Bed bugs and cockroaches are two common household pests that can cause discomfort and frustration for homeowners.
While both are known to inhabit human dwellings, their behaviors and characteristics differ significantly.
In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between bed bugs and cockroaches to help you better understand and deal with these unwelcome visitors.
Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that primarily feed on human blood while people sleep.
These pests are reddish-brown, wingless, and range from 1mm to 7mm in size, enabling them to hide in tiny crevices in mattresses or other furniture.
On the other hand, cockroaches are larger, oval-shaped insects that can vary in size and color, depending on the species. Unlike bed bugs, they are scavengers, feeding on a variety of organic materials, including human and pet food.
While both bed bugs and cockroaches can be difficult to eliminate, their unique features require different approaches to pest control.
For example, bed bug infestations require specialized treatments targeting their hiding spots, whereas cockroach control may involve sanitation measures and the use of insecticides.
Understanding the distinctions between these two pests is essential to addressing an infestation effectively.
Bed Bug vs Cockroach: Key Differences
Appearance and Size
- Oval-shaped and flat-bodied
- Reddish-brown in color
- Adults are about 5 mm long
- Nymphs are smaller, ranging from 1mm to 3mm
- Cylindrical body, wider towards the head
- Brown or black in color
- Size varies by species (typically 4 cm)
- Two pairs of wings
- Antennae are long and thin
An adult bed bug is roughly the size of an apple seed, while a cockroach can be as small as a penny or as large as a quarter (depending on the species).
|Shape||Oval-shaped and flat||Cylindrical|
|Color||Reddish-brown||Brown or black|
|Size||1-5 mm||10-50 mm|
|Antennae||Short and stubby||Long and thin|
Habitat and Behavior
Bed bug habitat and behavior:
- Usually found in sleeping areas
- Hide in small crevices and seams of mattresses, furniture, and walls
- Nocturnal and do not fly
- Attracted to warmth, moisture, and carbon dioxide
Cockroach habitat and behavior:
- Can live in various environments (kitchens, bathrooms, and sewers)
- Prefer warm and humid places
- Fast-moving insects
- Nocturnal and hide during the day in cracks or crevices
Bed bug feeding habits:
- Feed solely on blood, mainly human
- Bite and cause itchy welts
- Can live several months without feeding
Cockroach feeding habits:
- Omnivorous and eat a wide range of materials (food, paper, dead skin, etc.)
- Contaminate food sources with bacteria
- Contribute to allergic reactions and asthma attacks
Health Risks and Impacts
Although bed bugs are not effective vectors of disease, they have been found naturally-infected with blood-borne pathogens.
In contrast, cockroaches have been recognized for their ability to transmit diseases such as dysentery, cholera, and typhoid fever.
They accomplish this by carrying bacteria on their bodies and contaminating food sources, surfaces, and appliances.
Allergies and Asthma
Cockroaches are known to produce allergens through their droppings and cast-off skins, which can trigger allergic reactions and exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially in children.
Bed bugs, on the other hand, pose a minimal risk of triggering allergies or worsening asthma symptoms. Their bites, can, however cause reactions.
Bite Symptoms and Treatments
Bed bug bites can cause varying reactions in individuals, ranging from no visible signs to small bite marks or even severe allergic reactions that may require medical attention.
Itching can occur, and it’s important to resist the urge to scratch to prevent infections. Over-the-counter creams and antihistamines can usually provide relief from bite symptoms.
In contrast, cockroach bites are rare, as they typically avoid biting humans.
In the unlikely event that a cockroach does bite, it can cause minor irritation or swelling, which can be treated similarly to a bed bug bite, using over-the-counter creams and antihistamines if necessary.
Summary of Differences:
- Bed bug bites: small bite marks, itching, possible severe allergic reaction
- Cockroach bites: rare, minor irritation or swelling
Prevention and Control Measures
Home Hygiene and Maintenance
A well-maintained home can prevent bed bugs and cockroaches. Start by:
- Regularly cleaning surfaces and floors
- Disposing of garbage promptly
- Removing clutter that they can hide in
- Fixing leaks to reduce access to water
For example, store food in sealed containers to deter pests and reduce their food sources.
Chemical and Non-Chemical Solutions
- Use mattress encasements
- Apply heat treatment
- Opt for EPA approved pesticides
- Use traps and baits
- Apply insecticides
- Utilize sticky traps for monitoring
- Effective at reducing pest populations
- Wide range of products/methods available
- Some chemicals can be harmful to humans and pets
- Pests may develop resistance to chemicals
Sealing and Exclusion Strategies
An effective prevention is sealing entry points and doing proper exclusion tactics:
- Caulking cracks and crevices
- Sealing gaps around plumbing and wiring
- Installing door sweeps and weather strips
For example, sealing a hole around a pipe can prevent pests from entering your home.
