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What Does a Cockroach Look Like?

Learn how to identify and control the different cockroach species commonly found in homes.

Of all the common critters and pests that you don't want to see in your home, cockroaches easily make it to the top of the list. But if a cockroach did wander into your kitchen, would you be able to identify it? There are thousands of different cockroach species crawling around the world. Even so, there are only a handful that commonly plague people in the U.S. These include the German, Oriental, and American cockroach varieties. While all cockroaches share some typical features, it's important to know how to spot these species so you can take immediate steps to control them before they multiply to create a large infestation in your home.

Shared Traits Among Cockroach Species

Before getting into the characteristics of specific species, it's helpful to note some of the common features that cockroaches share.

  • Each one has the telltale oval-shaped body, which is common to all cockroaches.
  • The bodies appear flattened and range between Ā¾ inch and 3 inches in length.
  • Most are reddish-brown but will look whitish for a short period of time just after molting.
  • All cockroaches can move surprisingly fast, so manually swiping or stomping them is not going to be an effective way to kill them, though it might result in a touch of stress relief.
  • In addition, they pose health risks for your household. Cockroaches are known to spread more than 30 kinds of bacteria, not to mention parasitic worms.

German Cockroach

The German cockroach can grow up to ā… inch in length, which makes it smaller than the American cockroach. Light brown or caramel colored, these pests have wings but (fortunately) don't fly. They sport dark parallel lines that run from their wings to their heads. They prefer habitats that are moisture-rich and warm, so if you have a German roach problem, you're apt to see them near dishwashers and sinks or in other areas of your kitchen or bathroom. Dealing with this species can be extra difficult since their smaller size that allows them to hide in places that other cockroaches couldnā€™t fit into.

A German cockroach on a white background

Oriental Cockroach

Sometimes referred to as a ā€œwater bug,ā€ the Oriental cockroach grows to a length of 1Ā¼ inches. These cockroaches are nearly black and are commonly found in basements, near drains, and near woodpiles. While these pests do have wings, they don't fly. If they wander into your home, it's usually because they are scavenging for food. If you live in an area that is prone to these cockroaches, be sure to keep your pet food stored in sealed containers or it may attract these pests.

An oriental cockroach on a white background

American Cockroach

Though dubbed "Americanā€, the American cockroach is actually found throughout the world. These pests grow to a length of about 1Ā½ inches and are dark brown or reddish-brown. These winged cockroaches can, sadly, fly for short distances, an ability that has encouraged their spread. American cockroaches will eat everything from plant material to garbage. They are not picky eaters, so one way to ward them off is to keep kitchen surfaces free from food debris or crumbs. If you do find that you have an infestation of American cockroaches, you should dispose of any foods that might have come into contact with these pests and takes steps to safeguard other food items, including pet food.

An American cockroach on a white background