Cockroaches can create a major pest problem due to their ability to withstand many pest treatments and their tendency to cause major health issues. They infest homes and businesses regardless of the season of year, and can become a major nuisance if their numbers are allowed to grow – they’re even rumored to be able to survive a nuclear blast. The first step to handling a roach infestation is identifying them. In this article, you’ll learn more about what cockroaches look like, common species of roaches, and some identifying behaviors of cockroaches.

What Do Different Species of Cockroaches Look Like?

There are four main types of cockroaches that infest the United States: the American cockroach, brown-banded cockroach, German cockroach, and Oriental cockroach. Some species are also known as water bugs, Bombay canaries, or palmetto bugs.

Common Traits of Cockroaches

Though each species of cockroach has unique markers, there are some commonalities from type to type. Cockroaches are usually a shade of brown, ranging from light tan to dark brown (nearly black.) Across the board, roaches always have long antennae. Their bodies are also fairly distinct – they are oblong and relatively flat. And like other insects, cockroaches all have six legs.

American Cockroach

  • Color: Reddish-brown, with a yellowish figure 8 pattern on the back of the head
  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: About 1 ¼-2 ⅛ inches long
  • Region: Found throughout the U.S. and around the world

Despite their name, American cockroaches are actually native to Africa and the Middle East. It is believed they were brought to America in the 17th century. These roaches now thrive in tropical areas, but can be found almost anywhere.

Of the common cockroach species, the American cockroach has the largest body size, around 1.6 inches long. They also move extremely fast, with a top speed of 3.4 miles per hour, or 50 body lengths per second (the human equivalent would be a human running at 210 miles per hour). This is one reason why they are so quick to avoid pest control measures (or stomping).

American roaches have three developmental stages: egg, nymph, and adult. After hatching from the egg, the young nymphs go through 13 moltings before becoming adults. Once they reach adulthood, American cockroaches can live up to a year. During that time, one cockroach can produce an average of 150 young.

While American cockroaches can be found in homes and larger commercial buildings, they are known to infest food storage and food preparation areas, as well as basements, yards and alleys. They are also very common in sewers and often enter structures through drains and pipes. These roaches are omnivores, and will eat just about anything, but are particularly drawn to fermenting foods.

Brown-banded cockroaches get their name from the two lighter brown bands that run across their darker brown bodies. Adult males have fully formed wings, and may fly away when disturbed. Adult female wings are much shorter, and they will run away when disturbed.

The life cycle of the brown-banded cockroach is similar to the American cockroach, and they tend to live an average of 206 days. Once these roaches reach adulthood, adult females will reproduce quickly, laying around 14 egg cases containing 10-18 eggs in their lifetime, which means that one American cockroach can start an entire infestation. Brownbanded cockroaches glue their ootheca (egg cases) to surfaces, often in or under furniture.

Brown-banded cockroaches prefer warm, dry locations such as kitchens, bathrooms, near refrigerator motors or inside pantries or closets. They are more commonly found near the ceiling than the floor, and will be away from water sources. Due to their small size and nocturnal tendencies, it’s difficult to identify them. However, identification is crucial to controlling brown-banded cockroaches, as other roach controlling methods will not affect them.

Brown-banded Cockroach

  • Color: Dark brown, with distinctive banding across the wings
  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1/2 inch
  • Region: Found throughout the U.S.

German Cockroach

  • Color: Light brown to tan with two dark stripes
  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1/2 – 5/8 inch long
  • Region: Found throughout the world

Being the most common species of cockroach, German cockroaches can be found all over the world, though they are believed to have originated in Southeast Asia. These cockroaches prefer to live in cracks in warm, humid places near food and moisture sources, and are highly sensitive to cold temperatures.

German roaches are omnivorous and will feed on almost anything, from meats, starches, sugars, and fatty foods to soap, glue, and toothpaste. They are commonly found in residential and commercial kitchens and bathrooms, along with restaurants, food processing facilities, hotels, and institutional establishments such as nursing homes. They often travel to new locations via grocery bags, drink cartons, and cardboard boxes.

These roaches are a smaller species. Their colors vary from light brown to almost black, and their bodies have two dark, parallel streaks running down their backs. German cockroaches can barely fly, but may glide if disturbed. This species is also one of the fastest reproducing residential roaches, and grows from egg to adult in roughly 50 days.

Able to survive well outdoors, Oriental cockroaches can be found under porches, in leaf piles and mulch, under stones and woodpiles, in wall voids, and in basements, crawl spaces, and sewers. They can enter homes through sliding glass doors, along air ducts and utility pipes and through door thresholds, and often do so in the summertime. These cockroaches can feed on all kinds of food, particularly starchy foods and decaying organic matter. Oriental roaches are sometimes called “water bugs” because they often emerge from drains. Neither males nor females can fly, though male Oriental cockroaches have short wings.

Oriental cockroaches are often found near water sources. While they can go a month without food, they cannot live for more than a couple weeks without water. These roaches primarily roam at night, and they may be seen roaming in sewers, storm drains, and landscaped areas. During the day, they hide in dark, moist, and secure locations.

Oriental cockroaches reproduce by laying egg cases around a third of an inch long. Each egg case can hold about 16 eggs.

Oriental Cockroaches

  • Color: Shiny black
  • Shape: Oval
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Region: Found in the northern parts of the U.S.

Other Forms of Cockroach Identification

Aside from seeing them in and around your home or business, you can often identify cockroaches by their pepper-like fecal matter, which can also leave filthy brown smears on surfaces. They also give off pheromones to communicate with one another, and you may smell their musty odor before you see them.

Dodson Cockroach Control

Cockroaches are notoriously difficult to get rid of, since they can live in harsh conditions and are often able to live about a week without their heads. Therefore, using DIY methods to get rid of a cockroach infestation is inadvisable. If you have a cockroach problem, we can help you get rid of it. Contact us for a free inspection today.

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