Water Bug VS Cockroach (7 Differences): How to Identify Them?

Water bugs and cockroaches are often used interchangeably by people because they look a lot alike. The truth is that many people are confused in their identification of the two because it’s become so common to call a cockroach a water bug.

But there’s a big difference between the two. Let’s take a look at a water bug vs cockroach so that you can identify what is invading your home.

Water Bug and Cockroach Identification

These two “creatures” are very similar in appearance, and to an untrained person, there really is little difference between the two. The main identification points are:

Identifying CockroachClose up cockroach eating sticky rice on wooden table.

German cockroaches are a half-inch in length, but an American cockroach is a big cockroach, with a size of up to 2” in length. These little insects are non-aggressive, but if you see a baby cockroach, you can be certain that there are more living in the home.

Cockroaches like to live in groups, unlike the water bug.

Identifying Water Bug

If you see a black cockroach and water bug next to each other, you’ll notice that they look nearly identical. But you definitely do not want to get too intimate with a water bug, as their bites are painful.

The one key distinguishing factor is color, and this isn’t a true indicator in some cases either.

Water bugs are normally black ,which is why they’re called black beetles, and cockroaches are typically a brown color.

7 Major Differences Between Roaches & Water Bugs

1. Terminology

Water bug isolated on the white.Water bugs are also known as true bugs they belong to the family of Hemiptera.They live on land as well as in water. They breathe through their backs where the gasses exchange takes place. There are around 150- 1600 species of water bugs. The most common ones underwater bugs include Giant water bug, Toe-biter, Electric light bug and a Brown water bug.

Cockroaches belong to the insect family called Blattodea.Cockroaches have around 4500- 4600 species, and the most common ones are, German Cockroach, American Cockroach, Australian and Oriental cockroach.

Water bugs are often called Oriental cockroach or Black beetles.

2. Appearance and size

Cockroaches vary in size from one species to another. German roaches length range from around half to one inch while American cockroaches are 2-3 inches long. They are brownish orange in color.

Water bugs are greater in size when compared to cockroaches. Water bugs vary between brown and black color. Their bodies are oval in shape. They possess particular feature rostrum for injecting their toxic saliva into the prey.Cockroach on the white.

3. Danger of bites

Cockroaches do not bite people, but they create a nuisance by invading your homes and creating a mess.

Water bugs bite is very painful and harmful. They inject their poisonous saliva and cause liquefaction of tissues. Water bugs, for example, Eastern toe biter and backswimmer can bite your feet underwater.

4. Habitats

Cockroaches are called as land insects. They are not aquatic insects. They prefer to stay in dark environment, including kitchen and bathrooms. They are found in indoor spaces crawling in the basement and prefer a warmer environment. Cockroaches prefer to live in groups while water bugs live alone.

Water bugs are called aquatic amphibians. They prefer to live in freshwater especially ponds or streams. They breed and hide near dark and moist areas. Avoid keeping leaky pipes or standing water near your places. Water bugs prefer to live in hot, humid climates. They prefer wet environment escaping and hiding in rotting wood, near leaves or leaking faucets. They are found on land as well as in water because they can’t breathe under water.

5. Food

Cockroaches feed on a variety of items like fermented food, plant materials, dry skin, leather and bakery products, dead animals. They may also feed on dead or wounded cockroaches of other species. Cockroaches also eat fermented or decayed food.

Water bugs prefer to kill other insects, fish, tadpoles or minnows. They feed on sweet food like starch, algae or syrup which may be found commonly near swimming pools.Two gaint water bugs on the white.

6. Life cycle

Cockroaches first undergo egg stage, then nymph stage and finally mature into adults. Reproduction divides them into ovoviviparous or oviparous roaches. Eggs of oviparous roaches are captivated in cases called ootheca which is joined to the female abdomen while in ovoviviparous roaches egg’s ootheca is attached to female bodies. Cockroaches live for around one-year life span.

Water bugs undergo three stages in life which include egg, larvae and adult stage. During their adult stage, they can fly. Males have 19 segments while females have 14 segments.Water bugs lay their eggs in debris or floating vegetation.  They usually have a lifespan of around 3-4 years.

7. Temperament

When water bugs are terrified or when we get scared and disturb their habitat they bite humans. Their bite is very painful and may show some adverse reactions like allergic reaction which may require medical attention. Cockroaches are not confirmed to show any bite cases to humans. Water bugs are very strategic and play dead when they see humans while cockroaches run when they see people.

