There is so much more to cockroaches than you think. Aside from being pests that we fear of infesting our homes due to the germs and dirt that they bring aside, they are also being mistaken for other insects sometimes.
Truth be told, some people might still be confused about the entomological classification of roaches. Are they bugs? What type of insects are they? Should we just categorize them as pests?
These are valid questions because there are bugs that look like cockroaches but aren’t. For enlightenment’s sake, we will look at some of the bugs and insects that seemingly look like roaches but really aren’t.
Cricket vs. cockroach
There is not enough basis as to why crickets are mistaken for cockroaches. The only resemblance they probably have is their brown to black color.
Crickets have more elongated or cylindrical bodies while roaches have oval-shaped ones. Crickets also have longer antennae.
Crickets also have long rear legs which produce their signature sound.
Like roaches however, crickets jump when they are disturbed or startled. But compared to roaches, they have higher jumps.
Roaches on the other hand are more agile and are most likely to run or glide than jump.
Like beetles, crickets are more drawn to the outdoors and will never be a problem when it comes to infestation.
Beetle vs. cockroach
Beetles perhaps resemble roaches the most. As a matter of fact, there are different kinds of beetles compared to roaches because of their uncanny similarities when it comes to appearance, size and even color.
The first difference between these two would be roaches tend to have longer antennae and legs.
In terms of wings, roach wings are visible (even at rest) even though most of them cannot fly while beetles can fold their wings and hide them in their wing cases.
Some beetles are comparable to roaches. This includes ground beetles, May beetles and wood-boring beetles.
Cockroach vs. Palmetto bug
This would take you back a bit because palmetto bugs and cockroaches are the same.
Florida roaches most often go by the name of palmetto bugs because they often hide themselves beneath palmetto leaves.
Several types of roaches including American roaches, Florida roaches, and smoky brown roaches are commonly referred to as palmetto bugs because of their similar appearances.
They have pale brown to dark brown color, yellow markings on the thorax, and wings that are used for gliding instead of flying.
June bug (May beelte) vs. cockroach
Also called May beetles, June bugs look like roaches because of their reddish-brown to black color.
Their main difference is that June bugs are rounder than roaches, they have antennae that are curled like eyelashes, they are 100% vegetarian, eating leaves and other vegetation and they live mainly on trees.
While they could fly, they are clumsy and often crash on walls and will fall on the floor. Roaches are faster runners and more agile. June bugs are also attracted to light while only some roaches would.
Cockroach vs. termite
These two have different habits and do not resemble appearance-wise but they are compared because they are closely related.
As a matter of fact, recent researches establish that termites in terms of structure and entomological makeup is actually a type of cockroach.
Unlike roaches, termites have softer bodies, shorter antennae and are about 0.5 inches long only.
There are white types of termites while roaches are only white and translucent at their molt stage.
Most of the time, roaches are solitary creatures while termites are highly social and a close-knit group.
In terms of habit, termites prefer living in walls and roofs where they can build colonies and feeding on wood and paper while roaches are agile, niching on locations near water sources and steady food supply (which is basically anything).
Related: Bugs that look like termites
Ground beetle vs cockroach
Keep in mind that ground beetles have 2,000 recognized species while roaches are close to 4,500 so their similarities are completely based on some visible resemblances like color and size.
In terms of color, these two have the same red-brown hue and oval-shaped, winged frame.
Their stark difference is on the wings though. Not all roaches have wings and those that have wings usually have soft, leathery ones.
Ground beetles on the other hand are known for their sturdy, front wings. In terms of diet and habitat, of course, ground beetles create burrows outdoors and are less likely to niche inside the home.
They are also vegetarians and will not cause an infestation in the home unlike roaches.
Baby cockroach vs. bed bug
Roach nymphs are commonly mistaken as bed bugs.
The most comparable to bed bugs would be German cockroach nymphs. This is because they share the same pale to dark brown color, the absence of wings, and almost similar sizes of about 0.25 inches long.
The difference is that bed bugs have a more oval-shaped body. They also have a more prominent red-brown color and shorter antennae compared to roach nymphs.
Cockroach vs water bug
A common misconception would be roaches are water bugs.
The most referred to roaches as water bugs would be the small oriental and smoky brown roaches. Well, unlike roaches, real water bugs live in stagnant waters.
While adult roaches could hold up their breath on water for 40 seconds, they could not stay there for long.
Other than that, water bugs grow to up to 4inches long while the largest roach is just 3inches in length.
Roaches also rarely bite but water bugs are biters. Their front legs have pincers and their beaks are strong for that purpose.
Unlike roaches, they do not have antennae. In terms of diet, water bugs are known water predators while roaches will basically feed on anything.
Cockroach vs Asian Longhorned Beetle
There is nothing to compare between the two because they truly have stark differences.
