What Do Roaches Look Like?

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

Cockroaches are some of the most hated and feared pests, at least in the U.S. They are also among the most diverse types of insects. With over 3000 species worldwide, cockroaches vary not only in size, but also in colors. Let’s take a closer look at these feared scavengers.

How Big Are Cockroaches Throughout the Life Cycle?

Cockroaches are known for their sometimes insanely large size. Some roach species will grow to significant proportions. These huge ones are not only bothering people living in tropical places. There are a few common species in the US as well that can grow to be quite large.

Most Common Species in the United States

The most common cockroach species in the US is the German roach. Thankfully, this roach is definitely not one of the biggest. During its life, it can grow to become up to about 5/8 of an inch long.

This cockroach is both an unwanted and undetected houseguest; because of the small size, we rarely see it until it’s too late. The baby nymphs are especially hard to spot. These infants are tiny when they exit the ootheca (egg casing) and are typically smaller than a pea.

The nymphs are often mistaken for albino cockroaches because of their white color. This is only an outer shell, which they shed quickly as they grow.

The American cockroach is another common roach throughout the United States. This roach is one of the fastest and largest of the species found in America. It can grow to an average length of 1.6 inches and 0.28 inches tall. The females can live up to a year in optimal environments. The nymphs are about a quarter of the size of the adults, sometimes smaller.

The World’s Biggest Cockroach

As I mentioned above, some cockroaches can become freakishly large. The largest cockroach ever found was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. It was a Megaloblatta longipennis, found in Peru, and measured almost four inches long. If that’s not enough to make your jaw drop, get this: its wingspan measured over seven inches.

What Color Are Cockroaches?

Unlike the variety of sizes among different cockroach species, most seem to have a similar coloring. Most cockroaches are a brownish color. Depending on the species, this can sometimes be light tan, deeper brown, or an almost red or orange tint.

The American roach starts its life as a greyish nymph, but as an adult it will take on a red color.

Many roach species have some type of marking on their head, or right behind it. This mark is typically a dark brown or black color. You can use this to differentiate between species. The German roach has two parallel stripes running down the neck; the American has two brown circles behind the head.

The Cuban Roach

Panchlora nivea, also known as the Cuban roach, has a very unique green color. This cockroach is rarely seen as it spends all its time outdoors. This species is mostly found around Cuba and the Caribbean. It has, however, also been found in Florida, as well as Texas.

The cockroach measures just under an inch in length. It is bright green, and has a slender body. Like other cockroaches, the Cubans have wings. However, unlike other species, they are very good at flying.

What Do Roach Eggs Look Like?

Cockroaches never lay individual eggs. The female will produce an egg casing, also called an ootheca. She will put the ootheca in a cool and moist location.

The size and look of the ootheca will vary between species. The American roach ootheca is about 1/3 of an inch long and looks similar to a purse with a ridged edge. The casing will hold 14 eggs on average and has a dark brown color. The American female can lay up to 90 casings during her lifetime, meaning she could produce around 1,350 offspring.

Another very interesting cockroach is the Oriental roach, also known as the water beetle. This ootheca tends to look quite inflated; it usually has a reddish-brown color and can hold around 16 eggs. The size of the ootheca can be up to 0.39 inches. The females of this species will lay approximately 18 casings in her lifetime, resulting in over 280 new roaches.

The German roach is unique when it comes to handling the eggs. The tiny female will produce an egg casing, which can hold a mind-blowing 50 eggs. She will carry the ootheca around, attached to the side of her abdomen, until two days before hatching. Then she will lay the casing in a secure location for the eggs to hatch.

The German oothecae are brown in color, similar to the adults, and average 3/9 of an inch in length. The female can produce around 400 offspring during her lifetime.

The oothecae of any species are hardly ever seen. They are often laid in small cracks and crevices that we don’t have access to.

What Other Bugs Look like Roaches?

Having a fear of cockroaches can mean that every big insect looks like one. Cockroaches, as we have seen, can differ in looks; this can easily confuse us at times. There are, in fact, many bugs that look similar to roaches. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Giant Water Bugs

Giant water bugs are the insects most often mistaken for cockroaches. In some countries, cockroaches are actually referred to as water bugs. These insects differ in two significant areas: habitat and size. Giant water bugs are found in and around outdoor water sources, such as lakes and ponds.

The giant water bug is around two inches long, much bigger than the average cockroach. These bugs are also known to nibble at peoples toes as a defense if they feel threatened. Luckily for us, cockroaches have no interest in humans.

June Bugs

June bug is the name describing a whole category of beetles. These are, on average, just under an inch in length. They’re nocturnal beetles, but very much attracted to nighttime lights. You will often see them clinging to your window during the warm summer nights. These bugs are similar in look and size to cockroaches, however, they are more rounded at the rear. They also look much more robust than roaches.

The beetle offspring are also very different from roach nymphs. Beetles start their lives as worms, also called grubs. They will then slowly morph into the adult beetle.


Crickets are another insect often confused with roaches, yet, there is a distinctive difference between these two bugs. Crickets have very long back legs, which makes them great jumpers. Additionally, crickets are much more slender than roaches and very similar in appearance to grasshoppers.

Their primary way of getting around is by hopping, whereas roaches like to run and sometimes fly. They might make a little jump if startled, but it isn’t something they do often.

The number one thing that distinguishes crickets from roaches is the sound they make. Crickets have a signature sound which fills our ears during warm evenings in the summer months.

Cockroaches, on the other hand, are silent scavengers; we usually don’t hear them sneaking around the house. The one exception to this silence is the Madagascar hissing roach.