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Cockroach Identification

Cockroaches hold a disgusting place in the minds of most people. It crawls. It hides under you toaster. It is always associated with filth. But, there are lots of different types of cockroaches and each have different habits and different food preferences. So, you need to know how to identify which cockroach you have before you call in the troops to eradicate them.

There are five species of cockroaches that are considered pests in North America. They range in size from the small, but resilient German cockroach to the larger American cockroach. Cockroaches have broad, flat bodies and long antennae. Thin, membranous wings of cockroaches can help distinguish cockroaches from beetles, which have hard wings that are not transparent. Pre-adult nymph cockroaches do not have wings and are smaller in size.


The German cockroach is about a half inch long. It is reddish brown in color and it has two black stripes behind its head. It lives near humans so it can feed on out waste products. It is most commonly found in places where food is being prepared like kitchens or in pantries. German cockroaches reproduce quickly, so an infestation can be difficult to control.

The Brown-banded cockroach is about a half inch long. It is golden brown or dark brown in color with light colored bands on its abdomen. They prefer warm 

Brown Banded

areas and are more common in the southern United States, but can be found in northern areas when they are shipped there in boxes or food containers. They will seek out warm places indoors and travel more widely around indoor areas than other cockroach species. They will hide in secluded places high up off of the floor in closets or behind hanging objects on walls.


The Oriental cockroach is shiny black and about one and a quarter inches long. The wings on the male are shorter than the body and the females have only rudimentary wings and cannot fly. Oriental cockroaches prefer damp, cool places like basements and crawl spaces. They can enter the home through drains and leaky water pipes.

The American cockroach is the largest of the cockroach pests. It is one and a half inches to two inches long. It is reddish brown in color. They have wings but rarely fly. The American cockroach can be found more often in open spaces than other cockroach species. They prefer damp, dark places like basements and crawl spaces. They enter buildings in search of food and to avoid extreme weather conditions.

Smoky brown cockroaches are very similar in appearance to American cockroaches, but they are a little smaller. They are dark brown or mahogany in

Smokey Brown

color. They have well developed wings and sometimes fly towards lights at night. They prefer tropical environments and are more common in the southern US, but can be transported to northern climates with firewood or fruit shipments. They feed on decaying plant materials, or almost anything else they can find.

Most people get freaked out when they see a cockroach. It turns out that we have good reason to be disgusted by them. Cockroaches can make you sick if they get on the food you eat, spreading diseases like salmonella or dysentery.

Cockroaches often come into the house from sewer lines where they may have come into contact with rotting food or excrement. They can also cause allergic reactions for people caused by the feces or molted skins that they leave behind after they feed.

Cockroaches come indoors because they are seeking food and water sources. They are often found in kitchens and bathrooms where they enter by way of loose plumbing fixtures. They will eat almost any kind of organic material, even bookbindings or wallpaper paste. They are very adaptable and can survive very harsh conditions. It is said that cockroaches would be the sole survivors on the planet if nuclear fallout were to occur because they have a strong resistance to radiation and live in sheltered places where they could avoid the blast. They can even survive for up to a week if their heads are chopped off because their body structure is much simpler than humans. The cockroach species has existed on the planet for 300 million years and has had plenty of time to make survival adaptations.

To get rid of cockroaches you don't need a nuclear bomb, you simply need to eliminate their food and water supply. Dirty kitchens or leaky plumbing will


attract cockroaches. Clean up food messes by vacuuming. Fix leaky plumbing and ventilate moist spaces. Use caulk to seal up cracks at ground level where cockroaches might be finding shelter from cold weather outside. Clean out gutters where rotting leaves have built up or other areas around the house or in the basement where leaf debris has collected and you will have gone a long way to getting rid of cockroaches.

Many people, companies, and restaurants choose to call a pest control company hoping that this would be a less time consuming way around the problem. Today, pest control companies use an integrated pest management method of combining several treatment options. Here are some of the products they will use. These same products are available to you on this website. Click the links and you will get product information:  Maxforce FC Gel Suspend SC, Maxforce Complete Granulal Insect Bait Advion Roach Bait Areans. Pros will use a combination of these options. More detailed descriptions of these different roach control methods can be found in other articles.

