Click Beetle vs Cockroach: Key Differences & Intriguing Facts

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Click beetles and cockroaches are two distinct types of insects that often cause confusion due to their similar appearances. In this article, we’ll discuss their differences and help you identify which is which.

Click beetles belong to the family Elateridae and are known for their unique ability to snap their body, propelling them into the air to right themselves when on their back. These insects have slender, shiny, and hard-bodied adult forms and are usually found on leaves and flowers Click Beetle / Wireworm – Texas A&M University.

On the other hand, cockroaches are part of the order Blattodea and are often associated with unclean environments. They prefer cool, dark, and damp places and are commonly found in homes, garages, basements, and drains Cockroaches Management Guidelines–UC IPM – UCANR.

Click Beetle Vs Cockroach: Basic Differences

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

Click Beetles:

  • Elongated, parallel-sided body shape
  • Can be ½ to 2-½ inches long
  • Backward projections on side corners of shield behind head (pronotum)
  • Somewhat flattened exoskeleton
  • Antennae and legs are small
  • Size and color vary by species (source)

Cockroaches:

  • Oval or oblong body shape
  • Typically, 1/2 to 2 inches long
  • Long, segmented antennae
  • Six legs with spines
  • Wings present in some species
  • Colors include brown, black, or reddish-brown (source)
Feature Click Beetles Cockroaches
Body Shape Elongated, flattened Oval or oblong
Size ½ to 2-½ inches long 1/2 to 2 inches long
Antennae Small Long, segmented
Legs Tiny true legs Six legs with spines
Wings Varies by species Present in some species
Colors Vary by species Brown, black, reddish-brown

Behavior and Habitat

Click Beetles:

  • Known for their ability to “click” and flip themselves over using a snapping mechanism
  • Found on leaves and flowers
  • Larvae called wireworms, live in soil, and can damage plants
  • Some adults eat other insects, while others consume plant material (source)

Cockroaches:

  • Prefer warm, moist environments
  • Often found in homes, food-processing facilities, and other structures
  • Nocturnal and tend to hide during the day
  • Most species are scavengers and will eat a wide variety of food, including human food waste (source)

Types and Species of Beetles and Cockroaches

Common Click Beetles

Click beetles are part of the Elateridae family. They are known for their unique ability to “click” and flip themselves upright when on their back. Some species within this family include:

  • Eyed Click Beetle: Recognizable by its large eyespots, this beetle reaches up to 1¾ inches in length.
  • Eastern Eyed Click Beetle: Found in South Carolina, this beetle also has large eyespots and can grow up to 2 inches.

Frequent Cockroach Species

Cockroaches are from the order Blattodea. Two common species found in the United States include:

  • American Cockroach: Primarily found in sewer systems and basements, this roach species grows up to 1½ inches.
  • German Cockroach: Often found in kitchens and bathrooms, it is smaller at around ½ inch in length.

Comparison Table:

Click Beetles Cockroaches
Average Size 12-30 mm, some species up to 45 mm American: 1½ inches; German: ½ inch
Appearance Elongated bodies, rounded front and end of wing covers Flat, oval-shaped bodies, six legs
Habitat Deciduous forests, larval stage in decaying logs Sewer systems, basements, kitchens, and bathrooms
Unique Features “Click” ability, flexible connection between thorax parts Fast crawlers, ability to reproduce rapidly

In conclusion, click beetles and cockroaches are both unique in their own ways. They have different physical appearances, habitats, and distinguishing features that set them apart from each other.

Infestations and Damage

Signs of Cockroach Infestation

  • Droppings: Cockroach feces resemble black pepper or coffee grounds.
  • Egg casings: Discarded, oval-shaped casings called oothecae indicate roach presence.
  • Dead roaches: Finding dead roaches implies an active infestation.
  • Unpleasant odor: A musty odor can indicate a large roach population.

