Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional
Cockroaches are unpleasant and have a reputation as one of the most hated household pests, but there are many other bugs that look like cockroaches that can find their way into your home. Seeing a cockroach look-alike bug is enough to cause some to panic, so it’s good to know what these insects are and how to tell the difference between them and roaches.
What Bugs Can Be Mistaken for Roaches?
1. Cockroach vs Water Bug
Are water bugs roaches? The American roach and the oriental roach is often referred to as a water bug, but this is incorrect as water bugs are an entirely different species of insect altogether.
However, it’s easy to see why there is some confusion as the giant water bugs (of the family Belostomatidae) are a similar size and color to roaches.
Appearance: This water bug can easily be mistaken for a cockroach as it has a flat, oval-shaped dark brown/black body and grows to 1.5 to 2.5 inches (37 to 65 mm) in length.
Habitat: /Region: The giant water bug can be found in Southern Canada and the United States.
Differences/Similarities to cockroaches: Cockroaches prefer damp environments like your basement and do not live in water as water bugs do. Giant water bugs are commonly found in ponds and creeks and not in your home.
However, just like some roach types, giant water bugs are also attracted to light at night so they are often found inside or around backyard pools, but not in your home.
Cockroaches are scavengers and eat more or less anything they come across, ranging from decaying dead animals to toothpaste, as well as numerous other things that attract roaches in your home. Giant water bugs are somewhat more particular about what they eat and this includes insects, small crustaceans (crabs/crayfish), tadpoles, snails, and small fish.
2. Cockroach vs Beetle
The June beetle, or June bug or May beetle as it’s also known looks similar to a roach, and they can fly, just like the Smokybrown roach.
Appearance: June bugs are red-brown in color with shiny wings and can grow to over 1 inch in length (25 mm). They have a wider body than a cockroach.
Habitat/Region: Found in North America on warm nights.
Differences/similarities to cockroaches: The June bug is similar to a roach as it’s a flying insect that is also attracted to lights at night. It has much shorter antennae than a roach and lives outside feeding on flowers and foliage. If you do see one of these in your home, then it has come in by accident and has no intention of making itself at home.
3. Cockroach vs Termite
Cockroaches and termites are not similar in appearance. In fact, termites are often confused with ants, but they have been mistaken for roaches as well. However, researchers have discovered that they are related to roaches and describe termites as social cockroaches.
They can both be destructive once in your home, but termites cause millions of dollars worth of property damage every year. It is, therefore, important to know the difference between the two insects.
Appearance: Termites are typically light-colored and have soft bodies with antennae that have bead-like segments. These insects are small and depending on the species, grow from around 0.13″ to 0.75″ (3.18 to 19 mm) in length.
Habitat/Region: Termites can be found in the tropics, Canada, Europe, and throughout the United States, except Alaska.
Differences/similarities to cockroaches: Both pests live in colonies and will invade your home looking for water and food and can go unnoticed until population levels become more evident.
Termites are not known to carry bacteria and be harmful to your health or contaminate your food, unlike roaches. But they can cause major problems in other ways as they use their powerful jaws to eat through wooden structures in your home causing significant damage if they aren’t found early enough.
4. Cockroach vs Palmetto Bug
What is a Palmetto bug? “Palmetto bug” is a term commonly used in the Southeast U.S., especially in Florida, to describe any large cockroach species that live near and in palmetto trees, which includes the Florida woods cockroach, as well as smokybrown and American cockroaches.
Therefore, a palmetto bug is a cockroach.
Appearance: The Florida woods roach grows to 1.5 to 1.75 inches (3.8 to 4.5 cm) in length and is dark brown/black in color. It has small forewings that are a red-brown to black color.
Smokybrown roaches grow to 1.5 inches (38 mm) and are a uniform mahogany brown color with no markings on the pronotum. They have fully developed wings.
American roaches are larger than the other two and can grow to over 2 inches (53 mm). They have fully developed wings and are a reddish-brown color with yellow markings on the pronotum that resemble a figure 8.
5. Cockroach vs Bed Bug
Bed bugs are one of the worst pests that can infest your home as they feed solely on your blood when you’re asleep in bed and can be hard to get rid of.
But do bed bugs look like roaches? Baby roaches can be confused for bed bugs because of their size and color, but that really is where the similarity ends.
