Water bugs vs Smoky Brown Cockroach and How To Deal With Them

Cockroaches are often mistaken for waterbugs and vice versa. In the water bugs vs smoky brown cockroach war, we’ll show you why there is a comparison

Smoky Brown Cockroach

Water Bugs vs Smoky Brown Cockroach: What are the differences?

A quick search on Google about these two insects can leave you utterly confused. This is because they’re often confused for each other. Cockroaches are passed for waterbugs and vice versa. So, amid the water bugs vs smoky brown cockroach war, we’re here to tell you how to spot the differences between these two pests.

While the former is an aquatic insect, the latter is a resilient Blattodea that can survive an atomic bomb. And both are pathogen carriers. What more do you need to know when it comes to water bugs vs smoky brown cockroach? Let’s go in-depth!

Water bugs vs smoky brown cockroach vs bed bugs: What are the differences?

The water bug, as the name implies, is an insect that lives in an aquatic environment. It has nothing to do with the bugs that live in beddings, furniture, and mattresses and grow at a frightening speed. The water bug is not only larger, but it is also a clever predator and an inveterate carnivore.

Water Bugs vs Smoky Brown Cockroach: What is a water bug?

The true water bugs are hemipterous insects that live in water. There are different species around the world. Some, such as naucoridaes and horns feed on plant particles and algae. However, the others, including the lethocere of America is a voracious predator.

Water bugs, like all Hemiptera, have the anterior wings more membranous than their base which is opaque and thicker. The largest of them have a special device located at the base of their wings that allows them to keep them tight against their bodies. So with this adaptation, these insects have greatly improved their swimmer performance.

Whatever the species to which the water bug belongs, it has an incomplete metamorphosis. In fact, the young insect that comes out of the egg already has the appearance of an adult. But it’s smaller and without the wings. From the first day after hatching, this insect immediately occupies the same environment and feeds on the same food as adults. However, it will moult 5 times before reaching its final form, which will allow it to mate and, thus, continues its cycle.

Bringing back the water bugs vs smoky brown cockroaches to the fore, while these bugs can sting you, cockroaches, in general, don’t sting. Also, of course, cockroaches are too nauseating as a meal, but water bugs are edible in some parts of the world.

The most common species of water bugs

Water bugs, which belong to the true bugs, have more than 50,000 species. However, the most common species of water bugs are:

  • Naucoridae
  • water boatmen
  • giant water bugs

1. Naucoridae

Naucoridae is a family of water bugs. The two of the most common species present in Europe are Ilyocoris cimicoides and Naucoris maculatus, which usually live in stagnant water points. Also, there is a third species which is rarer in nature, called Aphelocheirus aestivalis.

However, unlike bedbugs, naucoridaes live underwater. It can breathe underwater thanks to a bubble of air under her body. In doing so, it cannot skate on the surface of the water as hydrometers do. Also, it does not catch its prey head upside down as the Notonectidaes (backswimmers) do. Unless it decides to change her water point, these insects are strictly aquatic. They feed on freshwater invertebrates and aquatic insects.

The front legs of the insects are equipped with sharp hooks that allow it to grasp and fix its prey. However, this insect also has a large rostrum with which it easily pierces the cuticle of aquatic animals that have the misfortune to cross its path. As its sting is painful, it is not often recommended that you catch it with your bare hands.

2. The horn or boatman

The horn is a water bug that is very close to the naucoridae. This water bug emits a sound similar to that of the cicada but is of a higher power given its size. Even if the size of a horn does not exceed two millimetres, the song that it emits while it is underwater is perfectly audible by the human ears.

Unlike naucoridaes, horns are not fond of aquatic invertebrates. Meanwhile, they feed on microscopic algae and tiny organisms that they scratch at the bottom of their natural habitat with their front legs. However, larger insects may attack mosquito worms and larvae. Also, the breathing system is different from that of the naucoridae. To breathe underwater, the horns store air between their abdomen and their wings.

