Beetles That Look Like Roaches: A Guide to Identifying Imitators

Beetles and cockroaches may appear similar at first glance, causing confusion for many homeowners.

While both insects are common household pests, there are distinct differences in their appearance, behavior, and the strategies used to manage them.

In this article, we will discuss some beetle species that resemble cockroaches and how to tell them apart.

Beetles That Look Like Roaches
Ground Beetle

Beetles That Look Like Roaches

One beetle commonly mistaken for a cockroach is the ground beetle.

These insects are often found outdoors under stones, logs, and other hiding places.

Some ground beetles are attracted to indoor lights, potentially leading homeowners to believe that they have a cockroach infestation.

Another beetle species often confused with cockroaches is the larder beetle.

Adult larder beetles are dark brown, oval-shaped, and have a cream to yellow-colored band across their wing covers.

While not as common indoors as cockroaches, larder beetles can still become a nuisance in homes if not properly identified and managed.

Distinguishing Features of Beetles and Roaches

Body Shape

Beetles and roaches have different body shapes. Beetles generally have a more rounded and oval-shaped body, like the Cigarette and Drugstore Beetle, while cockroaches exhibit a flatter and more elongated shape.

Antennae

  • Beetles: Usually have clubbed or sometimes thread-like antennae
  • Cockroaches: Possess long and thin, often filamentous antennae

Wings

In terms of wings:

  • Beetles: Hard, protective front wings called elytra, covering their back wings
  • Cockroaches: Two sets of wings with leathery front wings called tegmina

Movement

  • Beetles typically move slower due to their sturdy, armored body
  • Cockroaches are known for their swift and agile movement

Here’s a summary of the physical differences:

FeatureBeetlesCockroaches
AntennaeClubbed/thread-likeLong and thin
WingsElytraTegmina
Body ShapeRounded/ovalFlat/elongated
MovementSlowerSwift and agile

Common Beetle Species That Resemble Cockroaches

Ground Beetles

Ground beetles are one of the most common beetle species found in North America. They are:

  • Dark-colored
  • Oval-shaped
  • Often mistaken for roaches

Some ground beetle species have metallic sheen.

Ground Beetle

Palo Verde Beetles

Native to the southwestern United States, the Palo Verde Beetle is large and often mistaken for a roach. They have:

  • Dark-brown or black exoskeletons
  • Grow up to 3.5 inches in length
  • Large jaws, used for digging

Palo Verde Beetle. Source: Mike OstrowskiCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Click Beetles

Click beetles are named for the clicking sound they make when they flip themselves upright. They are:

  • Long and narrow
  • Tapered at both ends
  • Click sound is mistaken for a roach

Click Beetle

Long-Horned Beetles

Long-horned beetles are characterized by their lengthy antennae. They are:

  • Usually elongated
  • Medium to large in size
  • Attracted to lights at night

Long-horned beetles can be mistaken for roaches due to their size and nocturnal behavior.

Longhorned Borer Beetle: ipochus_fasciatus

Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles are small, oval-shaped insects that can be mistaken for small cockroach nymphs. They have:

  • Varied patterns and colors
  • Feed on natural fibers
  • Invade homes and damage textiles

Carpet Beetle

Here’s a summary of beetle species that appear as roaches

FeatureGround BeetlesPalo Verde BeetlesClick BeetlesLong-Horned BeetlesCarpet Beetles
SizeSmall-mediumLargeSmall-mediumMedium-largeSmall
Body ShapeOvalLong, bulkyTaperedElongatedOval
AntennaeShortShortShortLongShort

Roach Lookalike Insects and Bugs

June Bugs

June bugs, also known as May beetles, are commonly mistaken for roaches due to their brown color and oval shape. However, they are smaller in size and have distinguishable wings.

  • Size: 0.5-1 inch
  • Color: Brown
  • Wings: Present

10 Lined June Beetle

Crickets

Crickets resemble roaches with their flat, elongated bodies and long antennae. They differ in their size, color, and the presence of hind legs.

  • Size: 0.5-1 inch
  • Color: Brown or black
  • Legs: Strong hind legs for jumping

Camel Cricket

Water Bugs

Water bugs, also called giant water bugs, are often mistaken for roaches due to their similar size and flat, oval-shaped bodies.

These aquatic insects can grow larger than common roaches and have front legs adapted for capturing prey.

  • Size: 0.75-4 inches
  • Color: Brown or black
  • Legs: Front legs for catching prey

Giant Water Bug

Earwigs

Earwigs might be mistaken for roaches because of their similar body shape and color. Nonetheless, they are easily distinguishable by the pincer-like cerci at their abdomen’s end.