Effects on Household and Gardens

Cockroaches:

  • Contaminate food and kitchen surfaces, spreading bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli.
  • Trigger allergies and asthma due to their shed skins and fecal matter.
  • Damage materials such as paper, fabric, and glue, when feeding.

Click Beetles:

  • Their larvae, called wireworms, feed on plant roots, causing damage to gardens and crops.
  • Occasionally invade homes, but do minimal damage compared to roaches.
Cockroaches Click Beetles
Household High impact Low impact
Gardens Low impact Moderate impact

Managing Beetle Infestations

  1. Prevention:

    • Seal gaps and cracks in walls, doors, and windows.
    • Store food in airtight containers.
    • Keep home clean and free of debris.
  2. Mechanical Control:

    • Handpick beetles outdoors and dispose of them.
    • Use sticky traps indoors to capture beetles.
  3. Chemical Control:

    • Apply insecticides, following label instructions and safety precautions.
    • Consult a professional exterminator if infestations persist.

Remember, cockroaches and click beetles have different effects on households and gardens. Using proper identification and management techniques will help minimize damage and maintain a healthy living environment.

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Click Beetle

 

what is this
Location: kansas
July 9, 2011 10:54 pm
Curious what bug this is? It has been over 100 degrees here in central Kansas. Just noticed them over the last couple weeks. Thanks
Signature: kansas

Click Beetle

Hi kansas,
This is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae, a large family with many similar looking species.  They are called Click Beetles because of their ability to snap their body to right themselves if they wind up on their backs, an action that produces an audible clicking sound.  Click Beetles are harmless, though some species are agricultural pests.  The larvae of Click Beetles are called Wireworms, and there are several species of Click Beetles, collectively called the Corn Wireworm, that damage young corn plants.  This Penn State website and this Purdue University website both have helpful information on the destructive Wireworm species.

Letter 2 – Click Beetle from Japan

 

Beetle with antler-like antennae
Location: Japan, Mie (Central Japan, south of Nagoya, near coast)
May 5, 2012 6:20 pm
This beetle I photographed in Japan in 2005 (was it really so long ago?!), shortly after dusk on the 4th of May.
My best guess is Pyrochroidae, others on the interwebs have suggested Eucnemidae Melasidae or Elateridae.
Are the ”antlers” for detecting scents/pheromones, or to they have another purpose.
All the best
Signature: James Kilfiger

Click Beetle

Hi James,
Because of the antennae, your guess of family Pyrchroidae, the Fire Colored Beetles, was a good, though wrong guess.  Not many Click Beetles in the family Elateridae have such pectinate antennae, but there are some species.  Interestingly, we very quickly found a match to your Click Beetle on Natural Japan where it is identified as
Pectocera fortunei = hige-kometsuki.  Natural Japan provides this information: “Lots of these click beetles were flying around one particular tree (I’m sorry I didn’t identify the tree!). They are pretty big and their method of flying is quite ungainly, elytra out to the sides and abdomens hanging down, making them look like flying crucifixes. They were very active and wouldn’t keep still to be photographed but I managed to catch one in my hat. I put it on a leaf and it immediately took off again! By the way, the male uses its huge feathery antennae for detecting females.”  Here are photos of a male and female on a Japanese website.

Letter 3 – Click Beetle

 

Subject: Beetle in House in Ohio
Location: Western Ohio
May 19, 2015 9:44 am
Recently this big has been popping up primarily in our bedroom and bathroom on the southeast side of our house. We found some dead ones in our closet but the rest have been pretty random. We find maybe 1-3 a day. They have a hard shell. They have been found crawling across the carpet, under a pillow on the bed, and in the sink. My husband put one in water and they don’t seem to mind it. They play dead as well. Are these guys something we should be concerned about?
Signature: Tiffany

Click Beetle
Click Beetle

Dear Tiffany,
Based on images posted to BugGuide, this looks like a harmless Click Beetle in the genus
Aeolus.  We don’t know why they are entering your home unless they are attracted to lights.  According to BugGuide:  “adults in grasslands, fields, gardens; larvae live in the soil” and “larvae may be a minor pest of corn and potatoes.”  Do you live near a cornfield?