Here’s a comparison table between bed bugs and cockroaches:
|Size||1mm-7mm||Baby: 3mm; Adult: 13-16mm|
|Appearance||Small, flat, reddish-brown||Oval-shaped, reddish-brown|
|Habitat||Mattresses, furniture, luggage||Kitchens, bathrooms, hidden|
|Treatment||Mattress covers, heat, EPA insecticides||Traps, baits, insecticides|
|Prevention||Sealing, frequent cleaning||Hygiene, sealing, exclusion|
Bed bugs and cockroaches are two distinct pests that homeowners often encounter. While both can infest homes, they differ in behavior, appearance, and habitat.
Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects that feed on human blood, primarily during sleep, and are often found in sleeping areas.
Cockroaches, on the other hand, are larger, scavengers, and can inhabit various environments, including kitchens and bathrooms. Differentiating between their bites and understanding their unique characteristics is crucial.
While bed bugs are not effective disease vectors, cockroaches can transmit diseases like dysentery and cholera.
Proper identification and understanding of these pests are essential for effective prevention and control.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about bed bugs and cockroaches. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Bed Bug
Red Bug Who are you
Location: new paltz , newyork in bedroom of house
November 8, 2011 1:19 am
I found this bug in my house crawling on the wall of the bedroom
Its red.has a fat body. small head.. looked like 4 legs and 2 antenntas and was impossible to smush i had to use a pen to kill it but that didnt even kill it..
here a pic
it wasnt tiny. I could see it well it wasnt big neither
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we suspect that where there is one Bed Bug, they are most likely more Bed Bugs.
Letter 2 – Bed Bug
A guest came across this little fellow in bed – is it indeed a bed bug? size is tiny, about 2 or 3 mm Many thanks!
Most people that write thinking they have Bed Bugs really have pantry beetles or carpet beetles. The good news is that you have correctly identified your Bed Bug. The bad news is that there are probably more.
Letter 3 – Bed Bug
Subject: What is this bug, PLEASE???
Location: New York City
March 5, 2014 7:25 am
I found one of these bugs on my bed a couple of months ago and then another one last night. It is too big for a bed bug (it is less than a quarter of an inch long though).
Both my wife and I have itching and we are wondering if we have an infestation of these and if they are causing the itching. It is very clear when you enlarge it. Would appreciate any information you can give. Thank you very much.
While most frantic identification requests we receive regarding Bed Bugs are other creatures like Carpet Beetles, this is the real deal. You have Bed Bugs and you should take immediate action to eradicate them.
Update: July 28, 2014
Subject: bed bugs
July 28, 2014 12:20 am
Thanks for your perspective on this , Bed bugs have been the curse for people and they not only suck your blood but also steal away your peace of mind.
You cannot just try out any DIY to get rid of them the only best option however is to choose a good bed bug exterminator. For me http://www.bedbug911.com/ is the right choice, it has helped me a lot to get rid of this problem once for all.
Signature: lung shepherf
Letter 4 – Bed Bug
Subject: Am I an NYC Chick w/ Ticks?
Location: Brooklyn, NY
August 5, 2014 10:37 pm
I’ve been known to be culprit victim that Mosquitos go after in a big group of people…. But this summer the bites I’ve had are an entire different ballgame.
They normally attack me in my brooklynapartment, but have also been other locations like the jitney bus.
There is 1 obvious dot in the Bit indicating a small stinger … And are about 3x as big as Mosquitos and much more red and puffy on the skin.
I’ve had 3 bites in a row (forehead and leg) and it’s obviously from same bug.
Then I was Bit on my ankle and it stung and hurt immediately (unlike others without pain).
My ankle has been swolen, inflamed and red for 4 days now.
Few days after I found this bug in my bed
Praying it’s not bed bugs… Thoughts?
We hate to be the bearers of bad news Bitsy, but this sure looks like a Bed Bug to us.
The three bites in a row are the tip off. In the bad old days, which apparently come returned, the three bites were commonly referred to as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” I’ve experienced ’em myself after a miserable night in a cheap motel.
Thanks for that information Jim.
Letter 5 – Bed Bug
Subject: What kind of bug is this?
Location: Farmington, Mo
November 22, 2014 8:45 pm
What kind of bug is this?
Signature: What kind of bug is this?
This looks to us like a Bed Bug.
Letter 6 – Bed Bug
Subject: Bed bug
Location: My arm
January 19, 2015 9:22 am
Please help me,I don’t know if this is a bed bug,it was on my arm I was sitting on my couch ..thanks so much
Signature: Bug man
You are correct. This is a Bed Bug.
Letter 7 – Bed Bug
Subject: round reddish brown bug
March 8, 2015 1:13 am
Hi. Please help me identify this bug. It is round and reddish brown in color. I just found 2 crawling on the wall. From my investigation of bug pictures on google, it looks like a bed bug.
But I do not see any on or around my mattress or anywhere else. I have seen cockroaches around the apartment… also if it was a bed bug, we should have many bite marks (only one of us has any mark, 2 small red bumps which might be due to allergy).
I am in New York.
In our opinion, this is an image of a Bed Bug.
Letter 8 – Bed Bug
Subject: what is it
Location: United States (colorado)
March 12, 2015 6:29 pm
Found this don’t know what it is my mrefuses to even acknowledge there’s a possibility she could have bed bugs
This is a Bed Bug.