  • Size: 0.5-1 inch
  • Color: Brown or black
  • Cerci: Pincer-like appendages

Earwig

Termites

Termites might be confused with roaches due to their general body shape. However, they have a straight waist and straight antennae, unlike the common roach.

  • Size: 0.25-0.5 inch
  • Color: Creamy white to dark brown
  • Antennae: Straight

Termite

InsectSizeColorKey Feature
June Bug0.5-1 inchBrownWings
Cricket0.5-1 inchBrown or blackHind legs
Water Bug0.75-4 inchesBrown or blackPrey-catching legs
Earwig0.5-1 inchBrown or blackPincer-like cerci
Termite0.25-0.5 inchCreamy white to dark brownStraight antennae

By being aware of these differences, you can identify and address any insects that look like roaches but are actually beetles or other bugs.

Pest Control and Prevention

Identifying Infestations

To identify beetle infestations, look for signs such as:

  • Small, brown, or black insects resembling roaches
  • Damaged materials like carpets, wood, or food items
  • Larvae or shed skin around the infested area

Regular inspections help detect problems early. Keep an eye out for dermestid beetles and wood-boring beetles.

Professional Pest Control Options

Hiring pest control professionals offers benefits, such as:

  • Expertise in identifying pests
  • Access to advanced treatment techniques
  • Follow-up visits to ensure success

However, there might be drawbacks:

  • Costly services
  • Possible disruption of home routine

DIY Pest Control Measures

Effective DIY pest control measures include:

  1. Cleaning and decluttering: Remove potential food sources and breeding sites, eliminate clutter, and vacuum regularly.
  2. Sealing entry points: Caulk cracks and crevices to prevent pests from entering.
  3. Traps: Deploy sticky traps to catch small numbers of beetles.
  4. Insecticides: Spray targeted insecticides on infested areas. Follow label instructions carefully.

Comparison of Pest Control Options

ApproachProsCons
ProfessionalExpertise, advanced techniques, follow-up visitsCost, possible home disruption
DIYCost-effective, control over methods usedLimited expertise, time-consuming

Remember, early identification and the right pest control methods are key in preventing beetle and roach infestations.

Health Risks and Other Concerns

Disease Transmission

Despite their visual resemblance, beetles and roaches are different in terms of health risks.

While roaches are well-known for carrying diseases such as salmonella, diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera, beetles typically do not transmit these diseases.

However, they may still cause concerns due to their contamination of food products or the potential for allergic reactions.

Impact on Crops

Beetles and roaches also differ in their impact on crops:

 BeetlesRoaches
Crop DamageCan harm various crops, especially when they occur in high numbersPrimarily a household pest, not usually a concern for crops
ExamplesBlister beetles found in hay can be dangerous for livestock in large amounts1Concentrate on residential areas, often in urban settings2

Beetles can have a significant impact on agriculture, such as the bark beetle, which has ravaged tens of thousands of square miles of woodlands3.

Roaches, on the other hand, focus on human dwellings, and are less of a concern to the farming industry.

Summary

  • Beetles can damage crops and cause potential health concerns by contaminating food products.
  • Roaches are known to carry diseases and are more likely to be found indoors.
  • The impact of beetles on agriculture can include harming crops and causing issues for livestock.

Habitats and Diets

Natural Habitats of Beetles and Roaches

Beetles are a diverse group of insects inhabiting various habitats, ranging from land to aquatic environments. They can be commonly found in:

  • Forests
  • Gardens
  • Ponds
  • Lakes
  • Rivers

Roaches, on the other hand, are insects preferring warmer and moist environments, often inhabiting:

  • Upholstered furniture
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Wall voids
  • Sewers
HabitatBeetlesRoaches
ForestsYesNo
GardensYesNo
Ponds, lakes, and riversYesNo
IndoorOccasionalCommon

Feeding Habits

Beetles exhibit a range of diets, including:

  • Vegetarian
  • Predatory
  • Decomposers

For example, some beetles like ladybugs are predators that feed on aphids, whereas others like dung beetles consume animal feces.

The larder beetles feed on stored food products, which could lead to an infestation if not controlled.

Roaches are known to be scavengers with a diverse diet, often consuming:

  • Human food
  • Dead insects
  • Paper
  • Leather

In summary, beetles have a wide range of habitats and diets, whereas roaches prefer warm, moist environments and have a more diverse and opportunistic feeding habit.

