The last thing you want to see when your turn on a light is scurrying bugs. Was that a cockroach or some other bug that isn’t invasive? Or maybe another pest that you need to get rid of right away? Knowing more about bugs that look like cockroaches helps determine whether you need to call an exterminator or not.
There are many bugs that look like cockroaches but aren’t. Some insects like roaches include ground beetles, water bugs, termites, June bugs, and crickets. Knowing their features will help identify which is actually a cockroach. It’s good to know what cockroaches look like to tell the difference.
This article is part of our huge set of information about cockroaches.
Here are bugs commonly mistaken for roaches.
Cockroaches: 4 Most Common Types
One of the best ways to know a counterfeit is to be familiar with the real thing. First, we’ll look at some common species of cockroaches.
The four most common cockroaches are:
- American cockroach
- German cockroach
- Oriental cockroach
- Florida woods cockroach (Palmetto Bug)
Entomologists have classified 4,600 species of roaches. Luckily, only about 30 of those are invasive and liable to make unwelcome guests in your home.
Fewer species than that are likely to appear in your kitchen, making it easier to identify which bug you’ve seen.
Beetles That Look Like Roaches
There are thousands of species of beetles, and many resemble cockroaches. For instance, roaches range from brown to black, while some beetle species are also brown.
However, many beetles are of various colors. If you see a bug that is green or blue, it is more likely a kind of beetle.
If you dare to get a closer look, you’ll also observe that cockroaches have longer legs and antennae than beetles. Lastly, beetles hide their wings under a protective shield, but a roach’s wings are always visible.
Ground beetles are often confused with Oriental cockroaches. They have a flat, oval body and similar colors.
Still, you’ll notice that they are better flyers than any flying variety of cockroaches. In addition, ground beetles have a hard, outer set of wings, unlike the leathery wings of roaches.
The major difference in behavior between these two bugs is the kind of food they seek. Ground beetles are herbivores that don’t eat human food or food waste for nourishment. Instead, they keep to their outdoor, underground dwellings.
While there are many spider beetle species (more than 600), they all have the same general appearance. And while they look like a spider, they have just six legs. This means it definitely isn’t a spider.
And while they do look a little like a cockroach, they are too small. And their body shape is way off. Spider beetles have a rounded cylinder-shaped body. And cockroaches are mostly flat.
Learn more about spider beetles.
Some bugs on our list are technically types of cockroaches. Many people think that water bugs are a type of roach, but they are not.
Oriental cockroaches, water boatmen, and water striders are sometimes called water bugs.
True water bugs live in the water, but cockroaches cannot survive in such an environment. Roaches merely prefer moist environments, so live in kitchens near food and a ready water source. You might find water bugs in wet basements if there is standing water.
Some water bugs grow up to four inches in length. The largest cockroach, the American cockroach, typically only reaches about three inches long.
Water bugs have pincers on their two front legs. Roaches have long, smooth antennae, and water bugs have none. The rounded head shape with pronounced front legs will be the main indicator between the creatures.
Another big difference is diet. Water bugs are carnivorous predators that eat tiny fish and tadpoles. They have a strong beak and have been known to bite humans. Roaches are scavengers that will eat almost anything.
Another unwelcome bug that is not a cockroach is the wood borer. They are a species of beetle that usually like to bore into tree trunks but sometimes find human habitats just as appealing.
Wood Borers have a coloration, body shape, antennae, and legs similar to cockroaches. Usually, they are more rectangular, while cockroaches have a flat, oval-shaped body. They are also smaller than cockroaches.
You’ll often find Wood Borers in holes in your baseboards. Roaches won’t make their own holes but find small gaps to scurry through to get away from you.
Palo Verde Beetles
Palo Verde beetles are a large species found in the Southwestern United States. While you could mistake them for cockroaches at a glance, they have pronounced differences.
They have rigid exoskeletons, while roaches have leathery outer wings. Palo Verdes are better flyers than their cockroach counterparts as well. What’s more, they have long, segmented antennae very different from cockroach antennae.
Palo Verde beetles don’t want to be in your home any more than you want them there. They can’t survive indoors because they must live on bushes and saplings. Indeed, they tend to be a pest to your rose bushes rather than your kitchen.
Black Bugs that Look Like Roaches
Just the thought of bed bugs can make you feel icky all over! You don’t want to find cockroaches or bed bugs in your home. But if you see a suspicious bug, there are differences.
The nymph stage of German cockroaches looks similar to bed bugs, and that is where most of the confusion comes from. Both are extremely small, so you’ll have to collect a few to get a good look.
If you do, you will see that bed bugs are shorter and rounder with shorter antennae.
Cockroaches tend to be tan or golden brown while bed bugs are a red-brown color.
Termites are a close relative of cockroaches, but they have more differences than similarities.
Physically, termites are smaller and display colors ranging from white to light brown. They have soft bodies and short antennae. On the other hand, roaches are larger and have much harder bodies.
While one roach in your house probably means there are more, they don’t form colonies as termites do. You’ll have a bunch of solitary roaches who behave independently from each other.
You’re more likely to see a roach than a termite. Termites prefer to stay in the walls where they are safe and near their food source. Roaches are bolder and will go looking for something to munch in your kitchen. Termites, meanwhile, eat cellulose which comes from wood, grass, and leaves.
Some bugs that look like cockroaches at least sound more appealing. Crickets tend to serenade you from the outside, but you can find one in your house from time to time.
They are harmless, but likely won’t be chirping when you find them. You can tell them apart from roaches with a close look.
The two similarities between the bugs are color and antennae. Both ranges are shades from brown to black and have long antennae.
However, their body shape will be a dead giveaway for which one you have. Crickets have round bodies, while cockroaches are like a flattened oval.
Learn more about camel and spider crickets.
June bugs are a type of beetle often mistaken for cockroaches. They have the same coloring but are much more rounder.
Moreover, June bugs are attracted to light as opposed to cockroaches who avoid it.
You’ll also notice that June bugs are slow and clumsy compared to cockroaches. Roaches are nimble and will make a quick getaway when the lights come on. In contrast, a June bug will bumble about almost lazily.
Here’s more about how to get rid of June bugs.
Cockroaches are a menace to have in your home. They scavenge in the trash and pose a significant health hazard. There are some other invasive bugs that you can mistake for cockroaches. You won’t be glad to find termites, wood borers, or bed bugs in your home either.
Knowing how to tell the difference between cockroaches and bugs that resemble cockroaches helps you know what you’re dealing with. And how to get rid of them.
Some bugs that look like cockroaches are harmless and don’t invade or damage your home. Many of these bugs prefer to live outdoors and have wandered into your dwelling by mistake.
Have you found bugs that look like cockroaches? Please share your experience below.
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and writer at The Buginator. And is working to make it the best resource for taking back the outdoors from biting, stinging pests.
He also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Click Like This. Bryan is a partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company he runs with his wife, Dena.