight containers, and empty the garbage regularly. Vacuum and mop your floors frequently, and wash dirty dishes right away.
Cockroaches like to hide in clutter, so reducing the amount of clutter in your home can help deter them. Get rid of newspapers, magazines, and other items you don’t need. Don’t let clothes pile up on the floor, and put away toys when your kids are finished playing with them.
Use Cockroach Baits and Traps
Cockroach baits and traps can be effective in getting rid of cockroaches. These products contain chemicals that attract cockroaches and kill them. Place baits and traps near areas where you’ve seen cockroaches or suspect they’re hiding.
If baits and traps aren’t working, you may need to use insecticides. Insecticides contain chemicals that kill cockroaches. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label, and don’t use more than what’s recommended.
Cockroaches are simply one of the most difficult pests to get rid of. However, you can deal with them with perseverance and the right approach. If you need help, don’t hesitate to call a pest control professional.
Fascinating Facts About Cockroaches
Cockroaches are interesting creatures and have many unique qualities. Here are a few facts about cockroaches that you may or may not know:
- Cockroaches can live without food for one month, but they will only survive without water for ten days.
- They have been around for millions of years. It is believed their origin dates back to the Carboniferous era, which is about 280 million years.
- Cockroaches can hold their breath for 40 minutes. They can survive being submerged underwater for up to 30 minutes.
- They are incredibly fast runners and can run up to 3 miles in an hour.
- Even a one-day baby roach can run almost as fast as its parents.
- They are known to carry diseases such as Salmonellosis, Cholera, Leprosy, Listeriosis, etc.
- Cockroaches are one of the most commonly found pests in the world. In the United States, the German cockroach is the most common cockroach type.
- They are capable of squeezing through tiny spaces and cracks.
- They have sensory cells on their antenna that help them move in the dark.
- These pests prefer warm conditions but can adapt to other environments.
- They love alcohol. The American cockroach is drawn to alcoholic beverages, especially beer.
- German cockroach nymphs can develop into adults in about 36 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although we have covered some of the most common questions about cockroaches, we know that there are still many more that need to be answered. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about these ubiquitous insects.
Do Roaches Like Light?
How Big Are Cockroaches?
The giant cave cockroach, for example, can reach lengths of 10 cm (4") or more. And the world's largest cockroach, the Megaloblatta longipennis, can grow to be a whopping 11.5 cm (4.5") long. So next time you see a cockroach scuttling across your floor, remember that it could be worse. Just be thankful you're not dealing with a giant cave cockroach or megaloblatta longipennis.
Is A Cockroach A Beetle?
Is A Roach An Insect?
Do roaches make noise?
They can be identified by how many of these ridges they have; German roaches, for example, typically have two of these, but Oriental cockroaches will only have one ridge instead. They also shed their skin, but unlike most insects that tend to molt a single time during development, cockroaches may molt up to 15 times over a lifetime!
What Are Big Roaches Called?
What Color Are Roaches?
For example, a roach living in a dark home may appear black, while one living in a brightly lit home may appear brown. So, the next time you see a roach scuttling across your floor, don't be too quick to judge its color. After all, it's just trying to blend in.
What Do Small Cockroaches Look Like?
Even the standard American cockroach—one of the largest cockroach species—can be somewhat attractive, with its reddish-brown body and glossy wings. So if you're ever feeling down about the way you look, remember: there's always someone (or something) out there that's uglier than you. And in the case of cockroaches, that's saying a lot.
What Do Cockroaches Eat?
Do Cockroaches Spread Disease?
Once again, we'd like to tell you that there are, in fact, bugs on Earth that look and act just like cockroaches. However, while they exist, they're far less common than their roach cousins. In short, if it looks like a cockroach and acts like a cockroach, it is a cockroach! While these bugs may be creepy-looking (and may make your skin crawl), they're not going to get into your food—they don't need to.
Not only are these 10+ species of true bugs found worldwide in every ecosystem imaginable, but you'll also find them underneath rocks (if you can believe it) or under logs on hiking trails. Many of them never come out during daylight hours because their eyes have adapted to night vision.