A Water Bug Identification Guide (with Pictures) - Cockroach Facts (2022)

Saw a big brown water bug crawling underneath your sink? You’ve heard of these pests but might not have cared about them before. Now you want to figure out exactly what you’ve found.

Water bug identification can be a little bit confusing. Not just because there are different types of water bugs. But because there’s conflicting information.

In this short guide, you’ll learn how to tell these insects apart, and what to do to stop them.

Let’s take a look!

Are Water Bugs and Cockroaches the Same?

Yes and no.

“Water bug” is indeed a term many people use to refer to cockroaches. But it usually doesn’t refer to all cockroaches, just the peridomestic roaches (the American, Oriental, and smokybrown roaches) that prefer to live outdoors.

(Video) 8 Different Types Of Cockroaches With Pictures | Cockroach Identification

These roaches don’t live in water, but in close proximity to it—in the moist trash dumps, wet sewers, and humid compost around our homes. When these harborages get disrupted or the weather gets too bad, the roaches there may go in search of better conditions, sometimes ending up inside our homes.

There’s another type of water bug however, which isn’t a cockroach—the giant water bug, and it’s not a threat inside your home. Let’s look at that outlier first then ID the cockroach/water bugs one by one.

The Giant Water Bug (Isn’t Interested in Your House)

A Water Bug Identification Guide (with Pictures) - Cockroach Facts (1)

The giant water bug (Lethocerus americanus) a member of the order Hemiptera, is altogether different from any cockroach you’ve ever seen. Also called the “toe biter” or “electric light bug,” it’s sometimes seen crawling on porch lights, but seldom makes its way inside.


  • Size: 2–4 inches in length
  • Color: Grayish dark brown, similar to a dead leaf
  • Range: Across North America, especially southern Canada and the U.S.
  • Habitat: Fresh water, including ponds, streams and the edges of lakes
  • Risks: A giant water bug has been known to bite humans when handled.

American Cockroaches (The American Water Bug)

A Water Bug Identification Guide (with Pictures) - Cockroach Facts (2)

American cockroaches are the insects most commonly referred to as water bugs.

They’re large—in fact the largest pest cockroach in the United States. Both males and females are capable of flight, but are not good flyers. They live in dark, damp places but like other roaches below, don’t live in water. They’re scavengers with terrible eating habits, feeding on trash, waste and other decaying organic material.


  • Size: 1.5–2 inches in length.
  • Color: Reddish brown with yellow markings behind its head.
  • Range: Across the U.S., in areas both urban and rural.
  • Habitat: Outdoors in dark, warm, damp environments, such as sewers and drain pipes; indoors in kitchens and bathrooms, near food and water.
  • Risks: American cockroaches are known to carry dangerous bacteria and allergens that can contaminate your home. If left unchecked, they can infest in large numbers, cause damage, and put your family’s health at risk.

The American Water Bug Nymph

American cockroach nymphs measure 1/8 inch long when born, and throughout their maturation, look like miniature adults (minus wings). They take 600 days to reach adulthood.

Oriental Cockroaches

A Water Bug Identification Guide (with Pictures) - Cockroach Facts (3)

The Oriental cockroach is found in cooler locations with lots of moisture. Unlike other pest roaches, it’s slow-moving, a poor climber, and doesn’t fly.

Its exoskeleton is dark brown to black in color, with a glossy sheen. It has a squatter shape than the American cockroach, and has significantly smaller wings (females’ are almost invisible).


  • Size: 1–1.5 inches
  • Color: Shiny dark brown or black
  • Range: Around the world, especially the northwest, midwest and southern U.S.
  • Habitat: Cool, humid environments, like basements, piping, laundry rooms and dumpsters.
  • Risks: An Oriental roach can lay 115 eggs per year, so the risk of infestation is high. They can survive on garbage and unsealed food, spreading widely in homes via pipes and cracks in walls. The bacteria they carry can cause stomach illnesses. They also produce a musty stench that’s difficult to eliminate.

The Oriental Water Bug Nymph

Like other roaches, Oriental cockroach nymphs look like smaller, albeit completely wingless versions of the adults. Oriental roach nymphs take about a year to reach adulthood.

(Video) Insects | Educational Videos for Kids

Smokybrown Cockroaches

A Water Bug Identification Guide (with Pictures) - Cockroach Facts (4)

Smokybrown cockroaches are strong flyers that are attracted to lights. They sometimes follow lights into living spaces, but more frequently end up in garages, crawl spaces, and attics, where they need a humid environment to survive.

Smokybrowns have long shiny wings and bodies that are uniformly brown.


