A bug infestation is a serious problem that you should tackle quickly to limit the amount of time they have to lay eggs and reproduce. But, before formulating a plan of attack, you must identify the kind of bug you’re dealing with because there have been several cases of mistaken pest identity.
Confusing cockroaches for other pests and setting up bug bombs that are cockroach-specific will not help the situation. The pesticides in these cockroach-specific bombs are usually not applicable to other pests. Bug bombs are also not a particularly reliable means of eliminating most pest problems.
Common bugs that look like cockroaches, and, therefore, are often mistaken for roaches, are crickets and water bugs as well as beetles such as the ground beetle, wood-boring beetle, Palto Verde beetle, and Asian Long-Horned beetle.
So, below we divided these cockroach lookalikes into two categories: crawlers and fliers. And then described each of these pests into more detail as well as mentioned just how to tell if what you are looking at really is a cockroach or if it simply is one of these roach-looking insects.
Crawling Cockroach Lookalikes
People are often very familiar with the chirping sound that crickets make. But visually, they are often mistaken for cockroaches.
With their brown to black exterior, they are similar in color to cockroaches but are smaller and faster. Unfortunately, it is precisely this speed and coloring that makes us assume that crickets are cockroaches. They are so fast that you do not really have time to examine them closely before they make their escape!
Luckily, there are many ways to tell crickets and roaches apart. The most distinctive feature is the long hind legs that crickets have and use for hopping.
Crickets are not harmful but can be a nuisance due to the noise they make. You can get rid of crickets by using bug sprays that are available in most stores or by setting up traps.
Ground beetles are also often mistaken for cockroaches due to their similarities. They have the same deep red or brownish exterior and a wide, winged frame. For this reason, differentiating ground beetles from cockroaches can be a challenge. It is a good idea to trap one and examine it closely to determine if it is a roach or a beetle you are dealing with.
Keep in mind that there are over 2,000 species of ground beetles known to man, each varying in color and size. There are also more than 4,500 species of roaches which vary in size, color, and other characteristics. So, if you really want to tell the two apart, you will have to do some serious research or consult a professional. Generally, however, if the insect in question has hard front wings, it’s a ground beetle. Not all cockroaches have wings. If they do, they are softer and leathery.
Fortunately, ground beetles are not dangerous pests. They do not destroy materials or fabrics and do not spread diseases as cockroaches can do. But, since the beetles need to come in direct contact with most commercial insect sprays for the product to function, setting up an outdoor barrier (or starting a toad colony) is your best bet at keeping them away.
Water bugs, specifically giant water bugs, are another crawling bug which can trick you into thinking they are cockroaches. While the exterior of these bugs resemble a cockroach, each of these pests comes with its own distinct characteristics.
They are usually found near standing water while cockroaches infest areas that are humid but not wet. When compared to cockroaches, water bugs are usually larger and more aggressive. Their bites are quite painful.
They can be fairly easily distinguished from cockroaches by the large pincers at the front of their bodies.
The best way to prevent water bug infestations is to keep your home and its surrounding area clean and free of standing water.
Asian Long-Horned Beetles
The shape and size of the Asian long-horned beetle can sometimes make them resemble cockroaches. Yet, they do have some distinctive features that differentiate them from cockroaches.
For example, Asian long-horned beetles are usually jet black instead of brown with prominent white spots.
To get rid of Asian long-horned beetles, report them to the local forestry service. They are an invasive species that causes damage to trees.
Flying Cockroach Lookalikes
The only thing more terrifying then spotting a cockroach is if they suddenly take flight! Luckily, most roach species don’t fly. Yet, during the humid summer, you might spot some flying pests that look a lot like cockroaches. So, here are some flying insects that look like cockroaches but are entirely different species of pest.
Palo Verde Beetles
These are most commonly found in the American Southwest. These beetles resemble cockroaches due to their size and color, but palo verde beetles are an entirely different species altogether.
They are darker in color, have harder shells and longer bodies, and, of course, can fly! Palo verde beetles lay eggs under palo verde trees (hence their name), rose bushes or olive trees. Once hatched, the baby beetles then live on the tree’s roots until they mature.
Wood-boring beetles can also resemble cockroaches at first glance. They have similar antennae and a similar shape with six legs and reddish-brown translucent wings covering most of their body.
Luckily, there are also things that distinguish them from cockroaches. For one, they don’t do the same type of damage. Wood-boring beetles bore into wood so if you spot a cockroach-looking bug crawling out of a new hole in your wall, it’s probably a wood-boring beetle. Many types of wood-boring beetles are also smaller than cockroaches. More specifically, the Locust borer has distinctive yellow, black, and red markings that roaches do not have. In fact, Locust borers look more like a wasp than a cockroach. Emerald ash borers are metallic green in color and very small.
As mentioned before, there are many different species of cockroaches. While they do all differ in some regards, they also have some similar features which make them easily identifiable. This allows you to distinguish them from other pests and bugs, after close examination.
Typically, roaches range from 0.5–2 inches (1.3–5.1 cm) in length. Their antennae are very different from those of any other pest. The outer shell of cockroaches ranges in color from tan through reddish-brown to black. This can change when they molt or shed their exoskeletons for growth. When that happens, they can appear white. All cockroaches have an oval-shaped body and appear flattened if you look at them from the top.
Despite having wings, some cockroaches don’t fly. But they move fairly quickly, sometimes at speeds of 3.4 mph (5.5 km/h).
The most common cockroaches are brown-banded, German, American, and oriental roaches. If you do notice a cockroach infestation, you should address it as soon as possible, no matter which of the cockroach species you encounter. You can do so either by using store-bought products or by calling a professional exterminator.