Conclusion

Beetles and cockroaches, while often mistaken for one another, exhibit distinct differences in appearance and behavior.

Several beetle species, such as ground beetles, larder beetles, bess beetles and Palo Verde beetles, can be confused with roaches due to their similar appearance.

Key distinguishing features include body shape, antennae structure, and wing characteristics.

Beetles typically inhabit diverse environments, from forests to aquatic areas, and have varied diets. In contrast, roaches prefer warm, moist environments and have a broader diet.

Recognizing these differences is essential for accurate identification and appropriate pest management.

Footnotes

  1. High Numbers of Blister Beetles in Hay a Danger for Livestock

  2. How Many American Homes Have Pests?

  3. Small Pests, Big Problems: The Global Spread of Bark Beetles

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about beetles that look like cockroaches. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Beetle Pupae, but which Beetle???

Subject: Weeping Willow Bug?
Location: North Carolina
October 14, 2012 11:27 am
Found this cocoon like bug on my weeping willow…what is it?
Signature: Does not matter

Beetle Pupae

Dear Does not matter,
These are Beetle Pupae, and our first thought is that they are most likely some species of Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. 

We are entertaining the possibility that they might be Imported Willow Leaf Beetle pupae, Plagiodera versicolora, which we learned about on BugGuide

Alas, BugGuide doesn’t have many pupae photos and those seem to be from the wrong angle to be certain.  They could also possibly be Lady Beetle pupae like the V-Marked Lady Beetle pupae pictured on MoBugs

Letter 2 – Beetles

I have photos if necessary. It’s not an earwig, but approximately that size. This bug is solid black, no wings, doesn’t reduce size really at the abdomen and what not. Small legs, nothing like a cricket.

Not like a beetle, nothing like a cockroach. We’ve found a few of these crawling across the floors lately, and it freaks out my wife hehe. Any ideas? Would the photos help?
David

Dear David,
Photos always help. Might be a rove beetle. There is a species known as the Devil’s Coach Horse, Staphylinus olens, that is solid black. It is a true beetle, though is rather atypical appearing.

They are European imports, and eat snails and slugs, hence are advantageous to the gardener. Both adults and grubs are adept hunters.

Letter 3 – Beetles

Amazing. I have searched the web for a few days, identify a bug sites, all kinds of crazy stuff. Nothing. No where. I email you and you instantly know what it is. I attached the pictures of the one specimin I photographed closely.

I googled up a bunch of photos. But the photos I have seen of live ones and what not, if there are no very close relatives, that is it.
You said they are European imports. So they are already across the United States? They are in Salt Lake City anyway. A little more reading on them, they say they raise up like a scorpion when scared, release a stinky smell from their abdomen (true) does not sting but can give a painful bite.

We are not gardeners, we live in brand new apartments, and we are finding them in our house. Should something be done? Or should we just scoop them up and let them outside? Thanks again on identifying it, with such a vague description really. Best site 🙂
google.com search identify a font.


The site, identifies fonts, asks one question at a time, and identifies the font, to 2 or three fonts out of like 10,000 fonts. A bug site like that, would be amazing. I’m not much of a bug expert, but if you wanted any design help for such a site, let me know.

Letter 4 – Beetles

Re: Yellow and Black

(7/13/2003)
Hi….I have for years seen a very strange looking large bug in my yard in California but have not seen it anywhere else in the US. I

t is roughly 1.5-22 long, yellow with black stripes, super shiny, 3 segments, and the tentacles or arms look so fat it almost looks like it has baby arms.

It is by far the most disgusting bug I1ve ever seen.
What is it?
Best Regards,
Kayce

Dear Kayce,
If you hadn’t said you lived in California, I would have immediately thought of the Locust Borer, a large beetle that fits your description.

I did a web search, and have noticed that the range is expanding. Here in Los Angeles, we do have Black Locust Trees, so it is conceivable that the range of the Locust Borer now includes California.

Here is additional information as well as a photo. Please let us know if the range of the Locust Borer now includes California. The locust borer, Megacyllene robiniae (Forst.), is a native insect.

Its original range probably coincided with that of its host tree, the black locust, which once grew only along the Allegheny Mountains from Pennsylvania to Georgia and in the Ozark Mountain region.

Black locust grows readily on poor sites and is used extensively in land-reclamation plantings. Its widespread use to reclaim land damaged by farming and strip mining, its use as a shade tree, and its use in reforestation have dispersed the borer with its host tree over most of the United States.

The borer is now found from eastern Canada south to the Gulf States and west to Washington, Colorado, and Arizona.