  • Size: 1.25–1.5 inches
  • Color: Uniform dark or mahogany brown
  • Range: Across the U.S., especially the Southeast
  • Habitat: Warm, humid areas, like attics, water meter boxes sewer access openings and roof shingles
  • Risks: Smokybrown roaches can spread if left alone, damaging photos and important documents as they feed and lay egg cases. Attics are especially problematic..

Smokybrown Cockroach Nymphs

Smokybrown nymphs are wingless and have distinctive markings—a pair of white stripes on the front half of their bodies and white-tipped antennae. Smokybrown cockroach nymphs take 320 days to reach adulthood.

Not to Be Confused with a Water Bug: The German Cockroach.

A Water Bug Identification Guide (with Pictures) - Cockroach Facts (5)

Now, a German cockroach is not a water bug by any definition. But these roaches are such widespread household pests that some people lump them all together.

The German cockroach is an indoor species, unlike all of the other bugs on this list. It’s much tinier, capable of hiding in the loose seams of wooden furniture and the electronics inside appliances. They come inside by riding in bags, boxes and clothing.

German roaches multiply extremely quickly and, because they’re so tiny, they could establish a colony before you’ve even seen a roach. They’re considered by many pest control professionals to be the most difficult species to control.


  • Size: 0.5 inches
  • Color: Light brown, tan or golden with a pair of dark, vertical stripes on its back
  • Range: Across the U.S., in close proximity to people
  • Habitat: Warm, humid areas of homes, businesses and shared living complexes
  • Risks: High risk of infestation. German cockroaches can hide and breed in countless places, allowing them to multiply quickly and spread dangerous bacteria around your home. German roach skins and droppings can trigger allergies and asthma, too.

If you think that you’re dealing with these pests, jump over to our step-by-step guide to getting rid of German roaches.

German Cockroach Nymphs

Baby German cockroaches look like miniature versions of the adults but lack wings.

You’ll notice the pair of dark stripes running from head to rear cerci. A German roach nymph that’s just hatched or molted might appear gray or white. When it’s born, it’s only about the size of a grain of rice. It takes a mere 60 days to reach adulthood, increasing the risk of a cockroach infestation.

(Video) Pest Control Cockroaches: Facts, Identification & Control


While roaches aren’t the only kind of water bug, they’re usually the ones that cause problems. They’re also (for most folks) not just any kind of roach, but one of several outdoor species. Each with unique risks and challenges.

Water bug identification is an important first step. You’ll want the next to be about action.

Head over to our water bug control guide to learn how to get rid of different types of water bugs permanently. There, we’ll show you how to create a roach-free home in four simple steps. To help you say—

Goodbye, water bugs!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are water bugs and roaches the same thing?

A true water bug—the giant water bug—isn’t a cockroach at all. However, most people who talk about water bugs are actually talking about one of several species of outdoor cockroaches (see above).

What’s the difference between a water bug and a roach?

Water bugs and roaches are different types of insects. The giant water bug is the largest “true bug” and a member of the order Hemiptera. It’s an aggressive, aquatic predator but not a household pest. Don’t handle one, though; you definitely don’t want a painful water bug bite.

A roach, on the other hand, is a potentially harmful pest in homes and businesses. It’s an insect of the order Blattodea. It inhabits damp, humid environments but doesn’t live in water.

(Video) Bugs that look like Cockroaches 😃Learn the top 4 Roach imposters in this short Summary!- 😃 #shorts

Do water bugs eat roaches?

Giant water bugs, like Lethocerus americanus, hunt many kinds of small prey, from tadpoles and fish to crustaceans and snakes. They also eat other insects, though cockroaches aren’t a common staple of their diet because roaches live on dry land.

How big are water bugs?

(Video) How To Identify Cockroaches In The USA | German, Oriental, American Cockroaches

Giant water bugs grow as long as 4 inches, with large front legs and a wide, oval-shaped body. The cockroaches typically called “water bugs” range from 1–2 inches in length.


  1. Gray, Betty. Giant Water Bug. Texas A&M: Beneficials in the Garden & Landscape. Retrieved from https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-55_giant_water_bug.htm
  2. Choate, Paul M. (2019) Giant water bugs, electric light bugs. University of Florida Entomology. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bugs/giant_water_bugs.htm
  3. 2019 State of the Cockroach Control Market (2019) Zoecon/Central Life Sciences.
  4. Giant Water Bug. (2020) U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/articles/giant-water-bug.htm


How can you tell a cockroach from a water bug? ›

The only roach similar in size to a waterbug is the American roach, but you can differentiate it from a waterbug by its yellowish figure-eight pattern on the back of the head. Cockroaches are typically light tan to dark brown in color, while waterbugs are tan to black, but their colors won't be of much help.