We live on the edge of a suburb, but there are fields within a mile or so of us. They don’t seem to bother us and we aren’t being swarmed by them so I guess we won’t let it concern us too much! Thanks for the identification 🙂
Tiffany Kohler

Letter 4 – Click Beetle

 

RE a previously unidentified brown beetle
Location: South East Michigan
June 17, 2011 11:15 am
Greetings Bugman,
I wrote, yesterday I think it was, about a large number of brown beetles that had found there way into my home. And though I had tried to identify them via my normally reliable resources, I had alas be left in the dark.
Since I have written that letter I have spent several hours browsing your site, as well as observing my most recent visitor. We captured it in a zippered sandwich bag the closest clear object at the time of its discovery… and at one point my daughter had flipped the bag over landing the creature on its back. It struggled for several seconds trying to right its self and then a pop came from the bag, the plastic shuddered slightly and suddenly it was right side up again! Eager to see this again we duplicated it several times and even completely grossed my husband out with it.
Having discovered this new distinction I started searching the web and found the term ”click beetle” but no picture to accompany it so I brought the term to your sight and low and behold I found an entry for a black click beetle! It looks exactly like mine with the only difference being the color (mine is brown).
The mystery of what is attracting them into our house has still got me cleaning like a nut and sealing all our dry goods in zippered plastic bags. Any suggestions that would lead their cuiriosity elsewhere would be apreciated.
Though it seems that since I’ve been holding the one for observation the rest have stayed hidden.
Thank you again,
Signature: Long Time Entomology Enthusiast (SB)

Click Beetle

Dear SB,
Your email has us positively charmed.  We love the initiative you took to correctly identify your Click Beetle.  Alas, we do not have the necessary skills to identify your beetle to the species level as many Click Beetles in the family Elateridae look very similar.

Letter 5 – Click Beetle

 

Subject:  Beetle or Roach?!
Geographic location of the bug:  Stratford, NJ (south NJ)
Date: 07/21/2019
Time: 11:14 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello!
My wife and I just moved into a house and immediately saw a single, dying roach. We saw other, similar looking bugs but our exterminator has told us (through email) that they are ground beetles. I don’t entirely trust him, as his company supposedly will come back “for free if needed.” What do you think? I sent three different bugs on different occasions that I’ve seen. Thanks in advanced!
How you want your letter signed:  Tom W

Click Beetle

Dear Tom,
This is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae, but we do not know the species, and it poses no threat to your home or its residents.  Many Click Beetles accidentally enter the home when they are attracted to lights.

Thanks Daniel! Really appreciate you taking the time to get back to me. Have a great day!
Best,
Tom Wexler

Letter 6 – Click Beetle

 

Unknown bug found in garden
Sat, Nov 8, 2008 at 1:26 PM
Hey bugman,
During the summer I found this odd bug in my garden during. I wasn’t bothering anything as far as I could tell. A few days later I was fixing a windmill on our property and found another one. I live in Prescott, Arizona, near 5000 ft. elevation.
David,
Prescott, Arizona

Click Beetle
Click Beetle

Hi David,
This beautiful Click Beetle is in the genus Chalcolepidius and according to BugGuide, it is found in Arizona and Utah.  Other than the generic family name Click Beetle, this beauty has no common name.

Letter 7 – Click Beetle

 

How about this guy?
Hi,
I found this insect crawling in my basement. I scanned it at 600 dpi. When time permits, could you attempt to identify it?
Thanks,
Rob

Hi Rob,
This is a Click Beetle, one of the Elaterids. When they are on their backs, they have the ability to snap their bodies at the joint and flipping over, often popping over a foot into the air to do so.

