Table of Contents
- 1 HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A BUG IS A COCKROACH?
- 2 WHAT SMALL BUGS LOOK LIKE COCKROACHES?
- 3 WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE ROACHES
- 4 SOURCES
- 5 AUTHOR BIO
If you’ve ever seen a brownish insect crawling around your home, there’s always a fear it could be the beginning of a big cockroach problem. But is it actually a cockroach? Are there other bugs that look like cockroaches? It’s important to be able to identify these pests vs. other similar bugs, and luckily there are some telltale signs to watch out for.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A BUG IS A COCKROACH?
Cockroaches are some of the most prolific pests in the world. They breed rapidly, invade homes, cause allergic reactions, carry disease, and can keep you up at night with worry. Plus, several species are domestic, which means they’ve adapted to live alongside humans. In short, roaches are the roommates you never asked for and can feel impossible to evict.
That’s why it’s crucial to be able to identify the most common species of cockroaches that may or may not be lurking in and around your home.
The first domestic species of cockroach to be aware of is the German cockroach (Blattella germanica). These insects are present everywhere in the world (except for Antarctica) and can become a huge nuisance very quickly. German roaches are usually pretty easy to identify—if they don’t scurry away too quickly. Here’s how to identify a German cockroach:
- Light brown in color (though nymphs are darker).
- ½ to ⅝ inches long as adults.
- Oval shaped.
- Usually have two distinct dark stripes on the head that run the length of the body.
- Six legs that are clear/tan in color.
- Long antennae.
- Two short anal cerci at the base of the abdomen. These sensory organs function sort of like rear antennae that signal a cockroach’s legs to start moving as soon as movement/vibration is detected in their surroundings.
- Females may be seen carrying the ootheca, or egg case, during their reproductive cycle. Each ootheca contains 30–40 eggs and protrudes under the wings. The German roach ootheca is ribbed and slightly transparent.
German cockroaches are most often found in the kitchens or bathrooms of homes because they prefer to stay close to water and food sources. These pests are active at night, so you may not see them skittering around during the day unless an infestation has gotten out of control, in which case you’ll begin to see them everywhere, at all hours of the day.
The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) is the second most common roach species you may encounter in your home in the U.S. These insects are much larger than German roaches, darker in color, and usually congregate around water sources like laundry appliances, bathrooms, kitchen sinks, and basements with exposed plumbing. Here’s how to identify an American cockroach:
- Dark brown or reddish in color.
- 1 to 2 inches long as adults (though some are a bit bigger).
- Oval shaped.
- Yellow “figure eight” marking on the head.
- Six brown legs.
- Two long anal cerci at the base of the abdomen. Males and nymphs also have two noticeable styli at the base of the abdomen as well which are present as a way to determine sex when mating.
- Two long antennae.
- Can fly and often do.
American cockroaches are peridomestic, which means they thrive both inside and outside of human dwellings. When they invade homes, they often deposit their ootheca near food sources or glue them to walls so that they’re out of harm’s way. These egg cases look like squat little dark brown purses with a ridged top.
The brown-banded roach (Supella longipalpa) is another domestic insect that thrives in human dwellings. Although less common than the German roach, brown-banded cockroaches are quite similar in appearance, habitat, and diet. Here’s how to identify a brown-banded cockroach:
- ½ inch long as adults.
- Light brown stripes or “bands” across their dark bodies and wings.
- Six light brown/clear legs.
- Prominent anal cerci at the base of the abdomen.
- Long antennae.
- Adult males fly when disturbed.
- Oothecae are smaller than the German cockroach and are often found attached to walls.
These roaches prefer warm, dry environments, which is why they can often be found under electric appliances, in closets and pantries, and under furniture. Unlike German roaches, brown-banded roaches may congregate away from water sources, so they tend to avoid drains in kitchens and bathrooms.
WHAT SMALL BUGS LOOK LIKE COCKROACHES?
There are several small bugs that resemble cockroaches at first glance. From far away, any small insect skittering across your floor may appear to be a roach, especially those that have similar coloring, body shapes, and hiding spots. Learn the differences between these common household insects so you can determine what kind of pest problem you’re dealing with.
IS IT A BEETLE OR A ROACH?
Beetles are a very common home invader and come in many different shapes and sizes. Some of the more common types of beetles found indoors that resemble cockroaches include those that feed on stored food products. These beetles are usually small, dark brown, and can be found in the kitchen.
The red flour beetle and confused flour beetle both resemble small cockroaches, or perhaps even cockroach nymphs, because of their dark brown color, oval shape, and wings. However, the flour beetle’s thorax and abdomen are distinctly separate—whereas a roach’s thorax and abdomen appear seamlessly connected. Flour beetles are about ⅛ inch long and invade food stores of cereal, grain, flour, and other dry products. These insects are also called pantry beetles or grain beetles.
CIGARETTE AND DRUGSTORE BEETLES
Both of these beetle species are tiny—about 2–3 mm in length—and thus can resemble small cockroach nymphs. Cigarette and drugstore beetles bore into stored food products in their larval stage and can be a considerable nuisance. These insects are more rounded in appearance than roaches, have shorter antennae, and have wings (whereas roach nymphs do not).