Why are cockroaches called water bugs? ›

Although many people refer to various cockroach species as waterbugs, the true water bug is an aquatic insect classified under the order Hemiptera. Water boatmen and water scorpions are true bugs that live in water. Their legs are used as paddles to move through water.

Are water bugs and cockroaches different? ›

Water bugs are most commonly confused with cockroaches. The two insects bear a certain resemblance to each other, but there are key differences. Water bugs pack a powerful bite, but they are not the pest that cockroaches are.

What is a water bug look like? ›

Water bugs are typically grayish or brown in color with an oval-shaped body but they don't have the identifying antennas of a cockroach. The one cockroach that is commonly mistaken for a water bug is the Oriental cockroach.

Do water roaches fly? ›

It's also important to note that most cockroaches and water bugs can fly, says O'Neal. However, the oriental cockroach, which is most commonly mistaken for a water bug, cannot. In fact, female oriental cockroaches don't even have wings, according to Changlu Wang, Ph.

Do water bugs fly? ›

Water bugs fly between bodies of water during mating season, and they may be attracted to lights on porches or in parking lots.

What do water bugs eat? ›

Behavior and Feeding. Giant water bugs prey on a surprising variety of aquatic life, including tadpoles, small fishes, insects, and other arthropods. Some are known to kill prey many times their own size. Grasping victims by “raptorial” front legs, they inject venomous digestive saliva into their prey.

Do Water Bugs have 6 legs? ›

Insect Size and Appearance

Oriental and American Cockroaches have the typical external shell that is either a shiny black or reddish brown while Waterbugs. They have 6 six legs and a pair of antennae. Water bugs have a much varied appearance coming in brown, greenish brown.

What causes water bugs? ›

Waterbugs are attracted to damp, moist areas, and they are also very attracted to old food and garbage. In other words, if you're noticing waterbugs in your home, that's probably an alarm that you aren't cleaning enough.

Where do water bugs come from? ›

Often, they are found in places where organic material is decomposing, like under objects that are outside, especially trash cans, or in mulch or compost. These water bugs are also attracted to sewer pipes and septic tanks. Anywhere dead plants and leaves have collected and are rotting, water bugs may be found.

Is an American cockroach a water bug? ›

What is An American Cockroach? The American cockroach is the largest of the house-infesting roaches and a major pest in the United States. It's also commonly known as the water bug, the Bombay canary or the palmetto bug.

What are the different types of water bugs? ›

Giant water bugs

What bug looks like a cockroach? ›

Beetles look similar to cockroaches but have shorter legs and antennae. Because both types of bugs can have similar coloring, it can be easy to confuse beetles for cockroaches and vice versa.

Do water bugs play dead? ›

Water bugs also hide or play dead, but they're known for biting as well. When a water bug bites, it injects digestive enzymes and extracts liquefied tissue.

Can water bugs jump? ›

There are many different large water bugs, but the only water bugs that jump are known as water striders or pond skaters. These bugs can jump several inches in the air and can annoy pool-goers by skating and jumping across pool surfaces, drawing nearby bug predators with their very presence.

Do water bugs make noise? ›

Because the insect lives underwater, most of the sound is lost when transferring from water to air. However, the water bug's song is still loud enough to be heard by a person walking along the banks of a pond or river. Most of the loudest animals on Earth are also the largest.

What bug looks like a cockroach but isn t? ›

Cricket. Crickets (family Gryllidae) are sometimes mistaken for cockroaches but there are important differences between the two. Crickets range in color from brown to black, much like some cockroach species. They also have long antennae.

What colour is cockroach blood? ›

Cockroaches do not have red blood because they do not use hemoglobin to carry oxygen. They do not carry oxygen in their blood stream either. Most cockroach's blood is colorless.

What does cockroach poop look like? ›

Roach droppings look like specks of pepper, coffee grounds, or dark grains of rice. The size of the feces is directly related to the size of the cockroach. Bigger insects produce larger droppings.

Are water bugs poisonous? ›

Water bugs will bite people if they are carelessly handled. They will also sometimes bite people as they wade through ponds and streams, earning them the nickname "toe biters." Giant water bugs are not dangerous to humans, but they inject a mild poison into the prey that they capture.

Can water bugs climb walls? ›

It's important to check exterior walls, windows and doors, too. You're looking for openings just half an inch wide through which water bugs can crawl.