Asian longhorned beetles are easy to identify through their shiny black color, long and thick antennae and white spots along their bodies.
Perhaps, the closest thing that makes them comparable to roaches would be their long, oval-shaped bodies and their size of about an inch to 3 inches like roaches.
Other than that, Asian longhorned beetles are distinct and could be easily identified apart from roaches.
Cockroach vs Palo Verde Beetle
Palo Verde beetles are endemic in southwest America. They are said to resemble roaches because of their size and color.
While they are at 0.5 to 3 inches in length, Palo Verde beetles have darker brown or black colors, longer bodies, longer and thicker antennae, harder shells compared to roaches and they can fly.
In terms of habitat, Palo Verde beetles thrive outdoors and cannot live long indoors. They get their name from hatching their eggs in palo verde trees.
Sometimes, they also inhabit olive trees and even rose bushes. Baby palo verde beetles will niche in trees’ roots until they become adults.
With all of these, there really is not much to compare with roaches when it comes to this type of beetle.
Cockroach vs Wood-boring Beetle
At first glance, anyone would really mistaken the wood-boring beetle for a cockroach.
Aside from having the same color, they also have the same antennae length, six legs, long, oval-shaped bodies and reddish-brown, translucent wings.
As the name of this beetle implies, wood-boring beetles bore into wood not only outdoors but also indoors if they make it into your home.
So if you see one coming out of a hole in your wood panels or walls, that is probably a wood-boring beetle and not a roach.
They are also smaller than roaches so you could easily identify them. Honestly, wood-boring beetles look like smaller wasps than roaches.
They are also identifiable for the black, white and yellow markings on their bodies.
Related: Bugs That Look Like Fleas But Aren’t
You see, there really is much more to know about roaches. For a seemingly simple pest, it has a complex lifeworld that you would only know if you truly observe them.
Who would have known that there are other insects out there that look just like it in terms of color and appearance right?
But then again, roaches are unique for their niching habit, diet and behavior.
More than anything, these are what sets it apart from other insects and even other pests like termites.
It is a good thing that these are clarified because for sure, they will come in handy when you start suspecting for infestation.
Again, proper identification is the key to a good roach management plan and knowing how roaches differ from other insects is a notch ahead to be successful at that.
Frequently Asked Questions
For further clarification about cockroach structure, habit and categorization, here are some FAQs regarding this very interesting pest.
Is a cockroach a beetle?
To set things straight, no, roaches are not beetles. Roaches belong to the family Blattodea while beetles, mantids and grasshoppers belong to the same order.
These two are entirely different species although some beetle types closely resemble roaches in terms of color, shape and size.
These are June bugs, wood-boring beetles and ground beetles. Technically, termites are more closely related to roaches in terms of species than beetles.
How big are cockroaches?
The answer to this depends on the type of roaches we are talking about.
For one, American, Australian and German roaches grow from 0.5 to 3 inches in length.
They are considered as the largest types of peridomestic roaches or those that could produce infestation as they niche inside homes.
Oriental roaches have an average length of 1inch while smokybrown and brown-banded roaches are in between 0.5 to 1inch length making them the smallest peridomestic roaches.
Sometimes the size of roaches differentiates them from other insects. They do not go over 3inches while other insect counterparts could grow larger than that size.
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What do small roaches look like?
Truth be told, there are distinct differences among small roaches themselves. By small roaches we either mean nymphs or those types that are really small in size like oriental roaches and brown-banded roaches.
They are distinguishable for their underdeveloped wings or the absence of wings entirely. In terms of color, different roach types also have differences in color.
American and German roaches have red-brown color, smokybrown and brown-banded ones are small with pale to dark brown color while oriental roaches are starkly black. Small roaches are 0.2 to 0.5 inches in length.
Is a roach an insect?
Yes, roaches are considered insects. As have been mentioned, they belong to the order Blattodea, composed of at least 4,500 winged species.
They are one of the most archaic winged insects as they trace back their existence to 320 million years ago, predating human beings and some species of dinosaurs and other primitive species.
It has to be noted however, that only 30 types of roaches are considered as pests (that is just accounting for 1% of all roach species).
As such, it is impartial to just generalize that all roaches are pests and produce infestation because that is not at all the case.
Do roaches like light?
To be clear, roaches are nocturnal species and they thrive in dark, moist locations. However, some roach types are attracted to light like smokey brown roaches, brown-banded roaches and oriental roaches.
Another clarification for this question is that roaches do not necessarily hate light. They just take it as a signal that someone is around.
They like hiding because they are easily startled or disturbed. They take this as a threat and so they have associated light with people.
They are more afraid than us than we are afraid of them. This is the reason why roaches only start running and searching for food four to five hours after the lights in the house are closed.
If you want to start your roach identification or management plan, put into mind that they only come out five hours after the lights are closed.