Daniel,
Thanks for the reply. It actually did pop up into the air a couple times. I thought I was seeing things. Pretty neat, though. After scanning, I nudged him into a film case and put him in our flower garden. Thanks,
Rob

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Click Beetle

 

what is this
Location: kansas
July 9, 2011 10:54 pm
Curious what bug this is? It has been over 100 degrees here in central Kansas. Just noticed them over the last couple weeks. Thanks
Signature: kansas

Click Beetle

Hi kansas,
This is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae, a large family with many similar looking species.  They are called Click Beetles because of their ability to snap their body to right themselves if they wind up on their backs, an action that produces an audible clicking sound.  Click Beetles are harmless, though some species are agricultural pests.  The larvae of Click Beetles are called Wireworms, and there are several species of Click Beetles, collectively called the Corn Wireworm, that damage young corn plants.  This Penn State website and this Purdue University website both have helpful information on the destructive Wireworm species.

Letter 2 – Click Beetle from Japan

 

Beetle with antler-like antennae
Location: Japan, Mie (Central Japan, south of Nagoya, near coast)
May 5, 2012 6:20 pm
This beetle I photographed in Japan in 2005 (was it really so long ago?!), shortly after dusk on the 4th of May.
My best guess is Pyrochroidae, others on the interwebs have suggested Eucnemidae Melasidae or Elateridae.
Are the ”antlers” for detecting scents/pheromones, or to they have another purpose.
All the best
Signature: James Kilfiger

Click Beetle

Hi James,
Because of the antennae, your guess of family Pyrchroidae, the Fire Colored Beetles, was a good, though wrong guess.  Not many Click Beetles in the family Elateridae have such pectinate antennae, but there are some species.  Interestingly, we very quickly found a match to your Click Beetle on Natural Japan where it is identified as
Pectocera fortunei = hige-kometsuki.  Natural Japan provides this information: “Lots of these click beetles were flying around one particular tree (I’m sorry I didn’t identify the tree!). They are pretty big and their method of flying is quite ungainly, elytra out to the sides and abdomens hanging down, making them look like flying crucifixes. They were very active and wouldn’t keep still to be photographed but I managed to catch one in my hat. I put it on a leaf and it immediately took off again! By the way, the male uses its huge feathery antennae for detecting females.”  Here are photos of a male and female on a Japanese website.

Letter 3 – Click Beetle

 

Subject: Beetle in House in Ohio
Location: Western Ohio
May 19, 2015 9:44 am
Recently this big has been popping up primarily in our bedroom and bathroom on the southeast side of our house. We found some dead ones in our closet but the rest have been pretty random. We find maybe 1-3 a day. They have a hard shell. They have been found crawling across the carpet, under a pillow on the bed, and in the sink. My husband put one in water and they don’t seem to mind it. They play dead as well. Are these guys something we should be concerned about?
Signature: Tiffany

Click Beetle
Click Beetle

Dear Tiffany,
Based on images posted to BugGuide, this looks like a harmless Click Beetle in the genus
Aeolus.  We don’t know why they are entering your home unless they are attracted to lights.  According to BugGuide:  “adults in grasslands, fields, gardens; larvae live in the soil” and “larvae may be a minor pest of corn and potatoes.”  Do you live near a cornfield?

We live on the edge of a suburb, but there are fields within a mile or so of us. They don’t seem to bother us and we aren’t being swarmed by them so I guess we won’t let it concern us too much! Thanks for the identification 🙂
Tiffany Kohler

Letter 4 – Click Beetle

 

