You’re getting a glass of water at night when, out of the corner of your eye, you suddenly spot a tiny shadow zig-zagging across your kitchen counter. Upon closer inspection, it appears to be a small, black, oval-shaped insect.
You might be wondering: is it a baby cockroach?
While they don’t seem as dangerous as adult cockroaches, baby cockroaches (also known as cockroach “nymphs”) are not to be ignored. Spotting a baby roach is often a warning sign of a larger infestation hiding somewhere in your home.
In this article, we’ll help explain what baby cockroaches look like and how to identify them so that you can protect your home—and your sanity—from these pests.
So What Do Baby Cockroaches Look Like?
In general, baby roaches look like miniaturized versions of adult roaches. However, their exact appearance can vary depending on their stage of growth, as well as the species of cockroach you’re dealing with.
The average baby cockroach nymph measures between 1/8–1/4 inches in length, and their color ranges from light brown to dark brown. Newly-hatched baby roaches tend to be white or light grey, but they quickly darken in color after a few hours.
Like their adult forms, baby roaches have flat, hard-shelled bodies. They molt and grow new exoskeletons as they progress through different stages of development known as instars.
The exact number of instar stages varies depending on the species and environmental conditions — for example, the average American cockroach goes through 10 to 13 instar stages before reaching maturity.
Most baby roaches are wingless. Instars of certain cockroach species may have underdeveloped wings visible on their back, while others don’t have wings at all. The ones that have wings aren’t able to use them, though — cockroaches don’t have functional wings until they’re fully grown, and some species of cockroaches, such as German cockroaches, have wings but are unable to fly even as adults.
No matter the species, all baby cockroaches have six spiny legs and two long, thin antennae. But at the earlier instar stages, the legs and antennae might be too small or thin to see clearly without magnification. Their length and appearance may also differ depending on the species.
As they mature, baby cockroaches start to look more and more like miniature versions of fully-grown cockroaches, with long, spiny legs and prominent antennae that are almost as long as their bodies.
Baby Cockroaches of Different Species
The exact appearance of baby roaches varies between different species. If you’re trying to identify what species of cockroach nymphs you’re dealing with, keep an eye out for these characteristics.
Baby American Cockroaches
- Large and oblong-shape bodies
- Reddish-brown color
- Halo-shaped marking on the back of their heads
After they hatch, baby American cockroaches are typically under 1/4 inches long—about the size of a grain of rice. They grow larger as they molt and progress through the instar stages, reaching around 2 inches in length as adults.
As they develop, American cockroach nymphs undergo gradual color changes. When they hatch, baby roaches start as pale, white-grey in color and, over the next few hours, they develop a reddish-brown hue.
You can identify baby American cockroaches by their reddish-brown coloring on their shells and the halo-shaped marking behind their heads.
Baby German Cockroaches
- Small and oval-shaped bodies
- Tan or light brown color
- 2 dark, parallel lines on their pronotums
German cockroaches are much smaller than their American counterparts.
When they hatch, baby German roaches can be as small as 1/8 inches long. Even in adulthood, they only reach a maximum length between 1/2–2/3 inches.
Baby German roaches typically undergo 6–7 instar stages. As they grow and molt, they also undergo changes in coloration from pale, whitish-grey to a tan or light-brown shade throughout their instar stages.
You can identify recognize baby German cockroaches by the 2 dark, parallel bands running longitudinally down the protonum (the plate-like structure behind the head).
Baby Oriental Cockroaches
- Large and oblong-shaped bodies
- Reddish-brown color
- Pattern of light and dark bands across their bodies
Like baby American cockroaches, baby Oriental cockroaches start at around 1/4 inches in length after they hatch. They grow to around 1–1.5 inches by the time they reach maturity (not quite as big as American cockroaches, but much bigger than German cockroaches).
Like the other two species, baby Oriental cockroaches also start off as a shade of white but soon develop a pale-brown color. This brown coloring turns slightly red as Oriental roaches molt and mature.
The most distinguishing feature of baby Oriental roaches is the pattern of horizontal light and dark bands running across their backs.
Baby Cockroaches vs. Bed Bugs
Due to their size and shape, baby roaches and young cockroach nymphs are often confused for other pests—particularly bed bugs. At MMPC, we provide free pest identification services, and we receive a ton of pictures from people thinking they found a bed bug when, in fact, it’s a baby cockroach.
If you’re not sure if you have bed bugs or baby cockroaches, here are some key differences to help you tell these two pests apart.
If you look closely, bed bugs have short, oval bodies that resemble a flaxseed or a small apple seed. They’re also much flatter than baby roaches. On the other hand, baby cockroaches have cylindrical or oblong-shaped bodies resembling a pellet or a grain of rice.
You can also differentiate between baby cockroaches and bed bugs by looking at their antennae. Baby cockroaches have much longer antennae than bed bugs—almost as long as their body—that stick out in front of them. By comparison, bed bugs have short antennae that stick out to the side.
Another way to spot bed bugs and separate them from baby roaches is by looking at their eyes. Bed bugs’ eyes appear as dark, beady dots that clearly stick out from both sides of their heads. While baby cockroaches do have eyes, they aren’t as noticeable.
Knowing where these insects like to hide can also help you identify them. Bed bugs are usually found in and around your mattress, while baby roaches tend to be found closer to food and water sources—particularly in dark or damp areas.
Frequently Asked Questions: Baby Roaches
How Big Are Baby Cockroaches?
Most species of baby roaches are very small, around the size of a grain of rice. German cockroach nymphs start at 1/8 inches in length, while American and Oriental cockroach nymphs start at 1/4 inches.
Do Baby Cockroaches Fly?
No, baby roaches can’t fly. Most species found in New York (e.g. American, German, and Oriental) are wingless as nymphs, and only develop wings as adults.
Are Baby Roaches Fast?
Baby roaches can move almost as fast as full grown roaches, which are able to reach speeds of three miles per hour—almost the same speed as a human walking.
How Do You Get Rid of Baby Cockroaches?
Discovering a baby cockroach in your home is usually a bad sign that you may have a cockroach infestation on your hands. The most important thing to do is to eliminate the conditions that allow cockroaches to thrive:
- Clean up grease and food crumbs
- Keep food items in tightly sealed containers
- Wash dirty dishes immediately after use
- Fix any leaks or plumbing issues
- Remove and reduce clutter
- Empty and clean garbage cans regularly
The use of insect growth regulators, also known as IGRs, may help inhibit the growth of cockroach nymphs to prevent them from maturing to adulthood and reproducing. You can use general cockroach control products like boric acid or diatomaceous earth to help control the infestation.
For severe cockroach infestations, consider contacting your local pest control professional.
MMPC has been in the pest control business for over 25 years. We’re one of New York City’s most experienced and highest-rated exterminators when it comes to helping people get rid of cockroaches and other pests.
If you’ve found baby roaches in your home, send a picture to our Free Pest ID Center and our experts can help identify and provide recommendations to help you get rid of them.