Cockroach Nymph vs. Bed Bugs: A Homeowner’s Guide to Identify and Tackle Pests

Cockroach nymphs and bed bugs are two common pests that can infest homes and cause discomfort for their inhabitants. While they share some similarities, these creatures also have distinct differences that set them apart.

Cockroach nymphs emerge from their egg cases and go through several stages of development before becoming adults. They can be found in various places, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and crawl spaces. On the other hand, bed bugs primarily reside in bedrooms and feed on human blood during the night. These tiny insects are reddish-brown, wingless, and can live several months without a blood meal, according to the CDC.

In terms of appearance, both cockroach nymphs and bed bugs are small and may initially be mistaken for one another. However, careful inspection reveals that cockroach nymphs have elongated bodies and antennae, while bed bugs are oval-shaped and lack wings.

Cockroach Nymph and Bed Bug Identification

Size and Shape

Cockroach nymphs and bed bugs have some similarities in size and shape. However, they can be distinguished by looking at their specific characteristics:

  • Cockroach nymphs

    • Size: Range from 1.5 to 12mm, depending on the species and stage of development
    • Shape: Oval-shaped body
  • Bed bugs

    • Size: Range from 1mm to 7mm, depending on the stage of development
    • Shape: Oval-shaped

Color and Appearance

The color and appearance of these insects can be another distinguishing factor.

Cockroach nymphs:

  • Color: Brownish to black, depending on the species
  • Appearance: Newly hatched nymphs may have a translucent appearance, which gradually becomes more opaque as they molt

Bed bugs:

  • Color: Reddish-brown
  • Appearance: Adults have a flattened appearance, while the younger stages may look more like tiny, translucent versions of the adult

Antennae and Wings

Cockroach nymphs and bed bugs differ in their antennae and wings, which can help in identification.

Cockroach nymphs:

  • Antennae: Long and visible, extending well beyond the head
  • Wings: Nymphs do not have fully developed wings; some species may develop wing pads as they mature

Bed bugs:

  • Antennae: Shorter compared to cockroach nymphs
  • Wings: Bed bugs are wingless throughout their entire life cycle
InsectSizeColorAntennaeWings
Cockroach nymphs1.5 to 12mmBrownish to blackLong and visibleAbsent in nymphs
Bed bugs1mm to 7mmReddish-brownShorterWingless

By taking note of these differences in size, color, shape, antennae, and wings, it is easier to differentiate between cockroach nymphs and bed bugs.

Infestation Signs and Locations

Bed Bug Infestation

Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on human and animal blood. They are reddish-brown, wingless, and range from 1mm to 7mm in size (source). Bed bug infestations can be found in various locations around the home:

  • Near the piping, seams, and tags of mattresses and box springs
  • In cracks on bed frames and headboards
  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions
  • In the folds of curtains (source)

Infestations are commonly identified by:

  • Small fecal spots on bedding or furniture
  • Shed insect skins
  • Unpleasant, musty odor

Cockroach Infestation

Cockroach nymphs, or baby cockroaches, are smaller than adult roaches and have a different appearance. They range in size and can be identified by their light brown color and lack of wings. Cockroach infestations are commonly found in:

  • Kitchens (especially near food sources)
  • Bathrooms (due to water access)
  • Basements and crawl spaces
  • Within cracks, crevices, and wall voids

Signs of an infestation often include:

  • Fecal droppings resembling ground pepper or coffee grounds
  • Shed exoskeletons
  • A strong, oily odor

Comparison Table

FeatureBed BugsCockroach Nymphs
Size1mm – 7mmVaries
ColorReddish-brownLight brown
WingsNoNo
Preferred locationsAround sleeping areasKitchens, bathrooms
NocturnalYesYes
Feeding habitsBloodOmnivorous diet
Attracted to cleanlinessCan infest clean spacesPrefer unhygienic areas

To deal with both bed bug and cockroach infestations, homeowners should maintain a clean living environment, seal cracks and crevices, and use a combination of non-chemical and chemical insecticides for effective control when necessary.

Bites and Health Concerns

Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Their bites can cause itchy and painful reactions on the skin. Treatment for bed bug bites typically involves applying an anti-itch cream or taking an over-the-counter antihistamine.

Examples of bed bug bites symptoms:

  • Red, swollen bumps on the skin
  • Burning or itching sensation

Cockroaches do not bite humans like bed bugs do. However, they can carry bacteria and pathogens that can cause infections if they contaminate food or surfaces. Cockroaches can spread Salmonella and trigger allergies or asthma in some people. To prevent cockroach infestations, it’s essential to practice proper sanitation measures and maintaining a clean living environment.