Are water bugs scared of light? ›

Both cockroaches and water bugs come out at night to forage for food and water. However, unlike cockroaches who are scared of bright lights, water bugs are attracted to them and sometimes stray into houses at night.

What looks like a cockroach but isn t? ›

Some bugs that look like roaches but aren't include crickets, water bugs, and certain beetles.

Why am I getting water bugs in my house? ›

Waterbugs are attracted to damp, moist areas, and they are also very attracted to old food and garbage. In other words, if you're noticing waterbugs in your home, that's probably an alarm that you aren't cleaning enough.

What kills water bugs instantly? ›

Use borax or boric acid—These natural elements will destroy a water bug's digestive tract, killing them from the inside out. Sprinkle a thin dusting of borax or boric acid in your basement, under sinks, and other areas where you've seen water bugs.

Are there bugs that look like cockroaches? ›

Ground beetles are one of the few bugs that look like cockroaches due to their similarities and are often mistaken with them. They have the same deep red or brownish exterior and a wide, winged frame. For this reason, differentiating ground beetles from cockroaches can be a challenge.

Water roaches might not sound like fearsome pests but if they get into your house, they can cause lots of trouble.. What causes these bugs to invade homes and what can you do to stop them?. Let’s explore what attracts water roaches and list the steps you can take to keep them out.. Three species of water cockroach: The American cockroach, Oriental cockroach, and smokybrown.Before we get into the details, we have to straighten this out: a water cockroach isn’t a kind of bug that’s “sort of, but not really,” a cockroach.. It is a cockroach.. Seriously—they infest homes both clean and dirty, as long as there’s a little food and… the number one reason they move indoors…. They might be outdoor bugs to begin with, but once inside, water roaches make themselves at home.. Spread mulch thinly so that it dries more quickly and disappoints lazy invaders looking for an easy hiding place.. You can sprinkle it inside and outside, wherever you want to create a deadly barrier for bugs.. Armed with the steps above, along with a little time and effort, you should be able to stop most water cockroach problem in their tracks.. Why do I have cockroaches in my home?. 10 Cockroach Hiding Spaces.

We’ll introduce you to the most common types of roaches in Florida and kickstart your pest control battle plan with some pro tools and tips.. The American cockroach: the huge flying cockroach Florida natives call the “Palmetto Bug.” About Anyone native to the south, knows this roach as the “palmetto bug,” and indeed, it’s a fact of life in the humid Florida climate.. Appearance The American roach measures between 2 and 3 inches long, making it one of the largest pests in Florida.. The American cockroach is in fact one of several flying roaches in Florida, and has a way of startling even long-time residents as some will occasionally fly right at you.. About Smokybrown cockroaches are some of the most prevalent flying roaches in Florida.. About Of the various types of cockroaches in Florida, the German cockroach is arguably the most destructive.. Appearance At about 1/2 inch long, it’s the smallest roach you’ll face in Florida.. Brown-banded roaches and Asian roaches are similar in size to German roaches.. There are other roaches out there, but these three Florida cockroach species are worth a special look:. How common are roaches in Florida?. Florida woods roaches and American roaches like the safety provided by palm tree branches.. Can I break my lease because of roaches in Florida?. For so many people, enjoying the Florida lifestyle means living with Florida roaches.. Now, use the roach control tips above to start eliminating these pests and keep your home clear of cockroaches for good!

Exterminator’s Choice Insect Glue Traps With an all-natural, non-pheromone cockroach lure, Exterminator’s Choice glue traps are about as simple as glue roach traps get.. Victor Roach Pheromone Trap A variation on the basic cockroach sticky trap design, the Victor Roach Pheromone Trap includes entry points on the sides and top.. A Homemade Roach Trap with Duct Tape and Bait This easy homemade glue trap for roaches might seem way too simple to work, but don’t count it out until you see it in action.. Unlike roach sticky traps, which target roaches individually, roach bait traps have active ingredients that slowly poison the roaches that eat it, then spread to and poison the colony itself.. Roach Cookies: All-Natural DIY Roach Trap Another boric acid recipe to kill cockroaches, this one comes in the form of “cookies”—circles of dough that attract roaches with sugar and flour and kill them with the insecticide.. Hot Shot Liquid Roach Bait Traps Instead of food-scented sticky pads or powdered bait, Hot Shot Liquid Roach Baits contain—you guessed it— liquid insecticide.. They work like glue traps, attracting roaches with bait and trapping them inside.. Even if cockroach traps can be considered pet-friendly roach killers, an animal could get a sticky trap stuck to their fur, or your dog could gobble a whole trap down.. Most ant traps use the same pesticides that kill roaches— imidacloprid, fipronil and hydramethylnon, but ant traps wont use the same roach-attracting scents and pheromones that help to make roach traps so effective.

