The Color of Cockroaches – Red, White, Brown and MANY more!

There are more than 3,500 known species of cockroaches in the world. They are unwelcome guests in our homes and gardens – the general impression being that they carry filth and diseases to us.

Roaches have been on the world for over 300 million years and are known to survive in a wide range of environments, though most are attracted to warmth, shelter and proximity to wood – which is why they are found in buildings and average homes.

There are some 40 commonly known species of roaches found in North America, with a higher concentration in warmer climates in the Southern US and Mexico.

An insect census undertaken by the New York Times in 1986 had concluded that there were 26,000 roaches per low-income household in the Southeastern US. Other studies have put the number higher.

Unlike other species, such as beetles or butterflies, roaches are usually known to inhabit dark, dingy places and often be nocturnal. As a result, people don’t spend a lot of time enthusing about the color of a roach – it’s not as important as the shimmering iridescence that unfolds as a butterfly or moth flaps its wings in the sun (say).

However, roaches do come in from vivid colors – red, yellow, brown, black and even green being some of them. Some rarer colors, such as pink, do emerge at times.

Where do the colors come from? There are two types of colors found on roaches: (a) natural pigmentation, which is the major source of coloration and (b) structural colors.

Natural pigmentation stays the same whenever or wherever you see it, though many roaches have multi-layered stacks on top of their underlying elytra and inner wings.

But the angle at which light hits the body will cause the structural colors to change – a shimmering effect we call iridescence. The reason roaches do not flash iridescent colors often is that they are not frequently seen in sunlight. So, most discussions about roach coloration will focus on natural pigmentation.

1. Can Roaches Be Brown?

By kulmalukko - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Brown pigmentation is very common in roaches, and the colors range from light-brown/tan, to reddish-brown to dark brown or brownish-black. As a result, there will be species that are classified under one color, that could also be listed under a different color. Mention will be made from time to time when such is the case.

a)  Are Brown Roaches Rare?

Brown cockroaches are extremely common, starting the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), also known as the Palmetto Bug, Bombay Canary of Water Bug.

Its cousin, the Australian Cockroach (Periplaneta australasiae), looks similar but is a different species. A less common, but well-known item for pet owners, is the Giant Burrowing Cockroach (Macropanesthia rhinoceros), also known as the Rhinoceros Cockroach, Queensland Giant Cockroach or Litter Bug.

Many giant cockroaches belong to a family called Blaberus – our next brown specimen, Blaberus discoidalis, comes from it. It is known variously as the Discoid Cockroach, the West Indian Leaf Cockroach, Haitian Cockroach or the False Deaths Head Cockroach.

The Central American Giant Cave Cockroach (Blaberus giganteus), also known as the Brazilian Cockroach, are one of the largest roaches in the world and is one of the oldest known species, evolved as close cousins of insects from 200+ million years ago.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Roach?

American roaches are large, up to an inch and a half in length (though they can grow above 2″ in length) – they are considered to be the largest known household bug in the US. They are reddish brown with a yellowish figure 8 pattern at the back of the head.

Both male and female can fly. The Giant Burrowing Cockroach is the heaviest cockroach in the world, growing above 3″ in size and up to 30-35 grams in weight. It is the only cockroach in the world to permanently burrow down in the earth to a depth of up to a meter.

Adult males and females are dark brown in color – they don’t have wings and therefore are less mobile. The False Death’s Head Cockroach is between 1.5 to 2″ in length and is tan to dark brown with a black patch in its frontal segment. It gets its name due to it resembling Blaberus cranifier, the Death’s Head Cockroach.

The Central American Giant Cave Cockroach can be identified by its size (growing between 3-4″ in length), as well as its flattened body which helps it hide in cracks of underground caves. It is light tan or brown in color, with black markings.

The Australian Cockroach is sometimes mistaken for the American one – it is light reddish brown in color but is (a) smaller in size, and (b) has distinct yellow markings in its head shield, a yellow margin in its thorax and yellow streaks at its sides. It can fly quite capably.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Brown cockroaches can be found everywhere. For example, American cockroaches, which were not native to the Americas but thought to be introduced through ships plying from Africa in the early 17th century, are now found worldwide.

The Australian Cockroach probably came from similar areas in Africa and is now found in warmer climates over the world – including Australia and the Southern US.

Giant Burrowing Cockroaches are found abundantly in the wild in Eastern and Southeastern Australia, especially around Queensland. False Death’s Head roaches can be found in Florida, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and major parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti.

The Central American Giant Cave Cockroach can be found in Central America and northern South America, mainly in rainforest areas – they look for high moisture and darkness, such as caves, tree hollows and cracks in rocks.

2. Can Roaches Be Red?

By Happy1892 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

As mentioned earlier, red is actually considered to be one of the most common colors for cockroaches – since even brown, yellow or orange roaches are often tending towards red in coloration.

