Spotting what looks like a baby roach in your home can be a nightmare moment. If there’s one, how many more of them might be lurking close by?!
But before you panic, it’s worth knowing that there are lots of different bugs that look like baby roaches. And knowing how to tell them apart can help you decide what action to take. (Or even whether you need to take any action at all.)
We’ve got all the information you need to identify a baby roach – and its lookalikes. So if you’re ready, read on to find out more!
What does a baby roach look like?
Let’s start with the genuine article. What does a baby roach – or to give it its proper name, a nymph cockroach – actually look like?
When a roach nymph first emerges from the egg, it’s usually pale, with a color somewhere between white and gray. There are a number of different species, however, and some of them start their life black.
A newly hatched roach is tiny too – between about an eighth and a quarter of an inch long. In fact, at this stage, most nymphs look a bit like a grain of rice.
But they don’t stay that way for long. Over the next few hours the nymph’s color darkens, first to a grayish-brown, then to a reddish-brown.
The body is flat, with a hard shell that has bands of lighter and darker colors. Like an adult roach, the nymph has six legs and two antennae. But because these are so short and thin when the nymph is young, you may not spot them easily.
Most species of nymph roaches don’t have wings.
The two most common species in the USA are the American and German cockroach. You can tell the nymphs of these two species apart by the markings on their heads. The American roach nymph has a halo-shaped pattern, while the German has two parallel black lines.
As they grow, the nymphs moult. The number of moults vary between species, from up to 7 for the German cockroach, to up to 13 for its American cousin. The closer they get to maturity, the more they begin to resemble adult roaches.
What bugs look like baby roaches?
So now we know how to identify a baby roach. But there are a number of species with a similar appearance. Let’s take a look at some of the most common cases of mistaken identity.
1. Wood-boring beetles
Wood-boring beetles are another bug you won’t want to find in your home – and you can probably guess why from the name. Yes, these little critters love nothing more than munching on wood, damaging everything from furniture to structural timbers.
They can be a number of different colors, but amongst them are rusty red and brown varieties. And with three pairs of legs and a pair of antennae, they can look a lot like baby roaches.
They do, however, have wings, which most baby roaches don’t. And if you have an infestation of wood-boring beetles, you’ll soon spot the evidence on the wood in your home. Look for tiny holes in beams, floorboards or furniture.
2. Ground beetles
The ground beetle family, Carabidae, includes an astonishing array of species – 70,000 in all. These can be found in an array of different colors, mostly with a metallic sheen. And amongst them are some species that can easily be confused with baby roaches.
They have six legs and two thread-like antennae. Depending on the species and stage of development, they can be anything from an eighth of an inch to an inch long.
Most species are carnivorous, and their prey includes other insects that are often considered pests by humans. These include caterpillars and woolly worms. So ground beetles are generally good news for gardeners.
A few, however, are not so welcome. The Zabrus genus, for example, are herbivores and can wreak havoc with grain and cereal crops.
If a ground beetle has found its way into your home, it’s likely to have been an accident. These bugs prefer the outdoor life, living in trees or logs, or around rocks and in sand near water.
The good news is that ground beetles can’t fly, so stopping them getting inside isn’t too tricky. Just keep doors closed (or insect screens in place) and you’re unlikely to find one setting foot over your threshold.
3. Bed bugs
There are two main species of bed bug. The one you’re most likely to find in the US is Cimex lectularius. (The other, Cimex hemipterus, is found mainly in tropical regions.)
If you look at a photo of either species, it’s easy to see why it could be mistaken for a baby roach. With its oval, reddish-brown body, six legs and long antennae, it looks a lot like a miniature version of an adult roach.
But spotting these little critters at all in real life requires excellent eyesight. They start at 1 millimeter in length – that’s just 0.04 inches. And their maximum length is just 7 millimeters, or just over a quarter of an inch.
Add to their diminutive size their preferred habitat of dark places, and finding them is a tall order. In fact, you’re more likely to see their effects.
If you’re unlucky enough to be sharing a bed with these bugs, they’ll be dining on your blood as you sleep. That means you’ll find bites on your skin. These may be itchy, and you may feel tired too. Very occasionally, people suffer more serious allergic reactions.
Getting rid of bed bugs can be tricky, not least because they can survive for as long as 70 days without food. Regularly changing your sheets, washing them at high temperatures, and vacuuming your mattress will all help.
If you’re able to do it, another option is to heat your room to at least 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping it at that temperature for at least an hour and a half will kill the bugs.
The term “termite” covers almost 3,000 different insect species. About 45 of these are found in the USA. And some of them bear more than a passing resemblance to baby roaches.