Appearance: Bed bugs are a reddish-brown color with flat oval-shaped bodies. They grow up to 0.19 inches (about 7 mm).
Differences/similarities to cockroaches: Bed bugs are nocturnal and they are domestic just like the German cockroach, but they live near to where you sleep so they infest your bed or couch. They only feed on blood and can live for months without a blood meal.
Head over to the pictures of cockroaches page to see the different types of roaches that can get into your home.
6. Cockroach vs House Cricket
It’s easy to see how a cricket could be mistaken for a cockroach as they are similar in size and both have long antennae that are as long as their body.
Appearance: Crickets grow to 0.9 inches long (22 mm) and are a yellowish-brown or straw color. They have a cylinder-shaped body while a cockroach’s body is oval-shaped. Crickets have long back legs for jumping.
Habitat/region: Canada and the United States.
Differences/similarities to cockroaches: Crickets are related to grasshoppers and are not related to roaches. Their long back legs enable them to jump, whereas roaches cannot jump.
Crickets prefer to live outdoors, but just like cockroaches, they like warm areas during the colder months, so they can sometimes find their way into your home and hang out around the fireplace, in the kitchen and basement, and around the furnace area. They have also been found behind baseboards.
Crickets are active at night, as are cockroaches. However, they are also known for their night-time chirping, whereas roaches are silent.
7. Cockroach vs Pill Bug/Sow Bug
Pill bugs are also mistaken for cockroaches more often than you would think.
Appearance: Dark gray with an oval-shaped body that is protected by seven hardened plates. They grow to around 0.75″ in length (19 mm) and have two long antennae and seven pairs of legs. The pill bug is also known as a roly-poly as it can curl itself up into a ball.
Differences/similarities to cockroaches: Pillbugs/sowbugs are isopods and are not related to cockroaches. They prefer to live outside in your yard, but if they do happen to come into your home, then like cockroaches, they head for areas that contain moisture, such as the basement, crawlspaces, and other similar areas.
Pillbugs don’t cause any damage and are not known to spread bacteria in your home, unlike roaches.
8. Cockroach vs Earwig
It’s easy to mistake earwigs for tiny cockroaches like the German roach as they are both fast runners when they feel threatened, and they are a similar color.
Appearance: Earwigs, also called pincher bugs are brown-black in color with a reddish-colored head and yellow-brown legs. They have narrow flattened bodies, with thread-like antennae that are half as long as their body. They grow to around 1 inch (25 mm) in length and have two pairs of wings. One noticeable characteristic of the earwig is the pincers or forceps at the end of the abdomen.
Habitat/region: Worldwide (except Antarctica).
Differences/similarities to cockroaches: An earwig belongs to the order Dermaptera, while a cockroach belongs to the order Blattodea, so they belong to different insect classes.
Earwigs do not spread bacteria like cockroaches. They also do not crawl into your ear at night and lay eggs, but there have been cases of cockroaches crawling into an ear when the person is sleeping! Both insects are nocturnal.
Earwigs are outdoor insects and are accidental invaders in the home. They can crawl in through gaps around sidings, or through an open door or window.
Earwigs inhabit damp areas where they can access water, so like roaches, they are often found in the kitchen and bathrooms.
How to Tell a Cockroach From Other Bugs
We’ve covered various bugs that look like a cockroach, so being able to identify a roach is important.
The German cockroach is the most common roach that infests our homes, although other species such as American cockroaches, Oriental, and Smokybrown roaches also find their way in. Whichever species it is, they all share the following characteristics:
- Flattened, oval-shaped bodies with 2 antennae and 6 spiny legs.
- Most species have wings, but not all roaches can fly.
- Reddish-brown to black in color.
- Their size varies in length from 0.75 to 3 inches (19 to 75mm).
Read what does a cockroach look like for more detailed information and what you need to know about these pests.
Although there are lots of similar-looking pests, most are harmless or at least don’t pose any serious health risks, unlike roaches. Hopefully, this page has given you some idea of the types of bugs that look like cockroaches that can be mistaken for them.
However, if you still want to be sure contact a recommended pest control company so they can inspect your home and identify the cockroach-looking bug for you. If you have roaches, you can follow the how to get rid of cockroaches guide, but it is always advisable to leave it to an exterminator who can carry out the appropriate treatment and remove them for you.