Ask Rick A Question


26 Oct 2011, 19:19
hey my name is jon and today i found a cockroach in my room!!! it was very small and brown and had the same back as a "cockroach" but did not have long antennas, after i killed it and threw it down the toliet, i cleaned my room and did not find anymore and i disposed of the bean bag i found it on, so if i dont find anymore of these cockroaches, am i good? plus i dnt even know if it was one please help
Ask the Exterminator
27 Oct 2011, 09:57
Could be a one time event, but put out some glue board monitor traps to keep an eye on things.
12 Feb 2012, 18:06
i found a cockroach in my room today and i just wanted to determine what kind it was. It was flat, very, and at one end of the roach it curved up. to me the color was reddish, brownish and i found it on a pillow under my bed. is this a bad roach? please help
25 Jun 2012, 20:14
Hey I am living in Memphis, TN and staying at a temporary apartment. my first night here I saw a huge roach lookin thing on the kitchen cabinet, but was unable to catch it or kill it, so I left it. Didn't see anything for the next 6 weeks. Then last night I saw another huge cockroach thing crawling up my wall and I went through quite a process to kill it, at one point it flew at me, and disposed of its body outside. Then just an hour ago I was cooking in my kitchen and saw another huge cockroach crawling on the floor as well as a smaller black one in front of the fridge. I killed the little one but couldn't get to the bigger one. I took pics of them and compared them to pics on this website and have identified them as American Cockroaches, three adults and I guess one nymph. Do I have an infestation or should I juts put down glue traps and call it good? Please, I am terrified of bugs and I about had a heart attack dealing with the one from lats night!
Ask the Exterminator
26 Jun 2012, 07:57
American roaches are capable of flying, but don't do it often. Wood roaches also look like American roaches. Compare photos of both to be sure. Put down glue traps for now. Read about wood roaches on my website, too.
22 Jul 2012, 00:37
I live in a basement type apartment and as it gets dark these hard shelled black shiny bugs come outside in packs of 6 or more and as the night goes on i find them in my kitchen and bathroom as soon as i turn the light on they scatter to the nearest crack. I have determined they are oriental cockroaches. How do i get rid of them?
07 Aug 2012, 12:42
I live in Northern NY (Canadian border), hardly a place with cockroaches to be found around where I I thought since I have never seen one in my 25 years here. I checked my mail today (mailbox is across the street from my very long driveway, no neighbors) and as I was flipping through it I came across a coupon booklet from an air freshener company. On the back was a squashed bug that appeared to be a roach. I lived in South Carolina at one time, and have seen plenty of them, but this was smaller than what I am familiar with. I know where there are one there are more, so I went to my mailbox, and sure enough, his little buddy was running along the bottom side looking for a place to hide, do I shot him with wasp and hornet killer which immediately did him in. I saved and took photos of both the squashed and whole specimen, as I would love to know if they really are roaches that have come from the post office. They couldn't have gotten in there any other way. They are small with roundish squared behinds, not oblong like others, so I can't ID them anyplace.
Ask the Exterminator
07 Aug 2012, 17:32
You cannot email via this comment block. You must click on one of the "Ask Rick a Question" boxes. Retype your question and I will respond with an email so you can send me the photo.
seth r.
28 Sep 2012, 02:13
My apt building seems to have three kinds. The all black ones that mainly come up the drain. The American, but i cant seem to id the third. They are smaller that the american roach. I only see small ones unless like it was stated that they eventually change colors to brown. They seem to have a white stripe on them. Really it looks like a baby american roach with a white stripe. Any idea what it could be?
01 Oct 2012, 00:28
I can not identify this type of roach on the page. It's a light brown, very long antenae, and has lighter stripes on its back. It's legs are somewhat long, very gross :(
NC Lady
12 Nov 2012, 07:16
Hi there...we have a problem at our house and I am not sure how to fix without a lot of money :-( It would seem (after researching many - many - many pictures) that we have 3 different species taking up stay in our home - the American, Australian, and Oriental (!!!!) What can we do??? We are freaking out! There is 1 - 2 that are killed almost daily or at least every other day...thanks to my husband and his big flip flop...we put out about 4 big bait trap thingys, but this isn't doing anything...I used a whole big pump container of roach killing spray that's supposed to keep them gone for at least 6 months and that didn't work any longer than a night or 2. Any suggestions? We are super clean!! I mean my husband is OCD and that isn't helping either...our house is over 3k sq. ft. and it is roughly 115 yrs old...
Robb c
22 Jul 2013, 08:59
I live in a 2 family house. the people next door have a serious roach infestation because they're dirty. we try our hardest to keep them away but nothing works. landlord won't do anything since he's selling the house currently. pest control says the problem cannot be fixed unless they're side is exterminated too. what do I do? I can't live like this anymore! please help
Gail F
19 Sep 2013, 20:53
I am a land lord for a home in rural Montana and was shocked when my renters told me the house is infected with German cockroaches. As you know, cockroaches are not native to Montana and only rarely show up in town. Our house is high in the mountains at a ski area, so the bugs must have hitch hiked there somehow and multiplied fast over the warm summer months. The house is empty now and thoroughly cleaned, so there is no food lying around and no leaky faucets, but the roaches are still showing up even after spraying and putting out traps. I just put down Maxforce Gel roach bait under the kitchen sink and hope they will take the bait to their "friends" and kill them all. The drain pipes to the septic tank are the only place I can think of that is wet enough to sustain roaches since they need a place wet and warm. The roaches also keep showing up in the empty dishwasher and the only way in is the drain. How cold can roaches survive? Can roaches infest drain pipes and a septic tank? If so, how do I kill them in the septic tank. How low a temp can cockroaches survive? If I turn off the heat for a few weeks in winter, will that kill them if the temp goes down to just above freezing so my pipes don't freeze? Help!
27 Feb 2014, 02:08
I live in Hawai'i on the island of Oahu, and we keep finding these big black and gold roaches! What are they, and how do I keep them out of our house?
Ask the Exterminator
27 Feb 2014, 10:34
I cannot ID your roach without a photo. I suggest you capture the roach and take it to your local county extension agent for a free ID.
12 Apr 2014, 20:59
I found a dead oriental cockroach in my daughters room the other day, and then found one in her crib under a blanket. It really freaked me out and I cleaned everything. Then just a few minutes ago I saw one crawl out of the crack between the electrical outlet plate cover and the wall in my kitchen. I took a picture of it after I killed it just to make sure it really was a roach. If oriental roaches only like damp areas, why are they in my daughters room and crib and how do I get rid of them safely?
23 Jun 2014, 13:46
Do roaches have a straight line down back like a beetle or are they more crossed over
09 Aug 2014, 05:50
I live in WY and I live in the basement of a house. I just found a bug about an inch long with long antennas and blackish in color. I can't identify it. I have only found one. I did take a picture can you please email me so I can find out if it is a roach. Thanks.
Misty Hoffman
09 Nov 2014, 05:11