3. The lethocerus/giant water bugs

The lethocere or giant water bug lives in streams and ponds. This insect, which can grow from 2.5 cm to 6.5 cm, feeds on small vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish. However, sometimes, it attacks animals bigger than itself, like frogs and baby turtles. With its two claw-shaped paws, this carnivorous predator catches prey and holds it firmly before stinging it with special saliva that contains liquefying digestive enzymes. After that, the lethocerus only has to suck up the liquefied contents of the prey. The giant water bug is an aquatic insect, but its wings allow it to fly, especially at night. The light strongly attracts it.

The sting of a giant water bug is very painful, but in principle, this insect does not attack man. However, in Southeast Asia, Lethocerus are extremely popular dishes. At night, people capture them by means of a floating trap, before being cleaned and then fried.

The differences between the three most prevalent species of water bugs


  • Length: Few millimetres
  • Habitat:¬†Points of stagnant water, ponds
  • Food: Aquatic animals, Vase worm


  • Length: Not more than two millimetres
  • Habitat: River, stream, pond
  • Food: Underwater seaweed

Giant water bug:

  • Length: 5 to 6.5 millimetres
  • Habitat: Creek and pond
  • Food: Fish, amphibians

Why did these bugs choose life on or underwater?

According to scientists, the choice of water bugs is mainly motivated by the fact that few organisms are able to conquer the aquatic environment to settle permanently. The adaptability of water bugs allows them to meet this challenge and to succeed. In addition, this rather atypical environment represents an ecological niche, with immense opportunities for survival and resources. As you can imagine, water bugs can do everything on and underwater. In fact, they move about, find food in abundance, mate and breed.

An extraordinary ability to adapt

If some water bugs are able to breathe underwater, others are content to keep their bodies on the surface, which prevents them from drowning. The insects that live on the water float through the hairs on their legs that store air bubbles, which they then use as buoys. So as to move, they use their 3 pairs of legs as rudders, stabilizers, and oars.

This amazing adaptability is not so much to man’s benefits. Basically, water bugs kill large numbers of edible marine animals, such as:

  1. Snails
  2. Fishes
  3. Freshwater crayfish
  4. Juvenile turtles

Hunted too early, fish become scarce in streams and rivers. Admittedly, this is a natural phenomenon of predation, but it negatively impacts the ecosystem, including the development of aquatic fauna.

Water Bugs vs Smoky Brown Cockroach: Cockroaches and their various types

First, cockroaches are amazing insects. These critters do not resist crushing, but they manage to resist an atomic explosion. Scientific studies have shown that in the event of an apocalypse, cockroaches would survive us. However, this does not mean that you have to remain inactive when these insects begin to invade your home. But before you stop this invasion, you must first define what species you are dealing with. Of the thousands of cockroach species that exist around the world, only five varieties are present in Europe and America. Among others, they are:

  1. The German cockroach
  2. The striped cockroach
  3. The oriental cockroach
  4. The American cockroach
  5. The smoky brown cockroaches
  6. The garden cockroach or ectobius

While the first five like to colonize the houses, the last is satisfied with gardens.

How to recognize cockroaches

One of the most common domestic problems, when we talk about pests, are cockroaches. Cockroaches hide in small corners and cracks. A pest of cockroaches can be treated, but first of all, you need to identify the type of cockroaches that live in your home. Knowing how to identify a cockroach will make dealing with the problem much easier.

First, most people recognize cockroaches at first glance. Generally, they are brown and measure between 12 and 50 mm depending on the species. They have two antennas that are as long as their bodies. The cockroaches’ heads point down as if they were constantly sniffing the ground. This head is also hidden under the thorax, which, thus, forms a shield: the pronotum. Their bodies are ovoid and flat.

Like other insects, cockroach bodies consist of three regions, namely:

  1. The head
  2. The thorax
  3. The abdomen

Also, cockroaches have 6 spiny legs and an exoskeleton that changes with each mutation. This transformation occurs several times during their life cycle. At first, this cream-white exoskeleton is fragile, but it hardens and darkens as mutations occur.

Meanwhile, cockroaches have a rather special life cycle. They breed all year in their dwellings. Young insects look like adults, but they do not have wings at birth. However, it takes them 2 to 24 months depending on the species to reach sexual maturity.

The different varieties of cockroaches that we mentioned above give the impression of having the same morphology and way of life, but it is not so. These species differ almost in all.

