Various types of insects are frequently mistaken for cockroaches. Beetles, for instance, are often believed to be roaches because of their hard shells and antennae. It helps to know what characteristics distinguish cockroaches from other insects. Cockroaches are known to carry human pathogens, such as Salmonella, which can result in human diseases. Other types of insects, while sometimes disturbing, are less dangerous.
Although many people refer to cockroaches as water bugs, water bugs and cockroaches are two different insect species. Water bugs resemble cockroaches because their bodies are oval-shaped and they are brownish-green in color. Like some species of cockroaches, water bugs also have wings. Cockroaches enjoy gathering in warm, moist places, but they are not aquatic. Cockroaches can vary in color but are often brown or dark colored. Cockroaches have six long, spiny legs and water bugs have two pairs of legs, a small set and a large pair.
Commonly mistaken for cockroaches, ground beetles are one of the most populous type of beetles in North America. Ground beetles are usually brown or black. Similar to the cockroach, they are flattened insects with shiny hard shells. But brown beetles are generally smaller than the cockroach, averaging from an eighth-inch to a half-inch. American cockroaches range from 1 to 2 inches in length. Ground beetles are not harmful to people nor a threat to food.
Because of their size, color and wings, leaf-footed bugs can resemble a flying cockroach. Leaf-footed bugs are usually found on walls and windowsills and tend to pop up in the late summer to early fall. The bugs are about 1 inch long and are brown with white markings on the margins of their folded wings. Leaf-footed bugs do not typically harm humans or houseplants but they are known to damage nut trees such as almond or pistachio.
House crickets are just under an inch long, with hard shells and light yellowish-brown coloring. House crickets have wings that cover their abdomens like some cockroach species. Some house crickets have long hind wings but shed them. Like males of other cricket species, male house crickets make chirping sounds by rubbing their legs together. Generally house crickets are not harmful to humans. A key difference between house crickets and cockroaches, is that house crickets have three dark transverse bands on the top of their heads and between their eyes.
Alicia Gallegos is a journalist in northwestern Indiana. She previously wrote for the "American Medical News, "a Chicago-based health newspaper published by the American Medical Association. She began her career at the South Bend Tribune, where she covered public safety, courts, food safety, education and health care.