Water bugs are considered as omnivorous scavengers, but cockroaches do not act as predators and are considered as non-aggressive in nature.

Scientific Difference

Just because there are bugs that look like cockroaches, doesn’t mean that they’re the same species. It’s estimated that there are thousands of cockroach species, and it’s hard to narrow them all down. There are 4,500 species of cockroaches, but only 30 are real pests and four are a nuisance to people.

So, you are likely dealing with the following cockroach type:

But there is a difference between a water bug vs cockroach. A true water bug falls under the Hemiptera classification. These are bugs that use their legs like paddles and move through the water. There is also the Gerridae classification of bugs, which use surface tension to stay afloat. These bugs can be pond skaters or water spiders.

Cockroaches are resilient and adaptive, but these bugs are not aquatic. This insect is part of the Blattodea orders. Surprisingly, termites also fall within this order.

There are roughly 1,500 species of water bugs in the world. Oval in shape, these bugs will live on or in fresh water.

So, are water bugs roaches? No.

Do you have water bugs or cockroaches

1. Aquatic or not?

The most important difference between water bugs and cockroaches is that water bugs are aquatic in nature while cockroaches are not at all aquatic.

2. Where did you find them?

Cockroaches prefer to live in a humid environment that’s why they are found in indoor areas of your house while Water bugs are attracted towards the wet environment, so they are found in outer areas.

3. How do they look like?

Cockroaches have brownish orange color while Water bugs tend to be black or dark brown in color.They also have paddle legs.

Common Questions

Man scared by water bugs and roaches

When finding a new bug for the first time, you may have a lot of questions. Where do they come from? Do they bite? And this list goes on. We’re going to take a look at some of the most common questions and provide you with answers to each.

Do Water Bugs Bite?

Yes. Water bugs can and do bite, but they’re not searching out humans just to bite them for no reason. These bugs will bite when they feel threatened, and the bite of a water bug can be very painful.

Many websites and people are under the assumption that cockroaches don’t bite, but this is false.

These pests are omnivorous, which means they eat plants and meat alike. For the most part, these insects won’t bite you, but they have bitten people in the past. These critters most commonly bite:

  • Hands and feet
  • Fingernails
  • Eyelashes

Are Water Bugs Poisonous?

It depends. The giant water bug, often found in Florida, can be poisonous. These bugs will inject a digestive enzyme into their prey, causing their insides to turn to mush. As a result, the bug will then suck out the mush.

Oriental cockroaches are a water bug, and these bugs can cause you to suffer from food poisoning as well as diarrhea.

Cockroaches are not poisonous, but they can carry bacteria that can cause food poisoning, allergies, rashes and diarrhea.

Are water bugs dangerous? In most cases, no. These bugs don’t normally come after humans, but a person that is sick or has a weak immune system may suffer severe illness as a result of a water bug bite. For most people, you won’t have to worry about water bugs.

Can water bugs hurt you? Sure, their bite hurts, but this doesn’t mean you’ll die in the process or need to go to the emergency room.

Where Do Water Bugs Come From?

Water bugs will come from areas that are wet. This means they may be attracted to your pool, swamps, lakes and any terrain that is wet. Cockroaches, on the other hand, are attracted to humid areas.

What Causes Water Bugs?

Just as we discussed earlier, when you want to know what attracts water bugs, it will always be water. There is also a concern that dirty or unkempt areas attract water bugs and cockroaches alike.

Do Water Bugs Fly?

Water bugs will develop in three different stages, and during their third phase of life, they’ll develop wings that allow them to fly.  This allows the water bug to fly from one water surface to the next.

Males are generally bigger in size with 19 body segments versus female water bugs that have up to 14 body segments. Females are one third the size of their male counterparts.

Cockroaches go through similar phases, and when they’re adults, they’ll grow useful wings that allow them to fly for a short distance. If the cockroach jumps off of a higher surface, such as a tree, it can glide for some time. Despite the ability to fly, the American cockroach is not a common flier.

How Long Do Water Bugs Live?

This depends on the species, but they can live anywhere from 1 to 4 years. What’s very important to note is that these bugs can live for 4 weeks without food and just 2 weeks without water.

So if you want to kill a water big, remove all of the water they’re drinking – easier said than done.

Cockroaches have the same general lifespan.

What Do Water Bugs Look Like?

A water bug on white background.

As we discussed previously, a water bug’s easiest distinguishing feature is its black or dark brown coloring. The feet of the bug are peddle-like, and they have antennae as well as six legs and a longer body than a cockroach.