IS IT A JUNE BUG OR A ROACH?
June bugs, also known as May beetles, can sometimes be confused for cockroaches as well. These beetles are dark brown, rust-colored, or black, and have a hard outer shell. June bugs are similar in size to roaches (about ½ to 1 inch long) and have a similar oval shape. However, June bugs have very short antennae and a pair of wings tucked underneath their exterior cover instead of on the top layer of the body.
IS IT AN ORIENTAL BEETLE OR A ROACH?
Oriental beetles are sometimes mistaken for cockroaches because of their light brown coloring, oval shape, and two dark spots on the thorax similar to the American cockroach’s figure eight pattern. These beetles can be a significant pest to outdoor landscaping—especially turfgrasses. Oriental beetles have more prominent back legs than roaches, branched antennae, and large black eyes.
IS IT A CRICKET OR A ROACH?
Crickets are another common household insect; however, they have some defining characteristics that set them apart from roaches. For example, crickets have two very prominent hind legs used for jumping. Female crickets also have a long organ called the ovipositor which is used for depositing their eggs.
IS IT A BEDBUG OR A ROACH?
Sometimes bedbugs are confused for cockroaches because of the appearance of insect feces (droppings) in the home. Both bedbugs and roaches are a light brown color and leave behind small black droppings that can smear on surfaces.
Bedbugs—Cimex lectularius is most common in the U.S.—are much smaller (about 5–7 mm or the size of an apple seed) than roaches, and they have a much more rounded body when compared to a cockroach. Bedbugs are usually found in the folds of a mattress or other furniture and leave black-speckled droppings all over their habitat. Bedbugs become more elongated when they are fed (in this form they appear closer to roach nymphs), and their bodies darken to a black color when filled with blood.
Bedbugs can also resemble brown-banded cockroaches—especially roach nymphs of this species—because of the striped appearance on their bodies. However, cockroaches have long antennae and more prominent legs than bedbugs.
Like cockroaches, bedbugs are an extremely serious pest. Bedbugs breed extremely quickly, inflict painful, itchy bites, and require expert help to get rid of them. If you suspect you have this pest in your home, contact a professional pest control provider right away.
IS IT A PALMETTO BUG OR A ROACH?
The palmetto bug is actually a nickname for several types of cockroaches in Florida and surrounding areas. Most often people are referring to the Florida woods cockroach or American cockroach when they talk about palmetto bugs.
The Florida woods cockroach is unique because it doesn’t have wings and ejects a foul-smelling odor when threatened. These roaches are large (1.2–1.6 inches long) and mainly live outside and feed on decaying plant matter.
IS IT A WATERBUG OR A ROACH?
Waterbug is another common nickname for cockroaches in several regions of the United States, such as the East Coast. The three cockroaches most often referred to as waterbugs are the American cockroach, the Oriental cockroach, and the smoky-brown cockroach.
However, true water bugs (from the family Belostomatidae) are much larger than roaches—up to 4 inches in length—and have large pincers used for attacking prey.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE ROACHES
If you have a roach problem, it’s important to contact your pest control provider immediately since cockroaches reproduce rapidly. The sooner you start the process of getting rid of these pests, the better.
There are a few things you can do to prepare your home for the arrival of pest control specialists that will help speed up the process of removal and ensure a thorough inspection.
EMPTY CUPBOARDS AND PANTRIES
Closed spaces like kitchen cupboards, closets, and pantries are great hiding spots for cockroaches. By removing dishes, food storage, and other items, specialists will have a clear view of these areas and be able to apply products more effectively.
REMOVE FOOD SOURCES
Although cockroaches will eat just about anything (including garbage and non-food items), it can be helpful to give your home a once-over to look for food that may be improperly stored. Seal things like cereal, rice, and flour in airtight containers, and make sure pet food is secured in the same way.
CLEAN THE AREA
Wash floors and countertops with soap and water, and sweep and vacuum everywhere. Cleaning your home will help get rid of cockroach-attracting debris and any egg cases that may be hiding.
MOVE LARGE APPLIANCES
Take some time to scoot large appliances and furniture away from the walls by a few inches so that experts can properly apply their products. Roaches often hide behind refrigerators, washers, dryers, ovens, and other large appliances or household items, so this step will speed up the removal process if completed beforehand.
Whether you have a roach problem in your home or an infestation of a different kind of bug, Joshua’s Pest Control can help resolve all of your pest concerns. Our professional products treat both the interior and exterior of the house to ensure bugs get out and stay out. Contact Joshua’s Pest Control today, and let our friendly experts take care of your home.
Courtney Enzor has worked in the pest control industry for about a decade. From helping you build a fly trap to giving you the best tips for identifying various bugs, she loves answering all your pest-related questions and sharing her pest-related expertise through writing. At the end of the day, she hopes her content will help people avoid mishaps and keep families happy and healthy!