Cockroaches are arthropods that are often seen crawling around the nooks of your house with their jointed appendages.
You may have often come across different species of terrifying roaches. However, not all of them are cockroaches as you may think them to be.
Our conception of a cockroach is an insect with a reddish-brown body covered with a shiny mantle on the top, along with jointed appendages and elongated antennae. While roaches are a frequent pest in the United States, a variety of insects can look and act like them. But did you know that there are a large number of insects, apart from cockroaches, with all the above-mentioned features? Generally, all the arthropods bear these morphological characteristics, be it water bugs or ground beetles. Now the question that arises is how do we actually identify these crawling creatures and distinguish them from cockroaches?
To be able to successfully answer this pertinent question, you may require a bit of understanding regarding the kingdom Arthropoda and the concepts of entomology. The study of insects is referred to as entomology. Wait! So do we really have to now go through entomology to identify these little bugs around us? Relax! We just have to understand some of the basic morphological similarities and dissimilarities to be able to identify a cockroach and distinguish it from other look-alike bugs.
In this article, we will be studying some of the most commonly seen bugs around us that are often mistaken for cockroaches. And who knows, you might develop an interest in pursuing entomology later on? So buckle up with pest control and get rid of all cockroaches from your house. Also, don't forget to get rid of the look-alikes!
The different bugs that look like roaches are ground beetles, palmetto bugs, long-horned beetles, wood-borne beetles, crickets, termites, water bugs, and bed bug species. All of these possess unique structural morphology and characteristics that make them different from roaches. The characteristic feature of all of these above-mentioned bugs is described in detail in the following sections.
Keep reading to discover fascinating facts about the different cockroach imposters!
Ground Beetle Vs. Cockroach
Ground beetles resemble cockroaches to a great extent. These look-alike bugs contain immense morphological similarities to that of roaches owing to their size, shape, appearance, as well as colors. But upon closer examination, you will actually be able to spot the basic differences.
More than 40,000 species of ground beetles are known to exist throughout the world. They are carnivores and actively catch their prey with swift movements. They rarely bite humans, but when they do, they are capable of inflicting extreme pain due to the spraying of the toxic fluids that are used for defense.
Although the antennae of cockroaches look like beetles, you will get to see that those of roaches are longer than the ground beetle species. The legs of roaches are even longer than these bugs. Black ground beetles and oriental roaches are the most perplexing. Oriental roaches have bigger heads with leaner wings. Ground beetles possess thick wings. In terms of flight, most nocturnal roaches can't fly like beetles. Therefore, roaches are not classified as true bugs. Ground beetles also have a protective shield on top of their body which is sturdy enough to protect their delicate body parts, including their wings. However, cockroaches bear no such protection, and their wings are visible on top of their body.
Apart from ground beetles, there is an array of beetles species, including Palo Verde beetles, Asian long-horned beetles, Wood-boring Beetles, about which we learn in detail in the following sections.
Baby Cockroach Vs. Bed Bug
The awful beg bugs also resemble cockroaches. If you spot these creatures closely, you will come across several distinguishable features.
Beg bugs are available worldwide. Most houses host these creatures that look light brown in color and are often confused with roaches. Cimex lectularius is the scientific name of bed bugs. Their length can be about 0.1-02 in (5-7 mm). From this, you can understand how tiny they are compared to common roaches. They may grow darker after a certain point and camouflage themselves to their surrounding. Bed bugs are the most feared pests in the entire United States of America. They lay clusters of eggs that hatch into awful-looking nymphs. Just like roaches, these bed bugs are nocturnal. You won't be able to spot them easily unless extreme infestation takes place. Also, both of these insects undergo a process called molting, which is the shedding of their old exoskeleton as they grow.
You should also know bed bugs don't actually spread diseases. On the other hand, cockroaches invade garbage, food, and water, thereby transmitting bacteria and other pathogens. Although bed bugs are known to bite people, these bites inflict no pain. Some people may develop an itchy, swollen rash.
Insects That Look Like Cockroaches
Before diving into details about the bugs that look like cockroaches, let's first peek into the morphology of cockroaches. They are elliptical in shape with a flat body and shiny mantle. The three pairs of jointed appendages of roaches are short with a smoky brown coloration. They have compound eyes and a pair of antennae. Just like most other arthropods, the cockroach body can also be divided into three parts, which include the head, thorax, and abdomen. Their delicate body is covered with a membranous exoskeleton that is made of a hard substance called chitin.
Cockroaches have wings; however, not all of them are not able to fly. Some of the species like Asian and woody cockroaches are good flyers; however, some of them use their wings to glide only. A cockroach cannot jump as well. Although it may seem like they can jump, in reality, roaches use their wings to lift off from the ground and land on their desired destination. So this is another feature based on which you will be able to identify actual roaches from other insects which can jump and fly, like a cricket.
Many cockroach varieties include German cockroaches, American cockroaches, oriental roaches, brown-banded cockroaches, and several other types. German cockroaches are yellowish-brown in color with an average size of 0.5-1 in (12.7-25.4 mm). Two parallel bands or stripes are present on their back that go down to their wings. American cockroaches are large and glossy, with a length of about 2 in (50.8 mm). These roaches come in a characteristic red-brown color with yellowish highlights. They are most commonly seen with large wings and antennae that are almost black in color.