Cockroaches are very similar, but are often an orange-brown color.

Pictures of cockroaches are the best bet when trying to tell a water bug and cockroach apart. When you see pictures, you’ll have an easier time trying to identify the two.

How to Get Rid of  Them

You should be able to answer the questions “what are water bugs” and “what are cockroaches,” but one thing we haven’t discussed is how to get rid of them. This is a difficult question to answer because you also need to know about the best water bug repellent, cleaning necessities and how bugs get in your house in the first place.

We’ll discuss all of these answers, so you can live pest-free.

Stage 1: Prepare Yourself with Knowledge

The first step in getting rid of any pest you may encounter is knowing how they are becoming a pest in the first place. We’re going to be answering one main question here: how do water bugs get in your house?

The answer is complex.

Water bugs may enter your home through cracks in the home’s foundation, or holes in your home and attic. If you find bugs in any of these locations, you’ll need to make repairs to block the entryway.

Roaches and cockroaches will also be able to come through these entryways.

But water bugs can also come in through:

  • Drain pipes
  • Holes in pipes
  • Sewer drain pipes

This is why so many water bugs are seen in sinks and bathtubs. If you see the bugs coming into your home through these entryways, there is a high probability that your drain pipe is the culprit. In this case, you’ll want to hire a plumber to help find the fault in the drain pipe and correct the problem on your behalf.

If you’re wondering “why do water bugs get in your house?”, the answer is simple: food and shelter.

All insects and bugs are trying to survive, and if they can find an area that is a great habitat fit for them, they’ll come and stay as long as you allow them. If you leave food around, they have all the more reason to stick around.

If you find these holes and entryways, you’ll be able to seal them off and better stop water bugs, cockroaches and insects of all types from entering your home.

Stage 2: Clean Your Home

Preventative measures are the best measures. What do water bugs eat? Anything you leave in your home. If there is nothing to eat or drink, cockroaches and water bugs will not want to stick around and call your home their own.

Bugs can live for a month or longer without food, so this is a slow process, but it’s one that works every time. And if you can remove all sources of water, bugs will also die.

The idea is to:

  1. Clean any dirty dishes once they’re dirty.
  2. Clean all counters and floors daily.
  3. Wipe up spills and messes immediately.
  4. Never leave any food on dishes or plates – throw it out.
  5. Remove garbage bags daily so that there is no food to eat.
  6. Limit any water sources for the water bugs.

Water sources can be something as trivial as a dripping faucet or a leak from a pipe.

If you can’t or don’t fix the source of water, you won’t be able to get rid of water bugs or cockroaches. Other bugs and rodents will also be more inclined to enter your home if you don’t get rid of the water source.

Keeping a clean and tidy home – as well as a yard and exterior – is one of the best ways to rid yourself of insects and bugs.

Stage 3: Repellents, Traps and Extermination

Repellents, traps and extermination is the last part of the process. If you want immediate satisfaction, you can call an exterminator, who will set the traps and help you rid your home of all insect types.

But professional exterminators can also be very costly.

If you want to take care of the problem yourself, there are numerous over-the-counter options that can help you.Close up of cockroach trap on white background.

  1. Poison Traps: Combat offers roach bait that will also work on water bugs. This is a poison that you place in strategic locations around the home.
  2. Kleen-Free: The Kleen-Free Naturally lineup is an organic solution that is non-toxic and aims to help you kill water bugs.
  3. Boric Acid Solutions: There are boric acid solutions that are specially formulated for cockroaches and water bugs. These solutions are sprinkled on counters and areas where bugs will frequent. This popular solution will kill the insects slowly over time – they won’t die instantly on the spot.
  4. Vinegar: If you want to take a DIY approach, you’ll want to take 300 ml of vinegar and place it in a spray bottle. If you spray where the bugs are seen or reside, you’ll quickly find them running the other way.

What eats water bugs? If you want to introduce a natural predator, this can also help get rid of your problem, but this is easier said than done. Fish and other aquatic predators will eat these bugs, but you’ll need a fish tank to attract the bugs,. You’ll need to choose the right predator, too.

Birds are also another option, but unless you let them loose in your home, there is little that they can do if they’re in a bird cage.

When it comes to water bugs and cockroaches, it’s important to take the three-stage approach above. While water bugs are often easy to ignore, cockroaches breed quickly, causing a major infestation that can take months to correct.

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