RE a previously unidentified brown beetle
Location: South East Michigan
June 17, 2011 11:15 am
Greetings Bugman,
I wrote, yesterday I think it was, about a large number of brown beetles that had found there way into my home. And though I had tried to identify them via my normally reliable resources, I had alas be left in the dark.
Since I have written that letter I have spent several hours browsing your site, as well as observing my most recent visitor. We captured it in a zippered sandwich bag the closest clear object at the time of its discovery… and at one point my daughter had flipped the bag over landing the creature on its back. It struggled for several seconds trying to right its self and then a pop came from the bag, the plastic shuddered slightly and suddenly it was right side up again! Eager to see this again we duplicated it several times and even completely grossed my husband out with it.
Having discovered this new distinction I started searching the web and found the term ”click beetle” but no picture to accompany it so I brought the term to your sight and low and behold I found an entry for a black click beetle! It looks exactly like mine with the only difference being the color (mine is brown).
The mystery of what is attracting them into our house has still got me cleaning like a nut and sealing all our dry goods in zippered plastic bags. Any suggestions that would lead their cuiriosity elsewhere would be apreciated.
Though it seems that since I’ve been holding the one for observation the rest have stayed hidden.
Thank you again,
Signature: Long Time Entomology Enthusiast (SB)

Click Beetle

Dear SB,
Your email has us positively charmed.  We love the initiative you took to correctly identify your Click Beetle.  Alas, we do not have the necessary skills to identify your beetle to the species level as many Click Beetles in the family Elateridae look very similar.

Letter 5 – Click Beetle

 

Subject:  Beetle or Roach?!
Geographic location of the bug:  Stratford, NJ (south NJ)
Date: 07/21/2019
Time: 11:14 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello!
My wife and I just moved into a house and immediately saw a single, dying roach. We saw other, similar looking bugs but our exterminator has told us (through email) that they are ground beetles. I don’t entirely trust him, as his company supposedly will come back “for free if needed.” What do you think? I sent three different bugs on different occasions that I’ve seen. Thanks in advanced!
How you want your letter signed:  Tom W

Click Beetle

Dear Tom,
This is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae, but we do not know the species, and it poses no threat to your home or its residents.  Many Click Beetles accidentally enter the home when they are attracted to lights.

Thanks Daniel! Really appreciate you taking the time to get back to me. Have a great day!
Best,
Tom Wexler

Letter 6 – Click Beetle

 

Unknown bug found in garden
Sat, Nov 8, 2008 at 1:26 PM
Hey bugman,
During the summer I found this odd bug in my garden during. I wasn’t bothering anything as far as I could tell. A few days later I was fixing a windmill on our property and found another one. I live in Prescott, Arizona, near 5000 ft. elevation.
David,
Prescott, Arizona

Click Beetle
Click Beetle

Hi David,
This beautiful Click Beetle is in the genus Chalcolepidius and according to BugGuide, it is found in Arizona and Utah.  Other than the generic family name Click Beetle, this beauty has no common name.

Letter 7 – Click Beetle

 

How about this guy?
Hi,
I found this insect crawling in my basement. I scanned it at 600 dpi. When time permits, could you attempt to identify it?
Thanks,
Rob

Hi Rob,
This is a Click Beetle, one of the Elaterids. When they are on their backs, they have the ability to snap their bodies at the joint and flipping over, often popping over a foot into the air to do so.

Daniel,
Thanks for the reply. It actually did pop up into the air a couple times. I thought I was seeing things. Pretty neat, though. After scanning, I nudged him into a film case and put him in our flower garden. Thanks,
Rob

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Click Beetle

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22 Comments. Leave new

  • I dont think they are harmfull, still you could check in some pest inspectors blogs 🙂

    best

    Reply
  • I dont think they are harmfull, still you could check in some pest inspectors blogs 🙂

    best

    Reply
  • Is it odd that I would find one of these in my home in Tennessee?

    Reply
  • kevin bamrick
    May 30, 2015 7:57 am

    I just found one in an escalade for sale here in n.j. are they native to n.j.?

    Reply
  • This is a great photo of P. fortune. I have written a biography of Robert Fortune, the botanist, after whom this beetle is named. It will be published by Kew Botanic Gardens. I would very much like to include it in the book . Could I please have your permission to do so with credits for the photographer.
    Many thanks Alistair

    Reply
    • Dear Alistair,
      We are copying James Kilfiger with your request. We will wait until he responds as he is the owner of the copyright to the image. Thanks for placing this request as a comment on the original posting to What’s That Bug? If you hear back from James, we hope you will also credit our site as the internet source of the image.