  • Variety
  • Morphology and cycle
  • Food
  • Habitat

These are what the various types of cockroaches look like

What Does a Cockroach Look Like
What Does a Cockroach Look Like

Germanic cockroaches

The Germanic cockroach found around the world has a body that is 1.2 to 1.5 cm long. It has two dark bands behind the neck. However, a couple can produce up to 10,000 cubs each year.

This species of cockroaches can, in fact, choose to live anywhere. Late in 2019, a family of live German cockroaches were found and extracted from a Chinese man’s ears. Creepy stuff, right?

The German cockroach feeds on sugar, meat, starchy foods, grease, and dead or injured cockroaches. Also, they eat everyday items such as glue, toothpaste, and soap.

In addition, the German cockroach has a preference for damp places like kitchens and bathrooms.

American cockroaches

The American cockroach is 3.5 or 4 cm long. Its body is shiny red-brown. Meanwhile, it has a yellow band behind his head. Thanks to its powerful wings, the cockroach (male or female) can fly short distances.

The American cockroach eats paper, dead animals, baked goods, leather, and fermenting foods.

You can find them on trees and dark, damp and quiet places like the bathroom, attics, and basements.

Oriental cockroaches 

Oriental cockroaches, also called water bugs or eastern cockroaches, have bodies measuring 3.5 to 4cm long. Meanwhile, in females, wings are underdeveloped. However, even though in males, the wings cover half of the abdomen, they do not fly.

The eastern cockroach eats starchy foods as well as decaying organic matter.

It is dependent on water, but it can survive for up to a month without eating or drinking.

You can see them in garbage cans, garbage dumps, compost bins, basements, drains, and cellars.

Striped cockroaches

The adult striped cockroach is between 1 and 1.5 cm long. Her nymph undergoes between 6 and 8 metamorphoses during her life cycle. Meanwhile, the male’s wings cover his abdomen and he is able to fly. On the other hand, those of the female are short.

The cockroach eats everything it meets, from leather to soap, to paper. Also, they can eat rotting products.

The striped cockroach is the only species that like warm spots. You can find them in appliances, partitions, upholstered furniture and walls.

People mistakenly think that roaches are fond of dirty places in the house, which is absolutely false. In fact, these insects are present everywhere, and more particularly in clean places.

Garden cockroaches

Garden cockroaches are insects with oval, flat and large bodies. Their size can range from a few millimetres to ten centimetres. The garden cockroach colour is brown or black or yellow. The ectobius has long, thin antennae.

Garden roaches are omnivorous. They eat almost everything, with a slight preference for sweet and moist foods. Some species are xylophagous, others eat leather, paper, and excrement. Cockroaches are not harmful insects, because they enter the process of organic matter degradation.

While the garden cockroach is often confused with the German cockroach, the latter lives only in homes. However, you can only entrust its eradication to a specialized exterminator. The garden roach, meanwhile, is a tropical species that enjoy living outdoors in the gardens.

However, the garden cockroach cycle is different from other cockroaches. Egg or egg bags are designed and transported by the female for one or two days between June and September. While placed in the ground, the pods hatch in the spring. Nymphs return to hibernation during their last stages of development and become adults only in July. Meanwhile, its adults mature from September to October. Unlike the cockroach, the life of the garden cockroach is reduced.

There are several types of garden cockroaches, but most of them cannot withstand light. However, some species of garden cockroaches can walk in daylight.

Basically, garden cockroaches go through three stages during their life cycle: the egg, the nymph, and the adult. In the garden, cockroaches live in so-called litter boxes. You can find them in large numbers under dead vegetation, bark, moss, and stones.

During the day, cockroaches hide in their habitats that are hot and humid. Also, you can find them in cracks, tall grasses, in trees and under the bark of trees.

Smoky brown cockroaches

The smoked brown cockroach is very similar to the American cockroach, but a little smaller and of uniform mahogany colour. The nymphs are the same colour as the adults and the tips of their antennae are white. The smoky brown cockroach can grow up to 1.5 inches long. Both sexes have wings that are longer than their abdomen. Meanwhile, they are capable of flying and are attracted to light.

