What Do Cockroaches Look Like?

Cockroaches are oval insects of the order Blattaria, meaning ‘shun the light.’ If you ever switched on the light in an infested kitchen, in the middle of the night, you wouldn’t wonder about the meaning!


Typical of insects, cockroaches have an exoskeleton and a 3-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen).  

A shield-like pronotum covers their small heads. Their mouths face down and backward, and their jaws move from side to side as opposed to up and down.

Palpi in their mouth enable them to taste food without having to eat it first.

Though they have compound eyes in the form of light sensors on top of their head, it is their long, whip-like antennae that continually scan the environment, enabling them to taste, smell, feel and locate water.  

cockroach anatomy

The thorax is home to 3 pairs of legs and a pair of wings. Each of the legs has claws and spiny hairs with which to hold onto surfaces and climb walls.

The legs also have vibration sensors. Not many cockroaches use their wings for flying, however.

The abdomen is the largest body-part and has motion detectors on the rear end.

Its overlapping sections give it an armor-like look. Cockroaches have a simple heart, clear blood and breathe through holes located on top of the thorax. Their brain is like a nerve running the length of their bodies.

Cockroach Habits

Cockroaches are nocturnal, omnivorous insects that mostly inhabit damp places.

Most are black or brown, but a few yellow, green and red species inhabit the tropics. Cockroaches are 6 -7.6 cm long.

Their flat bodies enable them to hide in the tiniest of cracks, and their waxy bodies prevent them from drowning.  They eat everything organic, including feces.

Their oviparous females are fertilized once in their lifetime and can lay up to 50 eggs in 3 weeks. Cockroach young are adult-look-alikes, pale in color and without wings.

Types Of Cockroaches

There are over 4000 cockroach species in the world, but only 35 of these interact with humans. The four most common types of cockroaches are:

The American Cockroach                                

This species is found throughout the United States particularly around pipes and drains in sewers and basements. It’s the largest house-infesting cockroach type.

american cockroach

The German Cockroach                                                               

This species is found throughout the US. The roach prefers warm and humid places in the house.  

It is common in kitchens, bathrooms and generally wherever people eat and drink. It’s the most common of cockroaches and has been implicated in the spread of diseases. It’s also the smallest of the four.

german cockroach

The Oriental Cockroach

These are large, dark and shiny roaches common in the northern areas of the US.

They inhabit leaf piles, firewood, and sewers, entering houses through drains and hide in crevices and basements. Because of inhabiting drains, they are sometimes called ‘water bug.’

Their dark, shiny color has also earned them the name ‘black beetle cockroaches.’ They cause quite a stink and are thought to be amongst the dirtiest cockroaches.

Oriental Cockroach

The Brown Banded Cockroach

This species is found all over the US. The roaches prefer warmer, drier and warmer locations of a room, compared to other species.

They hide in upper cabinets and rooms other than the kitchen and bathroom, and they lay their eggs under furniture.

brown banded cockroaches


Cockroaches are versatile, prolific breeders. Apart from the ‘icky’ feeling associated with seeing a bug crawling in your home, they can carry pathogens into our homes.

They leave a stink in their wake and are associated with allergy attacks.  All the same, some people keep them as pets.

Did you know it is possible to completely eliminate roaches from your home? learn more here.

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