      Reply
  • This is a great photo of P. fortune. I have written a biography of Robert Fortune, the botanist, after whom this beetle is named. It will be published by Kew Botanic Gardens. I would very much like to include it in the book . Could I please have your permission to do so with credits for the photographer.
    Many thanks Alistair

    Reply
  • MY FRIEND AND I ARE HAVING A BIG PROBLEM WITH THESE BUGS . PLEASE HELP US? THESE FAST FUCKS ARE MESSING UP OUR WHOLE LIFE. ANYWAYS…….MY WHOLE LIFE. THESE SO CALLED NICE CREATURE, ARE ITCHING MY FACE TO DEATH. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO.I USE LOTION AND THAT PINK STUFF FOR RASH….N.O.T.H.I.N.G.??????? WHAT THE HELL!!! CAN SOMEONE WRITE ME BACK ….VERY…SOOOOOONN,PLEASE..MY MAN DOES NOT BELIEVE ME AT ALL .HE THINK I AM LYING .SO ,I WILL BE RIGHT HERE BY THE NET UNTIL I GET A REPLY ,ON HOW TO CLEAR MY FACE UP??

    Reply
  • I have a garden right outside my home (on the side) with tomatoes, squash, cauliflower, cucumbers, and potatoes. Do any of these plants draw click beetles? I have found 3 in my house in the last week. I live in North Carolina and remember playing with them as a child (clicking them) but I cannot remember seeing any in my house before. Is my garden the reason or just kids leaving the doors open at night when they catch lightening bugs?

    Reply
    • Many species are attracted to lights. Also, larvae of some species are found in association with vegetable gardens.

      Reply
  • I have many clicking beetles at the base of an oak tree. Will they damage the tree?

    Reply
  • Harmonie Hefley-Lawson
    July 4, 2018 12:49 am

    We found two of these in our bedroom (on separate days in different areas). My husband crushed the one he found, and it reeked!!! Is that normal for these beetles? I think we each found similar looking bugs and his was not a click beetle, but something more sinister. Side note: he found his in the bed, I am disgusted. I’ve always loved click beetles, I hope I don’t have to start avoiding them.

    Reply
    • Though they look nothing alike when alive, many squashed insects look similar, and we suspect your husband might have crushed a stink bug.

      Reply
  • Rachel Smail
    June 1, 2019 12:57 pm

    I had to take my daughter to the ER yesterday due to one of these click beetles being in her ear.

    Reply
  • Just found one in my home in Alabama USA

    Reply
  • I live in San Antonio

    My husband & I just found one in our kitchen. GROSS!

    I’ve never heard of a Click Beatle. It was the clicking sound that led me to it. My husband got rid of it.

    Reply
  • I am in Melbourne Australia and one just landed on my car I got a pic of it omg freaked me out I’ve never seen anything like it

    Reply
  • Tom W,
    Having relocated to Midwest from your area, I’m finding these in new location as well. I researched as you did. My first stop after pest control was to 4-H and agriculture extensions, I was sent to Iowa State University Ag Extension.That’s where I found information on Click Beetles.
    Mine look similar to yours so I will explain what I found from Wikipedia:
    “Some click beetles are large and colorful, but most are under two centimeters long and brown or black, without markings. The adults are typically nocturnal and phytophagous, but only some are of economic importance. On hot nights they may enter houses, but are not pests there. Click beetle larvae, called wireworms, are usually saprophagous, living on dead organisms, but some species are serious agricultural pests, and others are active predators of other insect larvae.”
    There’s no known predators or pest control management I could find as you I first thought of cockroaches, ugh! I thought I left all those potential East Coast insects when I moved Midwest rural.
    Good luck! I put down Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth around baseboards and entry ways as an attempt to get rid of them.

    Reply

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