Cockroaches That Look Like Bed Bugs – 3 Common Examples


Have you ever wondered if cockroaches can look like bed bugs and how to tell them apart if so?

It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but knowing the difference between a bed bug and a cockroach will let you know which you’re dealing with so that you can better handle it.

If you’re trying to work out whether you have a cockroach infestation or a bed bug infestation, you should know that three common types of cockroaches can look like bed bugs when they are in their nymph form – German cockroaches, Oriental cockroaches, and American cockroaches. All of these are easy to confuse with bed bugs.

In this article, we are going to explore:

  • German cockroaches and why they look like bed bugs
  • Oriental cockroaches and why they look like bed bugs
  • American cockroaches and why they look like bed bugs
  • Some key strategies for telling them apart
  • What to do if you have cockroaches in your bed

Example One: German Cockroaches

German cockroach

German cockroaches are an extremely common pest, and they are the one that many people think of when they picture a cockroach, although most people don’t realize it.

They have evolved to be almost completely dependent on living near people, so you will almost always see this species around human habitation, rather than anywhere in the wild.

The adults are between ten and fifteen millimeters long, and they are usually a medium brown with two darker brown bands running from the front of the head to the back.

Adults look nothing like bed bugs, but the nymphs of this species look a lot like bed bugs.

Cockroach nymphs

They are fairly similar in size and shape, although bed bugs have a redder shade than most German cockroach nymphs. The cockroach nymphs also possess two long antennae, which a bed bug will not have (at least not visibly; they do have very tiny antennae).

Cockroach nymphs may be larger than a bed bug, but not significantly, so it will be hard to tell them apart if you don’t have two specimens side by side.

Both are oval in shape, sport six legs, and will flee at the first sign that you have noticed them.

They will quickly hide in a crack or crevice, although German cockroach nymphs can move more quickly than bed bugs on the whole, and they tend to be harder to catch.

Neither species will make themselves obvious, and will mostly come out when you are asleep.

If you have spotted a small, oval bug in or near your bed (or other soft furnishings), check whether it has antennae. This is the best way to figure out what you are dealing with.

Example Two: Oriental Cockroaches

Oriental cockroach

The nymph of an Oriental cockroach is also pretty easy to confuse with an adult bed bug, although there are again some differences if you look closely at both creatures.

The nymphs also look rather like the adult of the species, but an adult Oriental cockroach will be around 26-30 millimeters long, so it is enormous compared with a bed bug (only around five to seven millimeters long usually).

Again, therefore, it is usually only the nymphs that are confused with bed bugs, but it is easy to see why. Nymphs are medium brown, shiny, and again have six legs that look like a bed bug’s legs.

Bed bug

The antennae of a nymph Oriental cockroach are much less pronounced than those of a German cockroach, meaning it is not so easy to tell Oriental nymphs apart from bed bugs by looking at this feature.

That said, the body of a nymph Oriental cockroach does tend to be glossier and shinier than the body of a bed bug. It may also be a little wider, but otherwise, it is pretty challenging to tell the difference between these two unwelcome insects.

You may be able to do so with a microscope or by shining a bright light on them, but in general, both bugs will have escaped before you have the opportunity to do this.

Like the German cockroach, the Oriental cockroach will flee from any sign that a human has noticed it.

Oriental cockroaches are slightly less common in homes than German cockroaches, but you may still have an infestation of these.

Example Three: American Cockroaches

American cockroach

An American cockroach nymph can also look extraordinarily like an adult bed bug, although the adult American cockroach is again far too big to allow for this confusion.

A nymph is medium brown and has no wings (unlike the adult), but does have long antennae.

The antennae are often a good way to tell the difference between cockroach nymphs and bed bugs, as they are more visible in this species than in Oriental cockroach nymphs.

It is not easy to tell the nymphs apart from bed bugs unless you can look at the antennae, especially as the ridges and bands across the back of the cockroach look very like those found on a bed bug.

Bed bug

American cockroaches are common pests, so you may well see them in your home at times.

That said, they do generally prefer to be outdoors, so you may find that you only see them indoors when outdoor conditions are particularly bad.

If your area is experiencing a drought, floods, extreme cold or extreme heat, you are more likely to find these cockroaches indoors.

Again, with six legs, elongated bodies, and their brown color, they can look amazingly like bed bugs, although they are often slightly longer, especially before bed bugs have fed.

Bed bugs are usually rounded before their first meal, and then become long and thin after they have begun to suck blood.

How To Tell Them Apart From Bed Bugs

Although they can look quite similar, it isn’t too hard to tell cockroach nymphs apart from bed bugs, and below, you’ll find a breakdown of the things to look for:

Look At The Antennae

Sometimes, if you get a good look, you can tell cockroach nymphs apart from bed bugs by the length of the antennae. A bed bug does not have visible antennae (although it does have antennae that can be seen under a microscope), but most cockroach nymphs do have visible antennae.

Pay Attention To How Fast They Run

In general, a cockroach nymph can outpace a bed bug with very little competition.

Cockroaches are much better adapted to running, and although both will run when they see you, cockroach nymphs are much more likely to prove difficult to catch. Bed bugs, although they will scuttle off, are quite a lot slower.

Look At The Behavior

Another big difference lies in how the two insects behave.

Bed bugs, because they feed on human blood, tend to hang around the places that you sit or lie down. They usually inhabit soft furnishings such as beds and couches, and they will want to be close to you.

Cockroaches, by contrast, tend to avoid humans on the whole. They do depend upon human habitation for food (especially German cockroaches), but they do not directly depend on being close to people.

You are only likely to find cockroach nymphs in or around your bed if you have a source of food in there to attract them.

Cockroaches do not generally feed on people or their blood, so they have no reason to enter a bedroom or living room unless there is other food to draw them in.

Very hungry cockroaches may approach people to eat hair or dead skin, but this is unusual.

On the whole, therefore, you will not see cockroaches in your bed unless you eat there. If you regularly eat cookies or other food and you spill crumbs, you are more likely to draw cockroaches in, but if you don’t eat in your bedroom, they are extremely unlikely to be found in the bed.

Check For Bites

One of the most obvious differences between cockroaches and bed bugs is that you will soon start noticing bites if you have bed bugs, but you will not with cockroaches.

Some cockroaches can bite people, but they will only do so defensively, rather than as a source of food.

If you are noticing itchy, red, sore marks on your body, you likely have bed bugs, especially if the number of marks increases overnight.

If you do not have marks but you consistently see little insects, it is likely to be nymph cockroaches.

What Should You Do About Cockroaches In Your Bed?

If you think cockroaches are inhabiting your home, you should eliminate all sources of food and thoroughly clean your home.

Cockroaches need food, and will pick up any scraps that they find, including dust and bits of debris, as well as dropped crumbs.

They also need water, so fixing any dripping taps or damp spots is important for getting rid of them.


Cockroach nymphs and bed bugs can look pretty similar, although cockroach nymphs do tend to have longer and more visible antennae.

Some cockroach nymphs may be a little shinier, but they are usually close in terms of shape and size.

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

Cockroaches That Look Like Crickets – Easy To Miss

11 Tips to Prevent American Cockroaches

15 Unusual Facts about Cockroaches that will Keep you up at Night

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

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