Bugs That Look Like Roaches

  • Written By Dan Edwards on August 12, 2018
    Last Updated: November 25, 2020

There are plenty of different bugs that look like cockroaches. In this article, we’ll learn how to identify these insects and how they differ from cockroaches.

It’s only natural to worry about a potential cockroach infestation. The ability to tell the difference between a similar-looking bug and a roach will save you worry.

Common Cockroach Characteristics

There are approximately 4,600 different species of cockroach. Also known as roaches, these insects come from the order Blattodea. Roaches can range in size from a small quarter of an inch to a whopping 4 inches long.

Cockroaches hatch from eggs and mature gradually into adults. The nymphs are born with six legs and, in most species, are independent from birth.

Nymphs grow in size and can change in color as they progress towards adulthood. This is accomplished through molting. The young cockroach will shed its exoskeleton multiple times.

Each stage from birth until adulthood is called an instar. Roaches at different instars will differ in appearance. Nonetheless, they almost always resemble smaller versions of the adult.

cockroach life cycle

There are species with distinctive characteristics that make them easy to identify. For example, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, hiss when disturbed.

However, there are still traits that all roaches share in common. Cockroaches tend to have oval-shaped bodies. They are of a flattened build, regardless of their individual size.

Cockroaches range in color, from nearly black-brown to a golden brown. Many cockroaches are reddish-brown, falling in the middle of this spectrum.

Some roaches are shiny, whereas others have a leathery texture about them. Some types of roaches possess wings. Males are more likely to have functional wings than females. Cockroach wings can span up to five inches long in certain species.

Both male and female roaches have long, slim antennae. The antennae resemble threads. They can vary in length and thickness depending on their gender and species.

Cockroaches have mouthparts that are unusual compared to other insects. The mouthparts of most bugs extend forward or point downwards. This is the case with fleas, mosquitoes, and other nuisance pests. Cockroach mouthparts point backward.

There are four species of cockroach that are likely to live near humans. These are German, American, oriental and brown-banded roaches. Cockroaches are insects that prefer darkness. If exposed, they flee back into a hiding spot.

If you encounter a cockroach in your home, it is very likely to be one of these four. You should know key features to help you identify these species on sight.

German Cockroach

German cockroaches depend on humans for their survival. They are the most common type of cockroach found in home infestations.

These roaches grow to around half an inch in length. Females tend to be stouter than males. They do have wings but rarely use them. All six legs are covered in hairy spikes.

German roaches are typically dark brown. Some may be slightly lighter or darker than others. You can identify this species by two thick stripes running down the length of its mid-section (thorax). Immature German cockroaches also display these two stripes, like the adults. They do not develop wings until they are almost fully grown.

American Cockroach

American cockroaches are recognizable due to their size. Of all of the cockroaches that are considered pests to humans, they are one of the biggest.

Adults can measure up to two inches in length. They are reddish-brown, with leathery wings. Males appear larger than females as they have longer wings. This species has a yellow-colored band circling its body.

American cockroach nymphs do not develop wings until they reach adulthood. Their maroon color is more vivid, and they are shiny. The thick wings somewhat mute the color of these roaches as adults.

Oriental Cockroach

Oriental cockroaches are often called water bugs. This is due to their preference for moist, damp environments. Despite the nickname, they are not members of the water bug classification—they are cockroaches.

The adults can reach lengths of up to one inch. They are a dark shade of brown, nearly black, and appear shiny. The males of this species have wings but do not use them.

Nymphs are smaller replicas of the adults. At all stages, these cockroaches have a slick shine to their bodies.

Unlike other cockroaches, oriental roaches move slowly. They are almost always found at ground level as they do not like to climb.

Brown-Banded Cockroach

Brown-banded cockroaches are an indoor species. These roaches are a light yellow-brown color. As the name implies, they have two brown bands on their backs. The heads of these roaches are also brown.

The males and females of this species have several key differences. This is only apparent once the roach is a fully matured adult.

Males are larger, measuring up to 0.6 of an inch long. They also possess functional wings that cover the entirety of their bodies. Their wings hide the brown-band pattern.

Females are comparatively smaller, around 0.4 – 0.5 inches in length. The females have short, non-functional wings. Females are stouter, and the brown-band pattern is visible.

Bugs Often Mistaken For Cockroaches

There are a few insects that can be mistaken for cockroaches. This is not unusual, especially if you are panicked at seeing a bug in your home.

Nonetheless, these bugs do have their own distinguishing features. If you keep these in mind, it will be easy to differentiate between a cockroach and the bug in question.


The cricket family (Gryllidae) is classed as Orthoptera. This is the same broad order that the cockroach family falls under. Certain species of crickets and cockroaches do share a few features in common.

