There are more than 4,500 different types of cockroaches, but only 69 species are found in the U.S. Learn how to spot signs of cockroaches in your home.

types of roaches

There are more than 4,500 types of roaches in the world, of which only around 69 species are found in the United States. And while that number is still pretty high, the good news is you really only have to worry about five or six different roach species, depending on which state you call home. Most species of roaches rarely invade homes, including the western wood cockroach and the brown-hooded cockroach (which prefers to live outside in the Pacific Northwest).

But the news isn't all good. These handful of troublesome roach species that want to move in with you can easily become a nightmare for any homeowner. Consider that for every roach you can see, there's a good chance there are dozens, even hundreds, in your home that you can’t see. And while all roaches might look the same as they scatter when you turn on the lights, knowing how to tell the difference between the most common types of roaches in your home will help you choose the most effective pest control methods to stop the infestation dead in its tracks.

General appearance of all types of roaches

First, be certain you are actually dealing with cockroaches. Roaches can be mistaken for other insects such as grasshoppers, beetles or crickets. Cockroaches have flattened, broad bodies with long antennae and long hind legs. Each of their six legs has tiny sensory hairs. Adult roaches have wings that fold flat on their backs, but not every cockroach can fly. Most roaches are brown or black and can range anywhere from 0.07 inches to 3 inches in length, depending on the species.

One of the most distinctive features of a cockroach is the shield-shaped pronotum located directly behind the head. If you're observing a roach in your home, chances are it's either a German cockroach or a brown-banded cockroach. These are the two most common unwelcome inhabitants of homes, buildings and structures.

German cockroaches

The German cockroach is the most common of all cockroach types found in America. Their high-speed capacity for breeding makes them a direct threat to your family and home. All it takes is one single female to get into your home. Between her and her offspring, more than 30,000 cockroaches can be produced in one year, though many of them won't live very long. The ones that do survive are more than enough to cause disease and disgust. Each German cockroach egg case (ootheca) can hatch between 20 and 40 baby roaches, and unlike other types of cockroaches, the adult female carries the eggs with her until they are ready to hatch. This makes them extremely persistent and difficult to get rid of.

Length: 0.6 inches; smaller than American or Asian cockroaches
Color: light-brown
Distinguishing features: two dark, parallel stripes on pronotum, from head to wings
Region: entire United States
Found: areas near water sources with food, such as kitchens, storage areas and bathrooms
Flight: barely, but can glide in a pinch
Entry: typically carried in via visitors, packages, clothing, purses, used furniture, etc., but also easily spread through walls in multifamily dwellings

Brown-banded cockroaches

While German and brown-banded roaches might inhabit the same house, they rarely hide in the same spots. Brown-banded roaches prefer warmer, drier areas, especially up high and inside your electronics, television, refrigerator, etc. They tend to stay away from water.

Length: 0.5 inches; smaller than American or Asian cockroaches
Color: males are dark-brown at base and golden-tan toward wing tips; females have reddish-brown wings and dark-brown bodies
Distinguishing features: males and females have two light-yellow bands on wings, abdomen and sides of pronotum
Region: entire United States
Found: warm, dry indoor areas, ceilings, behind picture frames and clocks, in hollowed-out wood and clutter, inside electric devices
Flight: only males can fly, more likely to jump
Entry: like the German roach, typically carried in via visitors, packages, clothing, purses, used furniture, etc., and also easily spread through walls in multifamily dwellings

American cockroaches

Though not the most common cockroach in American homes, the American cockroach is the largest. They can survive up to two years, much longer than other cockroach types. These roaches are more commonly called "palmetto bugs" and spotting one can be particularly alarming.

Length: 1 to 3 inches; biggest
Color: brown to reddish-brown
Distinguishing features: light-yellow edges on pronotum
Region: entire United States
Found: prefer outdoors but love warm, damp areas, sewers, drains, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements and bathrooms
Flight: both adult males, and females, can fly
Entry: can come in under doors, basement windows, garages or sewer system

Smoky brown cockroaches

The smoky brown cockroach dehydrates very quickly so you will see these types of roaches in moist, damp places – if you see them at all. They are excellent fliers and extremely nocturnal, though they are attracted to light and will enter homes when they see it.

Length: 1.5 inches; a bit smaller than American roach
Color: uniform dark-mahogany, black pronotum
Distinguishing features: wings longer than bodies
Region: Southeastern United States
Found: gutters, attics and crawl spaces
Flight: both adult males, and females, can fly
Entry: plumbing, vents, where trees, vegetation, shrubs, etc., meet the house

Oriental cockroaches

More commonly called "water bugs", the Oriental cockroach dwells in darkness and loves moist, damp spots that are out of sight and harm from humans. This makes them harder to get rid of without pest management professionals since pesticides might get washed away.

Length: 1.25 inches
Color: dark-brown or glossy-black
Distinguishing features:glossy appearance, male wings shorter than body, female wings underdeveloped
Region: Northwest, Midwest and Southern states
Found: areas with tons of moisture, decaying organic matter and below ground level (e.g., sewers, damp basements, etc.)
Flight: no
Entry: can come in under doors, basement windows, garages or sewer system

No matter what types of cockroaches you have, you don't want them in your house or around your family. Roaches can transmit disease as they become contaminated with filth crawling on floors, into drain pipes or in other low places they may travel. Just a few minutes later, the very same roaches may be seen walking around on your clean dishes or on the food you've been preparing. The best way to make sure your home is roach-free is to call Terminix® and get a free pest evaluation.