Is Your Infestation Waterbugs or Cockroaches?

Because they look so similar, waterbugs and cockroaches are often misidentified. The most common waterbug to infest homes in the giant waterbug, which can also be called an alligator tick, electric-light bug, or toe biter. The two species of cockroaches which are commonly mistaken for waterbugs are the American roach, as it is reddish-brown, and the black oriental roach, due to its shiny shell. 

However, misidentifying an invading critter can ruin your chances of conquering an infestation, as different bugs usually need slightly different pest control tactics to both prevent and eradicate. The wasted time taken trying to treat an incorrectly identified infestation can allow an infestation to thrive and expand in size and severity. To avoid this scenario it’s best to know the difference between waterbugs and cockroaches. 

Waterbugs tend to be on the large side at around 3.8cm in length. Common house cockroaches, however, are much smaller than the average water bug at little over a half-inch in size. The American roach is the only exception to this average size, but can easily be identified by the yellow-toned figure-eight patternation it has on the back of its head. Most cockroaches are much lighter in color than waterbugs, ranging from a light tan to a dark brown, whereas water bugs tend to be dark tan to black in coloration. Cockroaches have an oval-shaped flattened body and also have wings and antennae. Waterbugs, on the other hand, have a short, pointy beak on their underside and have piercing mouthparts. 


Cockroaches love humid locations but will avoid water where possible. They love sources of food which is why they are commonly found in kitchens. Waterbugs, however, love water and will typically only be found close to water sources. If water isn’t available then waterbugs will settle for residing in rotting matter like leaves and debris. While baby waterbugs can breathe underwater, adults cannot, so they need to surface regularly for air. One thing that these two creepy-crawlies have in common is that they tend to enter your home through pipes, cracks, and holes in your home. 

Cockroaches eat pretty much anything, from leather to bread, food items, dead skin, rotting food and organic matter, and so much more; they’re the scavengers of the bug world. They prefer organic matter but will adapt their diet to suit their surroundings. Waterbugs, however, will actively hunt smaller insects as well as small fish and frogs. It is for this reason that waterbugs have strong front legs, as this allows them to grip their prey. 

Bite Risk

While adult water bugs have clawed front legs that can scratch, they won’t actually bite unless they have been provoked or their habitat is threatened. Their bites can be quite painful but are rarely anything to worry about. The main risk with waterbug bites are allergic reactions that will, of course, require immediate medical attention. Cockroaches, on the other hand, don’t bite humans.

Waterbug Control
The one thing that waterbugs and cockroaches have in common is that they need professional remediation to solve. While a very minor infestation may be resolved with over the counter pest control solutions, any form of infestation should be handled by professionals. 

Proudly serving the greater Chicagoland area in Illinois and southeast Wisconsin, the professional exterminators at Aerex Pest Control understand the habits of different types of pests and use that knowledge when developing a pest control program that is best suited to your home and your particular problem. Our technicians are professional, state certified, licensed applicators. Call today for your free consultation 847-255-8888 or click here for a free quick quote.

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