Cockroach-related health risks:

  • Contamination of food
  • Respiratory allergies and asthma

A comparison table showcasing the differences between bed bug bites and cockroach-related health issues:

IssueBed Bug BitesCockroach-Related Health Issues
CauseBiting and feeding on bloodCarrying bacteria and pathogens
SymptomsItchy and painful skin reactionsInfections, allergies, asthma
Treatment/PreventionAnti-itch creams, antihistaminesSanitation and cleanliness

Prevention and Extermination

Preventive Measures

To prevent cockroach nymphs and bed bugs from infesting your home, adhere to the following measures:

  • Regularly clean your home, especially kitchen areas where food scraps may attract cockroaches.
  • Seal crevices and hiding spots that can serve as shelters for both types of pests.
  • Use protective encasements for your mattresses and furniture to minimize bed bug infestations.
  • Avoid bringing in second-hand furniture without inspection for possible infestations.

It is essential to identify the differences between these two pests to apply appropriate preventive measures. Some of their characteristics are:

Cockroach Nymphs:

  • Light tan or translucent in color
  • Cylindrical body shape
  • Rapid movement with six legs
  • Attracted to food scraps

Bed Bugs:

  • Reddish-brown or whitish-yellow in color
  • Oval and flat body shape
  • Six legs and slower crawlers compared to cockroach nymphs
  • Parasitic creatures that feed on human or animal blood

Extermination Methods

Several methods can help eliminate cockroach nymphs and bed bugs from your home. Some of these methods are:

  • Using baits, traps, and insecticides specifically designed for cockroach nymphs or bed bugs.
  • Implementing heat treatments for bed bugs, which require raising the room temperature to a level lethal for the pests.
  • Employing professional pest control services to handle severe infestations.

Here is a brief comparison table illustrating the differences in extermination methods for cockroach nymphs and bed bugs:

MethodCockroach NymphsBed Bugs
Baits & TrapsYesNo
InsecticidesYesSelectively
Heat treatmentsNoYes
Pest Control ServicesYesYes

Remember to apply the appropriate extermination techniques depending on the specific pest infestation. This will ensure effective and long-lasting results in keeping your home pest-free.

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 – Cockroach Nymph, not Bed Bug

Oh please let this not be a bed bug
Location: Manhattan
November 3, 2010 5:34 am
I got bitten by a mosquito while sleeping and got up to chase the little bugger. While chasing him around I found this on the floor of the living room scurrying across the carpet.
Ive checked my bed and my couch as best I can and don’t see anything else, but i do live in times square nyc, so im terrified.
Please notice that unlike all the bedbug pics i see online this thing has long antenna and 2 little points sticking out from rear of abdomen.
abdomen does have ridges like the expandable one of a bed bug.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Signature: Sleepless

Cockroach Nymph

Dear Sleepless,
We rue the day that Bed Bug infestations went viral on the internet.  Now it seems every day several letters with images of dead insects attached arrive in our mailbox with a subject line very similar to your subject line.  This is not a Bed Bug, but a few years ago, we would have expected this exact subject line ending in Cockroach, which is what you have found.  Revulsion is relative.  Where once Cockroaches ruled when it came to being the most reviled insect that horrified the web browsing public, the Cockroach has been displaced by the Bed Bug.  Ads for Bed Bug extermination are ubiquitous and it seems there are stories on the news with great regularity regarding the current plague.  The media coverage is fueling the paranoia.  While we acknowledge that Bed Bugs are quite unpleasant, and a difficult problem to eradicate, and that they are being reported in increasing numbers, we get very few confirmed identification requests for the little biters of bedtime lore.  Though our Bed Bug category has 15 posts, many are informational only and were not identification requests.  We began this online column ten years ago and the website 8 years ago and we have posted only 8 images of Bed Bugs or related species like Bat Bugs in that time, though we also acknowledge that we are unable to answer all the mail that we receive.  In actuality, many of the blurry images we receive might have been Bed Bugs. With that said, it seems Cockroaches are reproducing in the vicinity of your home, and the individual in your photo may have siblings or other relatives nearby.

Letter 2 – Cockroach Nymphs, not Bed Bugs

Possibly Bed Bugs?
Location: Baltimore City, MD
August 8, 2011 11:44 pm
Dear Bugman,
We found two of these critters alive (on the ceiling) and promptly squashed them. My wife found several dead ones throughout the house (living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom). Our floor is carpeted throughout the house except for the kitchen and the bathroom.
I was bitten several days ago but I’m not sure what it was. We believe these are bed bugs. We have also turned our house upside down trying to find their ”home” but we found no clusters of bugs, droppings, or larvae associated with bed bugs. Are they bed bugs and why are we finding most of them dead?
Thanks.
Signature: In Fear of Bed Bugs

Cockroach Nymphs

Dear In Fear of Bed Bugs,
The good news is that you do not have Bed Bugs.  The bad news is that you have recently hatched Cockroach Nymphs.

