Waterbugs Vs Cockroaches: How To Tell The Difference

Cockroaches and waterbugs are two entirely different types of insects, but they are often mistaken based on their appearance. The most common species of waterbug is the giant waterbug, also known as toe biter, electric-light bug, or alligator tick. There are two species of cockroaches that are often mistaken for waterbugs: the reddish-brown American roach and the shiny black oriental roach. For effective cockroach and waterbug control, there are a few things you need to know.


Most species of waterbugs are relatively large and at least 3.8 cm long, unlike common house cockroaches which are always smaller than waterbugs and about half an inch large. 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. Their bodies are oval-shaped and flat, and both species have antennae and wings. Waterbugs have piercing mouth parts and a short, pointed beak on the underside of the head.


As their name suggests, waterbugs are most commonly found living in water sources or near them. Besides water, their habitats can be rotting materials, such as leaves and debris. Adult waterbugs can’t breathe underwater so they come to the surface for air. Cockroaches live in humid locations, but they don’t go near the water on purpose. Both of these insects can enter your home through cracks, holes, or pipes that lead indoors and exit through drains.


Cockroaches are scavengers and opportunistic eaters who can eat a large variety of products and foods like leather, bread, flakes of dried skin, dead animals, fermented food, and much more. They primarily consume plant-based food sources but they can easily adapt to any food source available to them. Waterbugs, on the other hand, are often known to kill insects, small fish, frogs, and other small vertebrates. This is what led waterbugs to evolve front legs that can grasp prey.

Bite Risk

Adult giant waterbugs use their clawed front legs to capture larger prey species. They are also capable of biting humans, but only if provoked or if their habitat is disturbed. Their bites can be painful, but rarely have any adverse effects; however, rarely someone has an allergic reaction to a waterbug bite, which requires immediate medical attention. There are no confirmed cases of cockroaches biting people.

How to Get Rid of Waterbugs and Cockroaches

Waterbug control focuses on reducing unnecessary water sources to prevent these insects from spreading. Cockroach control usually includes hygienic sanitation practices, like removing clutter and garbage and setting up traps. A cockroach or waterbug infestation can get out of hand quickly because these insects spread really fast, so your best hope is to call a pest control professional to tackle the problem.

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