Smokey Brown Cockroach
Smokey Brown Cockroach
Scientific Classification
  • Scientific name: Periplaneta fuliginosa
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Blattodea
  • Habitat: Land

While smoky brown cockroaches prefer to eat materials from decaying plants, they will eat any available food. This species usually feeds on vegetables but does not neglect any food they find in a house. You can find them on wooden shelves and drainage pipes that contain organic matter.


While the female needs to mate only once to produce many egg capsules, each capsule contains an average of 20 eggs. Meanwhile, the nymphs can change several times in approximately 600 days before reaching their mature state. Also, adults can live up to six months.

However, the females have very dark brown oothecae and usually leave them attached to some object. Although in some cases, they are found lying on the floor, they can have up to 14 oothecae containing in each of them up to 24 embryos.


They prefer wet areas because they lose moisture faster than any other species of cockroaches. Meanwhile, they can enter the structures at night, passing through crevices and cracks in the walls. While they live in natural conditions around structures, they are also associated with gutters full of rubble.

They are nocturnal and hide in small places during the day, making them inaccessible to people and predators. Also, they are commonly found in tree hollows, wooden-slatted roofs, and gutters. They live in dark, damp and poorly ventilated areas. While indoors, they build their nests in attics, where their population can grow unnoticed.

However, if the population becomes large enough, they will infest the entire house. However, they prefer uninhabited areas, such as greenhouses, nurseries, and gardens. You can find them throughout the southern region of the United States and are more common in the states of Texas and Florida. They have also been found in the southern region of California and constitute a major plague in the cities of Houston and New Orleans.

So what’s the water bugs vs smoky brown cockroach comparison about?

While many people refer many species of cockroaches (such as the oriental cockroaches) as water bugs, the true water bugs we have is the one we described in the article. Unlike the smoky brown cockroach which lives on land, the true water bugs live in water.

Steps to identify a cockroach

  • First, count the legs – a cockroach has six legs
  • Next, check if that specimen has a hard exoskeleton.
  • Then look for transparent and thin wings. The transparent and thin wings are of the cockroach, while beetles have the hard and opaque wings. Remember that the water bug also has a special decide at the base of the wings. Keep in mind, however, that just like the water bugs, the smoky brown cockroaches that are still young have no wings yet.
  • Also, look at the length, flat body, and width of the insect. All cockroaches have long, wide and flat body.
  • Look for a pair of long antennas on the insect’s head.
  • Next, look at the cockroach’s colour. While the German and American cockroaches are reddish-brown in colour, oriental cockroaches have a bright black colour. Brown cockroaches with bands and cockroaches like the smoky brown cockroaches, meanwhile, are dark-brown in colour.
  • Measure the cockroach. Find a cockroach and place it on a piece of white paper in front of a ruler. If it measures between 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5.0 cm) in length, it is probably an American cockroach, the largest of the 5 undesirable cockroaches. If it is just a little smaller, it may be a smoky brown cockroach. Oriental cockroaches are about 1.2 inches (3.0 cm) long and have short, unused wings. German cockroaches are small, measuring approximately 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) long.
  • Finally, look for additional marks such as stripes or colour change in the cockroach body. German cockroaches have 2 black stripes just behind their heads, and cockroaches with brown bands have light brown lines that wrap around their abdomen.

Final advice

If you have a cockroach pest, then you will have to be very meticulous and careful about its extermination. In the case where you leave even an undetermined area, the cockroaches will replay there and the plague will start again.

If you find out that you have a cockroach problem, it is highly recommended that you store food in airtight containers to avoid any contamination. You should also keep trash in closed containers.

German cockroaches have a tendency to live in areas where you prepare foods. Also, if you find a German cockroach, try to take the necessary measures as soon as possible. German cockroaches reproduce quickly and can become uncontrollable in a very short time.

Meanwhile, oriental cockroaches tend to enter the house through drains and pipes and inhabit areas that are dark and cool, such as the basement.

Cockroaches with brown bands often hide in remote places that are warm, such as on the top shelves of a closet.

Smoky brown cockroaches are more prominent in tropical climates and tend to live in areas with decaying plant material.

Read more:

How to Kill Cockroaches with Chlorine Bleach

Best Cockroach Traps

How To Stop Roaches From Coming Up The Drain

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