The descriptions of roaches of such colors mentions when red is either present or dominant in the shade of brown etc. With that caveat, the cockroaches mentioned below are known for being strikingly red.

a)  Are Red Roaches Rare?

Red roaches are not rare. But the ones mentioned in this section are known for their bright or striking red color. The first one is the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa), a popular pet. The Turkestan Red Runner Roaches (Shelfordella lateralis) are another bright red roach.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Roach?

Madagascar cockroaches look unusual and very unlike other roach. They are largish (2-3 inches), shiny reddish-brown, oval shaped with no wings and a single pair of antennae.

Males sport large horns and often fight. They hiss loudly, which makes them stand out. There are some 20 hissing roaches from Madagascar. Red Runner Roaches are smaller, topping out at 1″, but their bright red colors make them stand out.

The males can fly and must be housed in a screen-top container if kept as pets or pet food.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are originally from Madagascar, as the name suggests. They have been introduced into other habitats – in the US, they are popular as pets though some states require license for pet owners to keep them.

The Red Runner Roaches are originally from Central Asia and the Middle East, but they are bought by pet owners for various purposes in the US, including as a food source for other pets (FL is a state where they cannot be sent to).

3. Can Roaches Be Yellow?

By Happy1892 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

There are a large number of roaches with yellow coloration over some or a substantial part of their bodies. The ones described here are ones that are predominantly yellow, or strikingly so.

a)  Are Yellow Roaches Rare?

Yellow being a primary pigmentation, its common to find shades of gold and yellow in roaches. For example, the common German Cockroach (Blatella germanica), which is a major pest in the US, is typically yellow.

A number of small yellow cockroach species exist in the US, including the Small Yellow Cockroach (Cariblatta lutea lutea) and the Least Yellow Cockroach (Cariblatta lutea minima).

Another tiny yellow cockroach is the Schwarz’s Hooded Cockroach (Composodes schwarzi). Another striking looking roach is the Yellow Porcelain Cockroach (Gyna lurida).

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Roach?

Gold or yellow German cockroaches are discernible by their slender bodies with two distinct bands running the length of the head and upper thorax.

The Small Yellow and Least Yellow Cockroaches are a pale brownish-yellow, with a pale brown head, a band between the eyes, and occasionally dark brown spots on the face. They are tiny, usually less than 0.25″ in size.

Schwarz’s Hooded Cockroach is striking in appearance, with a bright golden yellow body and a dark brown “hood” or head. The female Porcelain Cockroach is known for its fighting ability and porcelain-yellow coloration.

Their nymphs are an attractive blend of black and white – this species is known to be attractive to pet owners.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

German Cockroaches are found all over the world and are a major pest – especially in warm temperatures. The Small Yellow Cockroach is found in the Southeastern parts of the US and Cuba.

The Least Yellow Cockroach has only been found in Cuba and certain parts of Florida. Schwarz’s Hooded Cockroaches are found in North and Central America. The Porcelain Cockroach is originally from Africa but is sold as pets in the US and elsewhere.

4. Can Roaches Be Orange?

Orange is a natural color, which occurs due to pigmentation and is found both on open and closed wings of cockroaches. Many of the yellow, red and brown roaches may flash shades of orange. Two of the more strikingly colored cockroaches are described below.

a)  Are Orange Roaches Rare?

Orange Head Roaches (Eublaberus prosticus) are a popular item for pet owners. Another such insect is the Dubia Roach (Blaptica dubia) or the Argentine Tree Roach.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Roach?

Orange shades in roaches stand out. The Orange Head Cockroach is known for its large size (up to 3″ in length) and bright orangish head. Dubia Roaches stand out since they are largish (1.5-2″) and can be bred especially to be prominently orange.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Orange Head Cockroaches are native to Central and South America but are frequently sold as pets or pet food in the US, similar to Dubia Roaches. The latter are found in Central and South America, from Costa Rica downwards and typically in rainforest habitats.

5. Can Cockroaches Be Black?

Black pigmentation in roaches is not uncommon – though reddish-black or brownish-black may be even more common.

a)  Are Black Roaches Rare?

Genuinely black cockroaches are not as common. The Death’s Head Cockroach (Blaberus cranifier) has similar markings to the False Death’s Head cockroach, discussed above, but its coloration is much darker, easier to classify as black.

The world’s largest cockroach, the Giant Black Cockroach (Megaloblatta Longipennis) is another roach that can range from reddish-blown to grayish-black. Another giant cockroach, the Warty Glowspot Cockroach (Lucihormetica verucossa), is a unique specimen that stands out in its native habitat as well as a pet.

The Seven Spotted Cockroach (Therea petiveriana), also called the Desert Cockroach or Indian Domino Cockroach, is a particularly attractive looking species of roach.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Roach?