Cockroach Nymphs

Letter 3 – Oriental Cockroach Nymph

this time with photographic evidence!
Hello again, Bugman!
Still being terrorized, and still no digital camera, but I’ve done in our last invader and (yes, I’ve already been told it’s gross) I scanned him (her?) so I’d have something to send (the cork is for scale). I might add to my first letter that I came across this thing as it was scrambling out of the kitchen drain – at noontime, in full sunlight! The nerve! I am braver in the sunlight, so I sprayed the heck out of it w/ant/roach spray
Karen

Hi Karen,
You have an immature Oriental Cockroach, also known as a Waterbug. They often inhabit drains and we are told there are millions in the sewers of Los Angeles. I often encounter large numbers of them on the sidewalks at night. In the home, they are found in the bathroom and kitchen.

Letter 4 – Unknown Cockroach Nymph from Costa Rica

“Stitch”-like bug, cockroach nymph?
September 10, 2009
Hi Bugman-
First I have to say that the buzz my weevil picture generated is pretty cool. Costa Rica really has some amazing bugs!
I’ve been searching like crazy since my Costa Rican honeymoon for the identification of this prehistoric/alien looking bug. As far as I can tell, it’s a cockroach nymph of some sort. With three months of searching, I’ve found nothing.
We found him in our hotel room, the same night I saw the green glitter and wood carved weevil. He was crawling across the floor minding his own business. His antennae were rather odd in that they had a white section from which protruded an extension. It looked as though he was using one antennae to “smell” the air and the other to feel the ground. I picked him up with some paper to place him on the patio, and he was super fast…and stubborn. He got in one more time…and then stayed out…I think. His markings are beautiful, and if I could have kept him as a pet I would have. Do you have any idea what he might be? If he is a cockroach, I hope his grown up version is as pretty as the nymph version.
bug fan (djrianna)
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Cockroach Nymph from Costa Rica
Cockroach Nymph from Costa Rica

Dear bug fan,
We agree that this is an immature Cockroach, but we would add that it is one of the most attractive Cockroaches we have ever seen.  We will post your photo and try to research the species at a later date, but perhaps a reader will write in with an identification.

Assistance from Karl
September 16, 2009
Hi Daniel:
This really is a handsome cockroach. I believe it is in the Family Blattellidae; Subfamily Nyctiborinae. Based on the shape of the antennae (thickened at the base and bristle-like at the tip) I would further suggest that it is in the Genus Nyctibora, of which there are at least three species in Costa Rica. I had little luck finding any useful descriptions or illustrations of the Costa Rican species, but it looks very similar to a Nyctibora nymph from Bolivia pictured on the Blattodea Culture Group website. Regards.
Karl

Letter 5 – Cockroach Nymph

Subject: Little black bugs in my kitchen after I ran the dishwasher
Location: Kitchen
December 18, 2016 8:30 pm
Hello I recently moved into a new home, and got everything brand new. I ran my dishwasher for the first time and the next day I noticed little black bugs they are very tiny and move slowly can you
Please tell me what type it is I’m very paranoid when it comes to bugs, and I want to make sure the previous owners didn’t leave any bugs that you can’t get rid of
Signature: Renee Douglas

Cockroach Nymph
Cockroach Nymph

Dear Renee,
This is an immature Cockroach and it looks like it is an early instar, meaning it hatched recently.  That would be a sign there were breeding adult Cockroaches present.  Though your image lacks critical detail, we suspect this is the nymph of a Smoky Brown Cockroach which is described on BugGuide as “Early instars are black insects with characteristic white markings on the distal antenae, proximal antennae, thorax and abdomen.”

Letter 6 – Cockroach Nymph almost looks encased in amber

Subject: Bedbug or cockroach?
Location: Los Angeles
August 22, 2017 7:36 pm
I found this in my bed and am terrified that it is a bed bug, though we occasionally get cockroaches in our house. We also have termites though that’s a side note. Any idea which this is??
Signature: Worried

Cockroach Nymph

Dear Worried,
Given your choices, it is ironic that you are probably relieved to find out that this is an immature Cockroach and not a Bed Bug.  As an aside, your image almost looks like a Cockroach in amber, which would have made it quite valuable according to iddfossils.

