What Does a Cockroach Look Like?
Of the 55 types of cockroaches that live in the United States, only five in the Mid-Atlantic region can thrive indoors. These pests have many similar features, including flat, oval bodies, long antennae, and six spiny legs. However, differences in their appearance like color, size, and wing length distinguish each type.
It’s easy to mistake lookalike pests such as beetles and crickets for cockroaches. Since other insects and even different cockroach species vary in their habits and habitats, identifying an infestation ensures the most effective pest control tactics for the job. Check out the photo gallery below for some useful cockroach identification tips.
Sketch of an American cockroach
Top image of an American cockroach
Top view image of an American cockroach
Side view image of an American cockroach
American cockroaches are large insects with flattened, reddish-brown bodies and matching wings. From the side, you can see that cockroaches have exposed wings rather than wings covered by a hard outer casing. This trait helps to separate them from beetles that may look like cockroaches.
Close-up image of an American cockroaches back
Wing length varies between male and female American cockroaches. Males have long wings that extend past the tips of their abdomens, while females’ wings are about the same length as their abdomens.
Photo of an American cockroach against a ruler for scale
The largest home-infesting species in the area, American cockroach adults grow to between one and a half inches and two inches in length. Pests in the early stages of the cockroach life cycle are often different sizes. Nymphs may only measure a few millimeters after they hatch.
As pictured here, American cockroaches gather in dark, warm, and damp places such as under sinks, behind appliances, or within debris like cardboard.
Close-up photo of an American cockroach head
Close up image of an American cockroach
American cockroaches hiding in debris
American cockroach egg measured against a ruler
Close up images of an American cockroach egg capsule
American cockroaches lay around 14 to 16 eggs inside a protective case. These purse-shaped egg capsules are around five-sixteenths of an inch long and reddish-brown.
A female American cockroach pictured laying an egg case
Female American cockroaches produce egg capsules inside their bodies and deposit them from the ends of their abdomens. They then use secretions from their mouths to glue down their egg cases. Dark brown capsules stuck to walls or the undersides of objects in hidden areas may be American cockroach eggs.
Image of a brown-banded cockroach on debris
Overhead images of brown-banded cockroaches
At around a half-inch long, brown-banded cockroaches are one of the area’s smaller species. These pests have the same flat, oval shape as other cockroaches, but their pale brown color and the lighter bands on their wings and abdomens help to distinguish them.
Close-up images of a male brown-banded cockroach
A female and male brown banded cockroach
Image of a male and female brown-banded cockroaches
Male brown-banded cockroaches have light brown wings that cover their abdomens. Females have short wings that leave half of their dark- and light-banded backs exposed. Males will readily take flight when disturbed, which can aid in identifying them. German, American, and Oriental cockroaches rarely fly.
As pictured here, brown-banded cockroaches frequent many of the same cluttered spots as other roaches, though they choose dry areas over damp ones.
In addition to its small size, the German cockroach is characterized by a pair of dark stripes that run parallel to each other down the back of the insect.
Illustration of a German cockroach
Picture of a German cockroach
The most common species in houses, apartments, and businesses, the German cockroach is also one of the smallest. The pests grow to about a half-inch in length and have light brown bodies with darker brown marks
Top view image of a German cockroach
Front view image of a German cockroach
One of the most noticeable parts of a German cockroach’s appearance is the pair of dark lines running parallel from their head to their wings. These stripes start at the shield behind the insect’s head.
Close-up photo of a German cockroach’s back and wings
Adult German cockroaches’ pale gold wings reach the tips of their abdomens. These pests may occasionally flutter their wings to break a fall, but they prefer crawling to reach their destination.
Side view image of a German cockroach
Because of German cockroaches’ tan and brown markings and love of dark, moist spaces, people sometimes mistake these pests for camel crickets. However, German cockroaches have smaller, solid-colored hind legs and tend to scurry across surfaces rather than jump.
Picture of the top and under-side of a German cockroach
German cockroaches have six legs covered in fine spines. The pair of legs furthest from the head is the longest. The cockroach in the first of this photo set is missing a leg, which won’t slow it down at all. These hardy pests can continue to move and reproduce with a lost limb and regrow legs in a few months.
Photo of baby German cockroach nymphs
While most baby cockroaches look like tiny adults, variations in their appearance may help pinpoint the species. Wingless German cockroach nymphs are smaller and darker than adults, though they still sport two, distinct stripes.