North American termite species fit into one of three categories: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. But while their exact diets vary, all of them eat wood. And that means they have the potential to be major pests if they find their way into your home.
But what do they look like? Well, that depends on the species.
Subterranean (also known as Formosan) termites come in colors from pale cream to dark brown or black. Drywood species tend to be brown or yellowish-brown, with shades varying from light tan to dark chestnut. And dampwood species –can be anything from white to orangey-brown.
They all have six legs and two antennae. And if you’ve got a termite problem in your home, the chances are you’ll be able to spot its effects on your woodwork!
Knock on timber to identify soft or hollow wood. Another common indicator is the presence of mud tubes around woodwork. These are tunnels about the same size and shape as pencils, evidence that worker termites have been tunnelling there.
Crickets don’t look a lot like cockroach nymphs. But they do look a bit like a smaller version of roaches. So if you’ve never encountered a real-life baby roach, you could be forgiven for being suspicious of the blameless cricket!
They have tube-like bodies, six legs, long antennae and two pairs of wings which lie flat. There are lots of different species of crickets, and adults range in size from about half an inch to two inches.
One easy way to distinguish them from cockroaches is to look at their back legs. If they’re much longer than the other four, you’re probably looking at a cricket. Their back legs are well developed, allowing them to leap long distances. With a roach, all six legs are about the same length.
In the USA, the cricket species you’re most likely to find indoors are the field cricket, the house cricket and the camel cricket. They tend to find their way in through cracks in foundations, or gaps around doors and windows.
So keeping your home well maintained is a good way to reduce your chances of unwanted guests. Cutting back any tall grass or weeds near the building will help too.
But the good news is that, even if they do get inside, crickets won’t cause serious problems. They don’t chomp away on your building, furniture or fabrics. And they don’t lay eggs indoors either.
So if you spot a cricket, just scoop it up and take it outside. Be warned, though – they’re excellent jumpers! Placing a glass on top of the bug and sliding some cardboard gently along the bottom edge will work as an effective trap. Then you can release it unharmed.
6. Giant water bugs
Giant water bug is the name commonly given to insects from the Belostomatidae family. Amongst their other names are toe-biters, alligator fleas, and electric light bugs!
They live in freshwater lakes and ponds, and there are more than 170 species around the world. Some of them are even considered a food delicacy in Asia.
Their exact appearance varies according to the species. But they all have flat, oval bodies, and most have flattened legs too.
Adults can be anything from a third of an inch to several inches long. Their robust exoskeletons make them look pretty tough, which may explain why they’re sometimes mistaken for roaches.
You’re unlikely to find one of these in your home unless you live near a body of freshwater. But if one does get inside, it won’t cause any harm. Just scoop it up gently and take it back outside.
7. Palo Verde beetles
The Palo Verde beetle, Daborachus hoverei, is also known as the Palo Verde root borer or the Palo Verde borer beetle. It’s a type of longhorn beetle and belongs to the Cerambycidae family. It’s found in the southwestern USA as well as in Mexico.
This beetle lays its eggs underground, and the larvae look nothing like baby roaches. They have cream or pale green bodies and brown heads.
Superficially, adult Palo Verde beetles look a bit like roaches. They have shiny bodies and long antennae. But they’re dark brown or black, rather than the reddish-brown of roaches.
They feed on fruit and nectar, and won’t cause a nuisance if they find their way indoors. If you spot one, just trap it and release it.
8. Red flour beetles
The red flour beetle comes from the family Tenebrionidae, also known by the slightly eerie name of “darkling beetles”.
Adults are much smaller than roaches – about an eighth of an inch long. And their bodies are more elongated. But they’re a similar color – usually brown or red-brown, although they can also be black.
The red flour beetle tends to live in warmer climates, so in the US it’s found mainly in the southern states. It likes to get indoors too. There, it can make a nuisance of itself if it can reach grain or cereals. It has a voracious appetite, and it’s one of the most common pests to attack grain stores.
If you find damaged grain with an unpleasant odor in your cupboards, red flour beetles may be the culprits. Just throw it away and wash containers thoroughly. Vacuum the whole area too, and keep all grains and cereals stored away in sealed jars.
Ready to identify a baby roach?
That brings us to the end of our look at some of the bugs that look like baby roaches. We hope our guide has helped clear up any confusion!
There are lots of bugs that look like they might be miniature cockroaches. In most cases, checking their color and size will be enough to tell the difference. But in a few, you might need to look more closely at features like legs or body markings.
And if you have found a baby roach, taking action as quickly as possible is the key to avoiding an infestation. Good luck!