Nov 9, 2014
About 5 months ago the septic tank in our apt. complex overflowed for the 3rd time..I have lived here almost 5 years. I told management 3 weeks before it overflowed that we had apprx. 3 cockroaches..she told me she would take care of it. Septic tank overflowed, the downstairs apts flooded in poop and pee.
Underneath my kitchen sink was a huge water leak that made the entire cabinet bow like a half moon..... now that we are over run with cockroaches...after 5 is replacing the cabinet. They knew 5 months ago about this problem then 4 months ago the handy man replaced my garbage disposal. He saw the water damage at that time but is now fixing it...4 months later.. can this be the result of literally hundreds of cockroaches invading my apt.?
It is so sickening here, I put cotton in my ears when I go to bed, I shake out my clothes and shoes before putting them on...I cannot go into the kitchen without a spray bottle of LIME AWAY to squirt them off of the floor and walls...I even bought some camping spray for bugs and spray it on me before I go to sleep at night in fear they will crawl on me. I have told my bf several times I want to go sleep in the car. My bf has had cockroaches FLY on him while eating...this is out of control and management is acting as if it is my fault the water pipe leaked under the sink. The extermintor came, no one like ORKIN but some guy with a magnetic sticker on the side of his old pickup truck and he even put on a hazmat type of mask and said our apt. is badly infested. The landlady heard him too. One time is not going to get rid of these things, they are having babies and just not going away. I am going nuts. Mentally exhausted and always carry a spray bottle of bleach or lime away wherever I go in the apt. We should not have to live like this. Our rent is $1,550 a month. She has treated me harshly because I called her boss. Upset because they are replacing the cabinet under the kitchen sink as well. I think it is time to call a lawyer. Your thoughts? Misty H
Ask the Exterminator
09 Nov 2014, 07:09
It's the law that a landlord must provide a pest-free environment. Take pictures to document the incidents and the problems caused by the floods. Stop spraying Lime Away. It is not a pesticide. The pest control person should be using cockroach baits only. Nothing else can be used in addition to the baits or it will cause the baits to fail. If your landlord does not cooperate, get a lawyer.
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