Updated on April 13, 2023
Let’s face it, there are few critters that can cause even a full-grown man to jump on a chair, but roaches are among those few. From their quick speed to their habit of getting into everything and spreading disease, you probably won’t want these little nasties around unless your name is Joe.
But there are a lot of critters that look an awful lot like cockroaches and some that actually are – such as palmetto bugs, which are actually a type of wood roach. As for the rest, some can be pests while others small terrors.
The following are a bunch of critters that look like cockroaches or can be easily mistaken for them in certain circumstances.
But first, here’s what a common American Cockroach looks like up close:
Bugs that Look Like Cockroaches
#1 – Asian Longhorned Beetle
Kicking off our list is the Asian longhorned beetle, whose body is a similar shape to roaches, leading to some hasty cases of mistaken identity. However, this beetle has a black body with white spotting and extremely long antennae that curl backwards. Once you spot these differences, it’s easy to tell them apart.
#2 – Bed Bug
Okay, now you must be scratching your head as to how a bed bug can look like an insect that’s several times bigger. However, this is actually a common mistake and happens generally from the corner of your eye.
Bed bugs are just as fast as roaches, and may be mistaken for tiny roaches as they scurry away. But bed bugs are rounded like other mites and cockroaches tend to be oval-shaped.
They’re also found mainly where humans spend a lot of time resting (such as the bed), while roaches prefer areas with food or moisture, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or basement.
#3 – Carpet Beetle
One of many bugs that only look like a roach until you look closer, the carpet beetle is a tiny pest that loves to munch on textiles. However, it’s their larvae that look most like roaches.
Beyond their tiny size and preference for your carpet to a kitchen floor, the hairs on their body can be an important giveaway.
#4 – Cricket
Aa singing cricket is unmistakable, but when they’re silent, it’s possible to mistake them for other bugs, such as cockroaches. There are a wide variety of crickets out there, from the little black crickets we all know and love to the creepy-looking camel cricket.
Many of these species look a lot like roaches, with the key difference being their longer hind legs. Also, unlike roaches, crickets will sometimes leap away from pending danger instead of scurrying away.
#5 – Earwig
Earwigs are far more common outdoors than your home, but they are known to invade from time to time. These little critters can be either a bane or boon to your garden and could make you scream “roach!” if you spot one indoors.
However, their cerci (the pincers at the end of their abdomens) are a dead giveaway. Of course, there are a lot of rumors about what earwigs might do if they get too close, but they won’t actually harm you.
Related: 11 Bugs That Resemble Earwigs
#6 – Firebrat
Firebrats are related to silverfish and crickets, and – like both of these cousins – can be mistaken for a cockroach. They share the same basic shape as silverfish but lack the silvery appearance.
Beyond this different body shape from cockroaches, firebrats also have three long and straight cerci. Mind you, these little guys can be quick, making it hard to get a good enough look to prove they’re not roaches. But their preferred diet of textiles can be one good way of telling them apart.
#7 – Giant Water Bugs
Giant water bugs (Lethocerus americanus) and their close cousin Benacus griseus resemble cockroaches so closely that many people can’t tell the two apart. In fact, some areas even refer to cockroaches as waterbugs. However, there are a lot of differences between the two.
The most obvious difference is in the legs. Giant water bugs have flattened rear legs that act as oars in the water. Their forelegs are swollen and form pincers similar to those of a praying mantis.
They’re also much bigger than most cockroaches, averaging two inches but capable of achieving four inches in length. They have large eyes and a pointed abdomen. Finally, water bugs trap air under their wings and can breathe using a snorkel-like tube, allowing them to dive underwater.
#8 – Ground Beetle
There are a huge number of beetle species out there, and they can vary incredibly in appearance. Ground beetles can often be mistaken for cockroaches, especially those with more elongated bodies.
However, one of the key differences is that the forewings of a beetle tend to be hard and shell-like, whereas the wings of a roach (when present) lack any such distinction. Beetles in general tend to be more rounded and shorter, with some exceptions, and they’re relatively slow movers.
#9 – June Bug
Chances are, you won’t mistake these bulky flying beetles for a cockroach, yet there are a lot of people who do just that if they’ve never seen one before.
They tend to be about the same size as the average roach and a similar color. However, they’re strictly vegetarian and would much rather stay outside and munch on leaves, whereas roaches will eat just about anything, spread disease, and many species will actively invade your home.
#10 – Palo Verde Beetle
Found in the American southwest, palo verde beetles have a very similar body shape to American cockroaches. There are a few major differences, however.
For one thing, these beetles can fly, whereas the American cockroach is grounded. They’re longer as well, measuring three to four inches in length, with harder shells and long, thick antennae.
They’re also far more likely to be found near olive or palo verde trees, where they lay their eggs. Their young will feed upon the roots of these trees, taking four years to mature into adults.
#11 – Pill Bug
Whether you call them pill bugs, potato bugs, roly-polys, or woodlice, these tiny crustaceans are famous for their ability to roll into a little ball when threatened. They don’t look much like cockroaches at all, but most people only associate them with the outdoors.
Thus, when the pill bugs wander inside, they’re easily misidentified as roaches. It doesn’t help that they’re also moisture seekers and frequently end up in kitchens, basements, and bathrooms just like roaches.
#12 – Rove Beetle
This family of beetles can vary a lot in appearance, but many look a lot like roaches. They lack the wings of many roaches, and some of them have a similar body shape.
Rover beetles are mostly found outside in your garden and don’t carry disease like roaches do. They also feed on your plants instead of rotting matter or food scraps.
#13 – Silverfish
There are many kinds of silverfish out there, and they can vary somewhat in appearance. These banes of kitchens, bathrooms, and basements love moisture and get their name from the silvery coating on their exoskeletons, as well as their almost fishlike movement.
But not all silverfish are silver, which can lead to some confusion. They also share the same ability to contaminate food with roaches.
Besides the wriggling movement (which is still quite fast) and the silvery coating on some species, silverfish can be distinguished from roaches by their teardrop shape and cerci. Of course, silverfish are fast movers and shy away from light, which often leads to a case of mistaken identity.
#14 – Termite
Termites are perhaps more easily confused with ants – especially carpenter ants – but they can also be confused with roaches… and for good reason.
Believe it or not, termites evolved from the same ancestor as roaches and are actually distant cousins. Both have species that prefer the outdoors, as well as ones that prefer your home. You’re less likely to see termites unless you run into the alates, but they’re every bit as damaging to your home as cockroaches, perhaps even moreso.
One of the best ways to distinguish between roaches and termites is the head. Termites have very large heads compared to their bodies, while a roach’s head is generally a bit smaller than their thorax.
Most termites are wingless and tend to be lightly colored, while most home-invading roaches tend to be a darker brown or black.
#15 – Wood-boring Beetle
The term “wood-borer” is actually an umbrella name for a wide range of beetles that bore into wood. Among the most famous of these are the jewel beetles in the Buprestidae family, so named because many have metallic or vibrant colorations.
These beetles have a very similar shape to roaches and can sometimes also have a similar size or coloration. There are over 15,500 known species out there, many of which live in the US.
As with other beetles, the wood-borers have hardened elytra in place of the softer forewings of cockroaches. When coloration isn’t distinct enough, you’ll generally have to go based upon these elytra. Of course, the fact that roaches are mainly scavengers and wood-boring beetles prefer trees can also be a bit of a giveaway.
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