Letter 7 – Cockroach Nymph

Subject:  bug identify
Geographic location of the bug:  NYC
Date: 11/30/2017
Time: 02:41 PM EDT
These are bugs we have seen at night in our apt
How you want your letter signed :  David

Cockroach Nymph

Dear David,
This is an immature Cockroach, and it sounds like you might have an infestation in your apartment.

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 – Cockroach Nymph, not Bed Bug

Oh please let this not be a bed bug
Location: Manhattan
November 3, 2010 5:34 am
I got bitten by a mosquito while sleeping and got up to chase the little bugger. While chasing him around I found this on the floor of the living room scurrying across the carpet.
Ive checked my bed and my couch as best I can and don’t see anything else, but i do live in times square nyc, so im terrified.
Please notice that unlike all the bedbug pics i see online this thing has long antenna and 2 little points sticking out from rear of abdomen.
abdomen does have ridges like the expandable one of a bed bug.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Signature: Sleepless

Cockroach Nymph

Dear Sleepless,
We rue the day that Bed Bug infestations went viral on the internet.  Now it seems every day several letters with images of dead insects attached arrive in our mailbox with a subject line very similar to your subject line.  This is not a Bed Bug, but a few years ago, we would have expected this exact subject line ending in Cockroach, which is what you have found.  Revulsion is relative.  Where once Cockroaches ruled when it came to being the most reviled insect that horrified the web browsing public, the Cockroach has been displaced by the Bed Bug.  Ads for Bed Bug extermination are ubiquitous and it seems there are stories on the news with great regularity regarding the current plague.  The media coverage is fueling the paranoia.  While we acknowledge that Bed Bugs are quite unpleasant, and a difficult problem to eradicate, and that they are being reported in increasing numbers, we get very few confirmed identification requests for the little biters of bedtime lore.  Though our Bed Bug category has 15 posts, many are informational only and were not identification requests.  We began this online column ten years ago and the website 8 years ago and we have posted only 8 images of Bed Bugs or related species like Bat Bugs in that time, though we also acknowledge that we are unable to answer all the mail that we receive.  In actuality, many of the blurry images we receive might have been Bed Bugs. With that said, it seems Cockroaches are reproducing in the vicinity of your home, and the individual in your photo may have siblings or other relatives nearby.

Letter 2 – Cockroach Nymphs, not Bed Bugs

Possibly Bed Bugs?
Location: Baltimore City, MD
August 8, 2011 11:44 pm
Dear Bugman,
We found two of these critters alive (on the ceiling) and promptly squashed them. My wife found several dead ones throughout the house (living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom). Our floor is carpeted throughout the house except for the kitchen and the bathroom.
I was bitten several days ago but I’m not sure what it was. We believe these are bed bugs. We have also turned our house upside down trying to find their ”home” but we found no clusters of bugs, droppings, or larvae associated with bed bugs. Are they bed bugs and why are we finding most of them dead?
Thanks.
Signature: In Fear of Bed Bugs

Cockroach Nymphs

Dear In Fear of Bed Bugs,
The good news is that you do not have Bed Bugs.  The bad news is that you have recently hatched Cockroach Nymphs.

Cockroach Nymphs

Letter 3 – Oriental Cockroach Nymph

this time with photographic evidence!
Hello again, Bugman!
Still being terrorized, and still no digital camera, but I’ve done in our last invader and (yes, I’ve already been told it’s gross) I scanned him (her?) so I’d have something to send (the cork is for scale). I might add to my first letter that I came across this thing as it was scrambling out of the kitchen drain – at noontime, in full sunlight! The nerve! I am braver in the sunlight, so I sprayed the heck out of it w/ant/roach spray
Karen

Hi Karen,
You have an immature Oriental Cockroach, also known as a Waterbug. They often inhabit drains and we are told there are millions in the sewers of Los Angeles. I often encounter large numbers of them on the sidewalks at night. In the home, they are found in the bathroom and kitchen.

Letter 4 – Unknown Cockroach Nymph from Costa Rica

“Stitch”-like bug, cockroach nymph?
September 10, 2009
Hi Bugman-
First I have to say that the buzz my weevil picture generated is pretty cool. Costa Rica really has some amazing bugs!
I’ve been searching like crazy since my Costa Rican honeymoon for the identification of this prehistoric/alien looking bug. As far as I can tell, it’s a cockroach nymph of some sort. With three months of searching, I’ve found nothing.
We found him in our hotel room, the same night I saw the green glitter and wood carved weevil. He was crawling across the floor minding his own business. His antennae were rather odd in that they had a white section from which protruded an extension. It looked as though he was using one antennae to “smell” the air and the other to feel the ground. I picked him up with some paper to place him on the patio, and he was super fast…and stubborn. He got in one more time…and then stayed out…I think. His markings are beautiful, and if I could have kept him as a pet I would have. Do you have any idea what he might be? If he is a cockroach, I hope his grown up version is as pretty as the nymph version.
bug fan (djrianna)
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Cockroach Nymph from Costa Rica
Cockroach Nymph from Costa Rica

Dear bug fan,
We agree that this is an immature Cockroach, but we would add that it is one of the most attractive Cockroaches we have ever seen.  We will post your photo and try to research the species at a later date, but perhaps a reader will write in with an identification.

