There are more than 3,500 different species of cockroach found worldwide. But what do cockroaches look like? Are they all the same? While various species do share many of the same characteristics, there are things that are different from one roach to another. Cockroach identification can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for.

Regardless of species, all cockroaches share some commonalities.

Most roaches are between 0.7 inches and 3 inches in length. The antennae located on a roach’s head do not count when determining how large they are, but might help with cockroach identification.

Most roaches are a reddish-brown to black in color, except for when they molt. Roaches that have recently molted, or shed their exoskeleton to grow, tend to be temporarily whitish.

They have oval-shaped bodies which often appear flattened. Many species have wings, though not all can fly, and roaches move very fast for an insect. Studies have shown that some species can travel at speeds of up to three miles per hour, or slightly faster than the average stomping foot.

Learn more about the breakdown of the cockroach anatomy.


While there are about 69 types of roach commonly found by pest management specialists, the four most common species in the United States are the American, brown-banded, German and Oriental cockroaches.

These types have the same basic characteristics as all cockroach species, but differ from each other slightly. For the purpose of easy cockroach identification, here’s what you should look for to determine what kind of roach is causing a burden in your home.

Don’t let its name fool you, the American cockroach can be found around the world. These roaches are 1.5 inches long. They are reddish-brown or dark brown in color. Both males and females have wings the length of their bodies; however, male roaches’ wings are slightly longer than their female counterparts. For species that look similar, differences in wing length can help with identification.

These roaches are commonly found in warm, dark areas such as basements or crawl spaces. They are also fond of bathtubs, floor drains and sewers.

Like most species, the American cockroach will eat almost anything, but living where it prefers means it eats mostly garbage and plant material.

As with all roaches, when American roaches crawl around looking for food, they can contaminate surfaces and food items because they carry bacteria. Items you suspect to have been contaminated should be thrown out, and surfaces cleaned.

The brown-banded cockroach is about one-half of an inch in its adult stage. Female roaches are dark brown, while the males are a golden-tan. Both male and female brown-banded roaches have light-colored bands across their wings and abdomen. Male roaches fly if disturbed, but female roaches do not fly at all.

Brown-banded cockroaches like warm, indoor areas. They are often found hiding behind pictures on walls, in piles of clutter or in the hollow parts of furniture. These roaches also gather near larger appliances such as refrigerators or TVs, as the electrical components give off heat. Unlike other roaches, brown-banded cockroaches do not need to be in moist environments as long as they can find a water source within their range.

When it comes to their dining habits, these roaches prefer starchy foods including glue from envelopes or stamps, and paper products.

Due to their desire for starches and their love of heated spaces, it is common to find brown-banded roaches in offices, apartments, kitchens and even hospitals. Methods that are effective for controlling other roaches may not work on brown-banded cockroaches.

This type of roach is smaller than its American counterpart; this can make identifying this cockroach easier. Adults are only one-half to five-eighths of an inch long. German roaches are a tan or light brown color. While they have wings, these roaches do not fly. German cockroaches, like brown-banded roaches, are differentiated from other species by their small size. They also have dark, parallel lines running from behind their heads to their wings.

German roaches are usually found in environments that are both moist and also fairly warm. It is common to find them in kitchens and bathrooms, near sinks, dishwashers or stoves.

They will eat a wide variety of things, but prefer meat, grease and starchy foods when available.

Due to their small size, German cockroaches can hide in places that other roaches cannot fit. This can make them harder to find if they are infesting your home.

These roaches are sometimes better known as water bugs or black beetles. Oriental roaches are about 1.25 inches long. Adult roaches are so dark they appear almost black. Females have vestigial wings, and males have short wings that are not as long as their bodies. Neither male nor female can fly.

Oriental roaches like cool, damp places and prefer the dark. They are commonly encountered in basements, garages, woodpiles and drains. If they venture further into a home, it is usually in search of food

They are more likely to be found in or near single-family homes with yards, but may also be found in larger structures as long as they have a good source of water. Outdoors they are often found near areas where pet food is stored or distributed. Oriental roaches are not as fast as other cockroaches, and because they cannot climb smooth vertical surfaces, you may find them stuck inside sinks or tubs.

With all types of roaches, seeing one may mean that there are many more hiding out of sight. Cockroach identification is important, and it is best to call a pest management professional to check for the source of an infestation and help you arrive at a treatment solution.

Related: Bugs That Look Like Cockroaches