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Cockroaches Vs. Beetles: Knowing the Difference Between Beetle and Cockroach

 In Beetles, Blog, Cockroaches

A close-up photo of a brown beetle on a green leaf

In Canada, there are over 9,000 species of beetle. However, there are merely five common types of cockroach. Despite this disproportionality, roaches and beetles are often confused due to their similar size and appearance. While both insects share some key characteristics, they significantly differ in biology and behaviour.

As pest control experts, we can spot the differences between a beetle and a cockroach a mile away. In this post, we’ll explore the differences between the two, equipping you with the same knowledge, and in the process, we’ll debunk some myths about cockroaches along the way.

The Scientific Differences Between Beetles and Cockroaches

There are 30 different insect orders; orders are categories created by scientists to help catalogue the massive volume of insect species.

Scientists devise orders based on a few features, including the shape of an insect’s body, legs, mouths and heads, and wings. The primary difference, scientifically speaking, between the beetle and cockroach is that they belong to different orders.

  • Cockroaches are part of the order Blattodea. Some common species of cockroaches include the American cockroach, German cockroach, and Oriental cockroach — but don’t worry, we’ll get into these specifics soon.
  • Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, the largest order in the animal kingdom with over 350,000 species! They come in various shapes and sizes and include fireflies and Japanese beetles, among many, many others.

Of course, if you think you’ve seen a cockroach or beetle in your home, you’re unlikely to see value in knowing their scientific order. Instead, you’ll want key visual differences to tell them apart rapidly.

The Physical Differences: Cockroach vs. Beetle

While both cockroaches and beetles have six legs and are typically relatively small, there are some key physical differences to help you tell them apart:

Body and Shape

Cockroaches typically have flat, oval-shaped bodies broken into three sections: the head, thorax and abdomen. Unlike beetles, their “shell” is papery and not hard.

Beetles come in a broader range of shapes, so it’s difficult to give one description. Generally speaking, beetles are stout and round.

Body shape is a good way to differentiate between a black beetle and a cockroach. The Oriental cockroach (a misleading name, as it hails from Africa) is commonly mistaken for a black beetle. Upon closer inspection, this cockroach is long and has a thin, wiry antenna.


Cockroaches vary in colour from reddish-brown to dark brown; colour will differ based on sex. Beetles come in a vast assortment of colours.


Cockroaches have long, thin antennae. Often, their antennae are longer than their bodies. Beetles have shorter, thicker antennae, which in some species are clearly segmented.


Beetles have elytra, a type of forewing that layers over the top of their hind wings like a protective shield. These wings are hard and vary in colour and pattern based on the type of beetle. The next time you see a ladybug take flight, you’ll see the differences between forewing and hindwing.

Cockroaches don’t have forewings. Instead, they have a membranous wing that they use for flying. One of the telltale signs of a cockroach, depending on the type, is that not all species of cockroach are capable of long periods of flight. For example, the German cockroach is more likely to run than fly, even though it has wings. This is one helpful way of identifying German cockroaches.

Understanding the behavioural differences between the two kinds of insects can also help to establish which is which if you think you’ve seen a pest in your home.

A close-up photo of a brown cockroach in profile. It’s standing on a blue gemstone against a solid yellow background

Behavioural Differences: Beetle vs Cockroach

Several behaviours can make it easy to tell a beetle from a cockroach.

Cockroaches are most active in the evenings. However, it’s hard to say explicitly when beetles are most active as it depends on the species.

Cockroaches feed on scraps. They’ll scavenge for organic substances, like food waste and other decaying matter. The German cockroach is most often seen in kitchens, restaurants, food processing plants, accommodations and other institutional facilities where it will root and scavenge.

The Oriental cockroach will also feed on decaying organic matter and garbage. They will likely stick to cool, damp basements and crawl spaces. Oriental cockroaches are often seen crawling around toilets, sinks, pipes, and service ducts. You may see them outside during the warm months, near gutters and landscaping.

Beetles, on the other hand, don’t generally scavenge through human garbage. Instead, beetles like the Carpet Beetle will (true to its name) eat carpets, woollen fabrics, dead insects, silk, and other textiles. The Grain Beetle, which can infect food products, will hang out in pantries, food processing areas or warehouses.

Beetles and cockroaches move pretty differently, too. Cockroaches are generally faster and move quickly when they’re threatened or disturbed. Beetles prefer a slower pace and may take flight when spooked.

What’s the Difference Between a Cockroach and a Beetle? Know the Telltale Signs

As mentioned above, where cockroaches and beetles call home varies significantly. If you haven’t had a visual of either yet and are concerned that one or the other has gained entry, here are signs of a cockroach infestation and beetle activity in your home.

While the signs will vary between the species, there are some general telltale signs to keep a keen eye on.

Typical Cockroach Activities

If you’ve got cockroaches, look for droppings. For example, the German cockroach will leave behind small, almost pepper-like material along counters, on shelves and in drawers. You may also see egg casings. Oriental cockroach egg cases hold around 16 eggs and appear dark brown or red. Other signs of cockroach activity include a musty odour.

If you spot these signs, sharp and decisive action is warranted. Unfortunately, if you spot one cockroach, there are usually others nearby and likely some cockroach nests.

For this reason, German, American, Brown-banded and Oriental cockroach extermination methods are in order. We may recommend a recurring service to address the issue as cockroaches can reproduce quickly. Cockroaches can also transmit a massive number of diseases, can trigger allergies, and can contaminate food.

Typical Beetle Activities

Even if you can’t see beetles in carpeting, around woodwork or in food storage, look for small holes in textiles, which Carpet beetles leave. In some cases, you might hear gnawing or tapping sounds as some types of beetles eat wood in the walls, and you may also notice frass, a mixture of feces and wood particles near the beetles’ exit sites.

Beetles are undoubtedly a friendly garden critter; they help to control aphid populations and play a vital role in our ecosystems. Nevertheless, if you suspect a beetle infestation in your building, it’s important to connect with a reputable pest control company for proper identification and effective solutions. In a worst-case scenario, beetles can cause property damage, unprecedented food waste, and a damaged reputation if the infestation is in a commercial space.

Cockroach or Beetle? GreenLeaf Can Help

Cockroaches and beetles can hunt for a warm and dry shelter as winter moves in. Unfortunately, manmade structures are an ideal place for them to hunker down.

We offer Home Protection Plans that can prevent an infestation from presenting itself in the first place, whereby our professional technicians inspect your property, remove pest attractants, and kill any pests they encounter. We lay out a preventative treatment and follow up several times afterward to ensure the treatment worked.

Insects in the home and in a business aren’t just gross: the sight, sound, and smell will unnerve the most stoic folk; they also present health risks and may cause structural property damage.

If you’ve seen a beetle, cockroach, or other pest in your home or at your business, don’t risk the potential for an infestation. Act today. Call GreenLeaf Pest Control, and we’ll gladly assist.

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