Image of a male German cockroach
Photo of a female German cockroach
Male and female German cockroaches feature a few visible differences. Males, such as the one in the top photo, have narrow, tapered lower bodies. Females are stout with more rounded abdomens than males. An egg case is also sometimes visible protruding from a female’s body.
Photo of a German cockroach and egg case
German cockroach egg cases are less than one-quarter inch long and pale yellow or brown with a ridged surface. These details distinguish them from smoother, darker Oriental and American cockroach egg capsules.
Pictures of a German cockroach female laying an egg case
Female German cockroaches carry capsules jutting from their abdomens until the eggs are ready to hatch. When the young are about to emerge, females deposit egg cases in a sheltered crevice. These egg-laying practices make it especially tough to notice a German cockroach infestation in the early stages.
Drawing of an Oriental cockroach
Picture of an Oriental cockroach
Key factors in Oriental cockroach identification are the pests’ dark color, large size, and slow movements. These insects appear reddish-brown to black and grow to roughly one and a quarter inches long. They are flightless, so a slow crawl is the Oriental cockroach’s only way to get around.
Close-up images of Oriental cockroaches
Several other elements of the Oriental cockroach’s appearance set them apart. Adult males’ short wings cover three-fourths of their abdomens, and females’ tiny wing pads are barely visible. Both sexes also tend to appear greasy or shiny.
Front view of an Oriental cockroach
Oriental cockroaches, which people sometimes call water bugs, prefer cool, moist places. However, these pests lack the large front claws of a true giant water bug. As you can see in the photo, a cockroach’s front legs are its shortest pair.
Image of Oriental cockroaches outdoors
Picture of an Oriental cockroach indoors
Unlike German cockroaches, which rarely live outside homes, Oriental cockroaches are indoor and outdoor pests. It’s typical to spot them in flowerbeds, basements, or ground floor rooms rather than high places. Since this species has no body markings, observing their habits can separate them from similar-looking smokybrown cockroaches.
Overhead images of a smokeybrown cockroach
Although rarer in the area and usually an outdoor pest, smokybrown cockroaches can move into homes. These glossy, mahogany-brown insects are about the same size and color as Oriental cockroaches.
Picture of an adult smokeybrown cockroach
One of the key differences between this species and Oriental cockroaches are their wings. Both male and female smokybrown cockroaches have dark brown wings as long as their abdomens. These pests are strong and frequent fliers, so their movement is another way to tell them apart from sluggish, land-bound Oriental cockroaches.
Image of a smokybrown cockroach nymph’s abdomen
The half-grown wings and light bands on the abdomen of this smokybrown cockroach mark it as a nymph. Young cockroaches need these patterns to blend into vegetation and avoid predators. As the pests mature, their wings grow longer, and their markings fade into a uniform, dark brown.
Close-up photo of a smokybrown cockroach’s head
Oriental, American, and smokybrown cockroaches are the three largest species in the area. With their similar size, shape, and wing length, identifying an infestation can be tough. However, unlike the American variety, a smokybrown cockroach has a dark, unmarked shield behind its head.
Front-facing picture of a smokybrown cockroach
Thanks to their dark coloring and oval shape, may beetles are another pest that look like the smokybrown cockroach. Antennae are the key to telling these two insects apart. May beetles have short, clubbed antennae. Smokybrown cockroach antennae are long and slender.
Top and side view photos of smokybrown cockroaches
Like the other large cockroach species in the area, these insects can measure about one and a quarter inches when fully grown. The two, short-winged nymphs pictured here haven’t reached their adult length.</
Smokeybrown cockroach egg case measured up against a ruler
Size comparison images of smokybrown cockroach eggs
Smokybrown cockroach egg cases are purse-shaped and around three-eighths of an inch in length. These dark brown capsules are around the size and color of a black bean and are smaller than a penny
Smokeybrown cockroach egg cases
Along with their size and dark color, special camouflage can make smokybrown cockroach eggs hard to spot. Females use sticky secretions to paste their capsules to objects and bury them in materials like mulch or dirt to hide them from sight.
Why Cockroach Identification Matters
Every part of a cockroach, from its shell to its body oils, can trigger allergies and contaminate food. As a result, determining the cause of an infestation is vital to keeping your home or work environment safe and healthy. Offering years of experience in identifying pests, the experts at Western Pest Services can help you pinpoint the problem for effective removal.