As with cockroaches, crickets hatch from eggs resembling smaller adults. Crickets can have similar body shapes and coloring as roaches. They also have six legs and two slim antennae. A cricket can have functional wings, decorative wings, or be wingless.

Field crickets and house crickets are often confused for roaches. House crickets are brownish-yellow in color and are around 0.7 inches long. Field crickets can grow up to 1.1 inches long, depending on the species. They have a dark, nearly black, coloring.

Unlike cockroaches, crickets have visibly larger back legs. They also have cerci extending from their abdomen. These are two slender appendages that the crickets use for sensory purposes.

Crickets are capable of using all six of their legs to run if threatened. Although, usually they will move around by jumping rather than scampering. Male crickets can produce a melodic chirping noise.

Ground Beetles

Ground beetles consist of over 2,000 different species. The majority are oval-shaped, large insects that are black or dark brown. Ground beetles are usually shiny—some species have a metallic appearance.

Oriental cockroaches and black ground beetles are often mistaken for each other. Both have a similar sheen and shape to their bodies.

Similar to cockroaches, ground beetles are nocturnal insects. They prefer to stay hidden and will flee if exposed. Certain species of ground beetle can fly too.

These insects have hard, functional wings. Male oriental roaches do have wings, but they are thin and leathery, rather than thick. Ground beetles also have smaller heads than cockroaches.

Ground beetles eat other insects outdoors, such as snails. If they end up trapped inside your home, they will attempt to get back outside.

Water Bugs

Water bugs belong to the Belostomatidae family. They are aquatic insects that prey on a variety of small organisms. Water bugs can be enormous—some species are up to four inches long.

These insects have wings and get around by flying. The two front legs can be used for pinching or trapping prey. Water bugs also possess a hard beak, which can inflict a painful bite. These bugs can and do bite humans, on occasion.

Water bugs are active during mating season. This is when they travel between bodies of water. They are attracted to electric lights and will fly into them given the opportunity.

You can distinguish a water bug from a cockroach in several ways. Firstly, water bugs do not have antennae like roaches do.

A water bug’s front legs have the appearance of pincers. This makes it look like they only have four legs, rather than six. They are likely to be flying toward lights rather than fleeing from them, as cockroaches do.

June Bug

June bugs are also known as May beetles or June beetles. These small, reddish-brown beetles frequently appear during the warmer spring months. Some species can be dark brown or black.

The beetles are stout and heavy bodied. They are generally between 0.5 inches and 0.6 inches long. They have six slim, spindly legs.

There are a few key differences between June bugs and cockroaches. These beetles have short, blunt antennae rather than long ones.

They are also strongly attracted to electric lights. June bugs are likely to attempt to fly straight into an electric light. Cockroaches are attracted to warmth, but not light.

Cockroaches are fast runners. There are species that can run at speeds of three miles per hour if provoked. They are able to disappear into small crevices and hiding spots if threatened. In contrast to the agility of cockroaches, June bugs are visibly clumsy. Whether they are flying or walking, they tend to crash into things.

Leaf-Footed Bug

At first glance, a leaf-footed bug can look like a cockroach. These insects can range in size from 0.7 to 0.8 inches.

The three most common species have dark brown or black bodies. They have long, thin antennae. Adults can be recognized by the peculiar “leaf foot” protrusions on their hind legs.

The adults also have patterned markings that are not found on cockroaches. Their wings are marked with white zigzags. One species, Leptoglossus zonatus, has yellow spots on its body.

Leaf-footed bug nymphs can also be mistaken for small cockroaches. The leaf-like protrusions, wings, and patterns are not apparent. Their bodies are reddish-brown, like the American cockroach.

These insects survive off plants. If one enters your home, it is probably by accident. Leaf-footed bugs can fly, but only do so slowly, due to their size. As a relative of the stink bug, some types can release a unpleasant odor if threatened.

How to Tell the Difference between Roaches and Other Insects

If you see an insect that may be a cockroach, observe it. If that insect is flying toward a light, it is not a cockroach.

Remember that roaches usually run quickly. Even the slow-moving oriental cockroach is faster than many other insects. If a bug is moving clumsily, flying or hopping, it is probably not a roach.

Stay calm and look at the insect carefully, if possible. You may identify non-cockroach features, such as certain patterns, or a lack of antennae.

Most bugs that are confused for cockroaches are not dangerous pests. Crickets, June bugs, water bugs, and others would prefer to be outside.


Familiarity with household pests is important. Now you know the identifying features of cockroaches in general, you will be able to determine the nuisance species, like the German cockroach, if you see any.

You are also aware of bugs that look like cockroaches. Most of these are not harmful to humans, nor are they indoor pests. There is little cause for concern if you find one of these bugs in your home.