The oriental cockroach species is about 1.25 in (31.8 mm) in length with a shiny dark-colored body. They are also known as the black beetle cockroach and shad roach. These roaches with long antennae are black with hints of brown. Brown-banded cockroaches are the smallest roaches to be found. Their body is tiny with a light brown coloration, and due to this, they often look like German roaches. You can distinguish between these two by the presence of the irregular bands on the brown-banded cockroach, while the German roach comes with two dark lines on the back of their heads.
Often cockroaches from the southeast side of the United States are called 'palmetto bugs' because of their tendency to chill under the palm or palmetto leaves that are vastly present in that region. These palmetto bugs are large cockroach species that grow to a length of 1.2-1.6 in (30.9-40.6 mm). Salmonella, vibrio, and other bacterial species can be widely transmitted by this cockroach. Also, the feces of roaches can cause allergies and even asthmatic attacks in people suffering from immune disorders.
Apart from the Asian long-horned beetle, ground beetles, bed bugs, water bugs, and wood-boring beetles, a large number of bugs look like roaches. There are common bugs like crickets, termites, palmetto bugs, the June bug, and the palo verde beetle that look like roaches.
Crickets come with a barrel-shaped body with dark brown or yellow coloration. Their enlarged hind limbs help them to jump and spend most of their time outside. These are orthopteran insects, just like locusts and grasshoppers. The pronotum of the cricket is robust and lies behind the head. Sexual dimorphism is present, with the females having long and cylindrical ovipositors. Their hind limbs are membranous and are used in flight. Just like cockroaches, crickets are also nocturnal in nature and are able to produce loud and persistent sounds. Males sing chirping songs to attract females.
The June bug has a round body, unlike the elongated cockroaches. Despite this, they have immense similarities with roaches. You can easily get to see the eye-lash-like antennae of these bugs that are not seen in any of the cockroach species. Also, not much infestation is caused by these bugs, unlike common roaches, which spread a large number of germs, bacteria, and deadly pathogens. It is recommended to use pest control once every six months to get rid of bugs as well as roaches.
Palo verde beetles inhabit palo verde trees. These are considered one of the largest beetles found in the entire United States. They have exceptional similarities with common roaches. These winged beetles are known to cause severe damage to woody trees, just like long-horned beetles and wood-boring beetles. However, adults are not considered pests. It is actually grubs that eat the wood of trees. Furthermore, adult beetles do not survive long after they grow. Soon after mating, these insects die. So you can easily distinguish these insects from roaches.
Termites (Isoptera) are common pests that are also confused with roaches. These are seen to fly around in natural environments as well as in houses. Termites are highly attracted to wet and moist surface areas, especially moist soil. They eat wood and build chambers in the soil to lay eggs. While termites do not transmit diseases, unlike cockroach specimens, they can cause structural damage to buildings. Regular pest control can eliminate termites from the house.
Cockroach Vs. Asian Long-horned Beetle
The Asian long-horned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) inhabiting certain parts of the United States, including New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Illinois, are wood pests.
These insects with long antennae are seen with white spots throughout their body. Although they are not harmful to human beings, these pests severely infest wooden furniture and other items. This environmental pest is known to kill more than 15 different species of hardwood trees, grass, and bushes, their favorite trees being mulberry, maples, and elms. These odd beetles are not seen to invade houses. Rather, they are abundantly seen in the backyards, lawns, gardens, and forests. They eat wood, and their wing is distinctly prominent with black and white spots. These winged insects belonging to the Arthropoda family, and looks like a flattened cockroach. They can be distinguished from the other roaches in their species family if you closely observe their features.
Cockroach Vs. Water Bug
Another confusing insect is the water bug. Giant water bugs that look like cockroaches are mostly residents of Canada and the United States. Lethocerus Americanus is their scientific name.
The maximum length to which giant water bugs grow is about 4 in (10.1 cm) with six legs and can thrive well in water as well as land. They spend most of their life in marshy lands, streams, and freshwater ponds. 'Toe-bitters' is another name given to the water bugs because of their predatory skills. They can catch and paralyze their prey and are also able to bite humans by injecting venomous fluid through their long proboscis. Their bite can cause excruciating pain, and therefore, it is best not to mess with them.
Water bugs that look like cockroaches are not home dwellers. Another way of recognizing these bugs is by spotting them in well-lit areas because the water bugs are largely drawn to light. This is in sharp contrast to the cockroach, who is known to be super active in darker areas without the presence of light. Also, cockroaches do not possess venomous saliva, unlike a water bug. So these bugs can be well distinguished from a roach.
Cockroach Vs. Wood-Boring Beetle
Wood-boring beetles look like roaches. Their scientific name is Buprestidae, and these insects are present worldwide.
These nasty insects grow up to a length of about 0.17-0.18 in (2.7-4.5 mm) and are mostly tanned brown or completely black in color. Just like termites, these beetles feed on the wood of trees and plants. Wood-boring beetles destroy hardwood trees in large numbers, thereby damaging furniture, forests, as well as wooden structures. You might need pest control in your house because these bugs that look like roaches enter the house through the furniture and wooden items. More than 700 species of these beetles are present, and all of these are extremely destructive pests. They lay their eggs deep inside the wood of a tree. The larvae, after hatching out, slowly make their way out of the wood by ingesting it. This may require a long time. So even after bringing brand new furniture to your home, these larvae can come out of your sofa anytime and start ingesting other wooden items in the house.
These wood-boring beetles can be easily distinguished from a cockroach based on their proboscis and large back legs. They also grow at a great pace after coming out of the woods. You can get to know about the infested furniture in your house by checking the holes and blisters in these structures. Once you locate these holes, you can spray insecticides in them.
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