The Death’s Head Roach has a jet-black cloak-like marking on its wings. Some lighter coloring (brown or red) may be present right below its head, but there is a prominent amber and black marker in its uppermost segment.

They have powerful wings that can sustain flight over some distance. They are popular as pets. While the Giant Black Cockroach can have lighter colors, the most interesting specimens are those that are dark greyish-black – their sizes, which vary between 3.5-4.5″, and their color makes them stand out. Similarly, the Warty Glowspot Cockroach can veer towards dark brown in color, but the most interesting specimen are jet-black ones, with a white margin to the underside of the body, that stand out.

They have a pair of yellow spots on the head section – which could glow orange or red depending on their diet (for example, feeding carrots to your pet roaches will create the orange effect).

The Seven-spotted cockroach is predominantly grayish-black, with up to seven white spots distributed symmetrically along the two sides of the body. Its upper abdomen is orange-yellow but is hidden under the wings – giving it the look of a ground beetle that is found in the same habitat.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

The Death’s Head Cockroach is native to Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. It has been introduced into Florida and frequently sold as a pet. Me Megaloblatta Longipennis can be found in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador – often in and around rain forest habitats.

The Warty Glowspot Cockroach is native to Venezuela and Columbia. The Seven-Spotted Cockroach is found in arid, scrub-bush covered topographies in Southern India.

6. Can Roaches Be Green?

By Greg Hume - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

There are a number of lime or lemon-yellow roaches, but two green ones are described here.

a)  Are Green Roaches Rare?

The Green Banana Cockroach or the Cuban Cockroach (Panchlora nivea) is a strikingly green outdoor species that is not considered a pest. The Suriname Cockroach, or Greenhouse Cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis) is another Caribbean variety of greenish insect.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Roach?

Typically, green roaches are easy to identify. The Green Banana Cockroach is lime-green to yellow green in color and can stand out even with a modest size. The Suriname Cockroach develops a sort of metallic green exterior shell as it develops into an adult.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Green Banana Cockroaches were originally from Cuba and the Caribbean, and the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. Suriname Cockroaches developed in the Indonesian-Malaysian region, but have spread throughout the world, including the Southeastern US.

7. Can Roaches Be White, Grey or Albino?

White or Albino cockroaches are not normal, but every roach goes through a stage where it is in fact white or grey. This is due to molting – or the process through which the roach sheds its exterior layer.

Roaches are arthropods which do not have a musculoskeletal system similar to us. Therefore, all the appendages (e.g. legs, antenna, wings) are attached to the hard carapace that covers the top of their bodies. When they grow in size, the external shell must be ditched so they can grow into a larger shell.

When this happens, the roach emerges after molting as completely white or ash gray. It is not really capable of locomotion or much other functions, since the hard exoskeleton is needed for the roach to control its appendages.

As a result, they tend to stay hidden and out of sight during the time after the molting and till the new shell hardens. As the new shell becomes operational, internal chemical reactions also impart color to the shell – the process can take a few hours or a couple days.

8. Can Roaches Be Blue?

By Thomas Brown - Trilobite Cockroach (Laxta sp?)Uploaded by mgiganteus, CC BY 2.0,

Some of the yellow or green varieties of roaches mentioned above may look blue in bright sunlight or if the sun hits their bodies at an angle. There are, however, a few genuinely blue roaches found in the world.

a)  Are Blue Roaches Rare?

Blue roaches are very rare. One such species, flashing blue and gold, is the Mardi Gras Cockroach or the Mitchell’s Diurnal Cockroach (Polyzosteria mitchelli).

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Roach?

Blue cockroaches will by definition stand out. The Mitchell’s Diurnal Cockroach flashes classic gold and blue Mardi Gras colors and is one of the most strikingly colored Australian roaches.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

 Mitchell’s Diurnal Cockroaches are found in semi-arid regions and bush lands in Australia – especially Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales.

9.  Can Roaches Be Pink or Purple?

Pink or purple colored cockroaches are more of a figment of legend then naturally occurring insects.

Pink is not a color that appears in the natural spectrum of light. There are some roaches, for example, the German Cockroach mentioned above are yellow or light tan in color and can appear pink, but it really is a brown roach. There are others, with shades of red or yellow, that may appear pink, but there are no naturally occurring pink roaches.

The iridescence required for a roach to flash purple is usually not present unless such an insect is spotted in the garden. Then too, it’s more likely that what one may be seeing is a beetle, which may look like a roach from a distance if it’s of similar shape and size. Also, there are always freaks of nature. But in general, you do not see purple roaches.

In Conclusion …

Roaches are plentiful and found on every continent.

While their reputation is as pests, and deservedly so, there are some with wild and beautiful colors and patterns, or unusual behavior patterns, that can make them suitable as pets.

Finding “beautiful” or striking roaches is one of the ways for Mother Nature to show us the breadth and depth of her wonders.

If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:



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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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