The borer attacks only black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) and its cultivars (horticulturally derived varieties in the genus Robinia); the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos L.) is not affected.

Letter 5 – Beetles

Ok ,
I need help…. Bad. I just had both of my hips replaced the last one in Feb. I was out walking in my yard, I live out in the Country in Missouri, near Kansas City. I was swarmed by what I thought at the time was Bees, flying around me.

I did my best to try and run, but not good at that as of yet.I just knew I was doomed… Ok, I didn’t get stung. A guy was at my home to work on something and I asked him to go out and see what there were,….BEETLES…. LOTS of Beetles.

Close in size to June bugs, not as tall or thick, but length wise close. When flying, I thought they looked like bees, yellow jackets or something. Because they have yellow showing when in flight.

When captured…They are a Green Metallic,all across the back,but tipped in yellow, and at the point if you can call it that, of the bottom, they are yellow too. Alsothe under side is yellow around the base of the legs, than metallic green down the leg. (I hate Bugs)Really bad….

Now I have thousands of these beetles, Someone said Japanese Beetles, but in photos,they are shaped somewhat different and are a brownish on the back, these have no red, or brown… Please Help me…. Susan N. Photography Liberty, Missouri

Dear Susan,
I think you have been terrorized by GREEN JUNE BEETLES, Cotinus nitida. Here is some information as well as a drawing I discovered on two websites:

DESCRIPTION
Adult — The beetle is 15 to 22 mm long with dull, velvety green wings. Its head, legs, and underside are shiny green, and its sides are brownish-yellow.

Joe Boggs reported that GREEN JUNE BEETLES, Cotinus nitida, are terrorizing backyard gardeners, sunbathers, small pets, etc., as they buzz lawns in southern Ohio. These big, metallic green beetles tend to emerge en masse.

Their large size, coupled with an audible “buzzing” sound and low level flight plan (cruising at about 2 to 3 feet) may induce mild panic in those individuals unfamiliar with this insect. Adults feed on tree leaves as a skeletonizer.

Fortunately, they rarely cause significant plant injury. Their primary goal is to locate turf with high levels of organic matter (e.g. thatch) in which to lay eggs. Lawns covered with partially composted manures have also been found to be highly attractive to the adults and they may burrow into cool compost piles, under decomposing manure and into decayed mulch.

It has been speculated that this attraction to decomposing organic matter explains why adults tend to show-up in large numbers on certain lawns while ignoring surrounding turf. Unlike other Scarab beetle larvae such as Japanese beetle grubs, green June beetle grubs burrow 10 to 12 inches into the soil and they remain closely associated with these burrows.

The grubs do venture out at night, especially after heavy rains, to feed on thatch and other organic matter and they occasionally find their way onto driveways, sidewalks and into swimming pools. Despite their large size, green June beetle larvae seldom cause injury to turf equal to that caused by Japanese beetles or masked chafers.

Letter 6 – Beetles

Hi,
I live in a small town in Norfolk in the UK. I wonder if you would be able to give me any information on a bug that we only seem to get in our area. We believe the bug is called either a July Bug or a Billy Witch.

It’s a beetle of about an inch in length with a hard outer shell but the also fly and try to get tangled in anything they can. Is there anything else you could tell me about this bug so I can prove
to my neighbour they exist.
Many thanks.
Neil

I’m guessing that our May Beetles, also called June Bugs, are what you are calling a July Bug, since it fits your description.

It is a type of scarab beetle that is attracted to lights at night. I have never heard the name Billy Witch before, but it is a good one.

Letter 7 – Beetles

Hello,
Last summer bore beetles wiped out half the pines in my yard. (1 acre.).Since the Florida drought is over and steady rains are back, and the pines are not as stressed as last year, will my remaining loblolly pines fight off the bore beetles naturally or do I have to spray with something.

And if I spray is it true the beetles are only on the trunk of the tree. Last but not least, what do I spray with? Thanks from Central Florida, Roger

Like many living forms, insects reach a peak population, do major damage, and then suddenly die back to a small population which takes seasons to grow large again.

The stress on the trees due to the drought combined with the population explosion of the beetles contributed to the tree loss. That population was increasing, doing hidden damage for years.

The best control is to rid the area of tainted wood from the dead trees which is harboring the pest. Check with local exterminators regarding a pesticide control.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

2 thoughts on “Beetles That Look Like Roaches: A Guide to Identifying Imitators”

  1. How do you get rid of the Beetle Pupae that you find on Weeping Willow tress because my tree is totally covered with this bug please help!

    Reply

Leave a Comment