If you’ve found a dreaded cockroach or two crawling around your house, you’re no doubt wondering what in the world attracted these roaches to your home.. Usually, a person accidentally brings roaches or roach eggs in unawares.. So what causes roaches in a clean house?. Clean Clean your home of everything that roaches need to survive.. Before you vacuum these hard-to-reach areas of the home, write down every place where you find evidence of roaches ( droppings , dead roaches or a musty stench).. This powerful pest control product spreads from roach to roach, so a single drop could kill a number of the pest.. Set Long-Term Traps There’s one more way you can outsmart roaches: set long-term cockroach traps that’ll catch them before they can get settled .

Though cockroaches can live a long time without eating anything , they spend most of their time either eating or looking for food, and food drives a lot of their behavior.. So what do cockroaches eat?. If it comes from an animal or plant, chances are that cockroaches will eat it, including food that we eat and a lot of material (like paper, clothing, books, and roach droppings ) we don’t.. Your Pet’s Food All things considered, pet food is pretty close to human food (at least from a cockroach’s perspective).. Do roaches eat roaches?. At least some cockroaches eat cockroaches.. The Oriental and German cockroach will not only eat their dead (anytime), but when food is scarce – eat their eggs and young.. Do cockroaches eat dog food?. Do cockroaches eat cat food?. Do roaches like sugar?Can cockroaches get into sealed food?

If you’ve seen one cockroach or signs of a few. hanging around your home, you’re probably looking for an easy, natural solution. to deal with them before you start calling the local pest control service.. The same Auburn University study found that mint oil killed both German and American cockroaches when they came into contact with it for an extended period .. You don’t need any fancy equipment to start; just mix 10 to 15 drops of the pure peppermint. essential oil with water in a spray bottle .. (You can also use other kinds. of mint essential oil as they’ll also contain menthone.). That way, when the roaches are most active,. your peppermint oil repellent is at its strongest.. Tip: If you’re also using baits to kill cockroaches, don’t spray. peppermint oil on the baits.. You might think it’ll make the baits more. effective but because peppermint oil is also an insect repellent , it will instead convince roaches to avoid the baits.. Like all pest control solutions, it depends on your specific. circumstances, the size of your roach problem and the way you apply the. treatment.

This kind of roach motel doesn’t kill with sticky surfaces, but with a bait —a potent insecticide disguised as food.. Then when you get there, examining surfaces for the obvious signs that cockroaches leave behind .. The right roach motel—glue or bait—depends on what you need it to do.. Do roach motels attract more roaches?. Sticky motels like Exterminator’s Choice or Black Flag for example, should continue to attract roaches for a few months or more, or until they fill up and there are no sticky surfaces left.. Roach Trap and Bait Placement Guide.

Many people go their whole lives and never hear about voles, but if you have a vole infestation, you know that these little rodents are no minor issue.. Purchasing the EasySet Vole Eliminator Trap will eliminate any need for poisons or chemicals on your lawn, making them a more environmentally friendly option–but a very unfriendly one to the voles.. Vole Activity Voles are especially active during the springtime.. Vole Invasions: Preventing an Infestation Instead of waiting until you have a real vole infestation, you are probably better off taking preventative measures.. Relocating Live Trapped Voles If your vole-removal tactics utilize live trapping systems, it will naturally fall to you to properly relocate them into a safe environment where they’ll be far away from your garden and plants.


1. Cockroaches - Las Vegas Pest Control Tip of the Week
(Mountain View Pest Control)
2. Cockroach Monday | Ep.1 | Identification | Easily identify your roach problem
(Green Akers Pest Control LLC)
3. Insects Names in English for Kids - Insects names with pictures - Learn Insects Names
(Baby Trainer)
4. Names of Insects | 15 Types of Insects for Children | Kid2teentv
(Kid2teen Tv)
5. German Cockroach (Blattella germanica)
6. 12 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Cockroaches Permanently

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Fredrick Kertzmann

Last Updated: 04/06/2022

Views: 6477

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fredrick Kertzmann

Birthday: 2000-04-29

Address: Apt. 203 613 Huels Gateway, Ralphtown, LA 40204

Phone: +2135150832870

Job: Regional Design Producer

Hobby: Nordic skating, Lacemaking, Mountain biking, Rowing, Gardening, Water sports, role-playing games

Introduction: My name is Fredrick Kertzmann, I am a gleaming, encouraging, inexpensive, thankful, tender, quaint, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.