Assistance from Karl
September 16, 2009
Hi Daniel:
This really is a handsome cockroach. I believe it is in the Family Blattellidae; Subfamily Nyctiborinae. Based on the shape of the antennae (thickened at the base and bristle-like at the tip) I would further suggest that it is in the Genus Nyctibora, of which there are at least three species in Costa Rica. I had little luck finding any useful descriptions or illustrations of the Costa Rican species, but it looks very similar to a Nyctibora nymph from Bolivia pictured on the Blattodea Culture Group website. Regards.
Karl

Letter 5 – Cockroach Nymph

Subject: Little black bugs in my kitchen after I ran the dishwasher
Location: Kitchen
December 18, 2016 8:30 pm
Hello I recently moved into a new home, and got everything brand new. I ran my dishwasher for the first time and the next day I noticed little black bugs they are very tiny and move slowly can you
Please tell me what type it is I’m very paranoid when it comes to bugs, and I want to make sure the previous owners didn’t leave any bugs that you can’t get rid of
Signature: Renee Douglas

Cockroach Nymph
Cockroach Nymph

Dear Renee,
This is an immature Cockroach and it looks like it is an early instar, meaning it hatched recently.  That would be a sign there were breeding adult Cockroaches present.  Though your image lacks critical detail, we suspect this is the nymph of a Smoky Brown Cockroach which is described on BugGuide as “Early instars are black insects with characteristic white markings on the distal antenae, proximal antennae, thorax and abdomen.”

Letter 6 – Cockroach Nymph almost looks encased in amber

Subject: Bedbug or cockroach?
Location: Los Angeles
August 22, 2017 7:36 pm
I found this in my bed and am terrified that it is a bed bug, though we occasionally get cockroaches in our house. We also have termites though that’s a side note. Any idea which this is??
Signature: Worried

Cockroach Nymph

Dear Worried,
Given your choices, it is ironic that you are probably relieved to find out that this is an immature Cockroach and not a Bed Bug.  As an aside, your image almost looks like a Cockroach in amber, which would have made it quite valuable according to iddfossils.

Letter 7 – Cockroach Nymph

Subject:  bug identify
Geographic location of the bug:  NYC
Date: 11/30/2017
Time: 02:41 PM EDT
These are bugs we have seen at night in our apt
How you want your letter signed :  David

Cockroach Nymph

Dear David,
This is an immature Cockroach, and it sounds like you might have an infestation in your apartment.

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.

16 thoughts on “Cockroach Nymph vs. Bed Bugs: A Homeowner’s Guide to Identify and Tackle Pests”

  1. Ive encountered thousands of these within tenants’ homes.

    I am sorry to say with 95% certainty- that is a German Cockroach nymph. I use IGR and boric acid with great success. If they’re too thick for those to knock em’ out- I use Demon as well… and more IGR. IGR is a sort of birth control for roaches. When combined with other products, it greatly reduces the roaches resistance to such products as well.

    Good Luck…

    Reply
  2. Ive encountered thousands of these within tenants’ homes.

    I am sorry to say with 95% certainty- that is a German Cockroach nymph. I use IGR and boric acid with great success. If they’re too thick for those to knock em’ out- I use Demon as well… and more IGR. IGR is a sort of birth control for roaches. When combined with other products, it greatly reduces the roaches resistance to such products as well.

    Good Luck…

    Reply
  3. Thank you for this. I have been looking for a day and a half for answers and nothing added up to me until this post. # feeling blessed.

    Reply
  4. be careful of furnished places, the mattress could not be new and look deeply, even into the tufts of a pillowtop where the stitching is for not just bugs but eggs too. Could be that the mattress was new before the last tenants used it, haha. Look at the ceiling for evidence of squished bugs, if perhaps the landlord showing you this great place that is such a good deal thought you wouldn’t notice.

    Reply
  5. Momma has some nasty bugs which are in her furniture and sometimes on her bed. They are bigger than bedbugs, tannish color, not as big as regular cockroaches, triangular shaped. Any idea what they could be? Momma thinks they are a roach relative.. They are about three times the size of bedbug adults

    Reply

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