Water Bug or Cockroach? Identification and Control Tips

Pest infestations are common in the summer when it’s hot and humid. You may find that the little critters have found their way inside your house and are causing problems. Water bugs is the general term for insects that live in and around water.

Some are often mistaken for cockroaches because they look similar, but water bugs and cockroaches are not the same. Here are a few things you need to know about identifying water bugs and the differences between water bugs and cockroaches.

What are Water Bugs?

“Water bugs” is a general term used to describe insects that live in or on the water of swimming pools, ponds, or streams. It is estimated that there are 1500 species of water bugs in existence. They eat algae, water plants and decaying matter and some prey on other insects. They get inside through cracks in walls near the foundation if there is moisture, and especially in bathroom areas such as tub drains.

Is it a water bug or cockroach?

Water bugs come in various sizes and colors, some resembling a larger version of a cockroach but dark brown or black in color. The common cockroach is smaller and a lighter brown color. In certain areas of the country, people often refer to them as “sewer roaches” or “water beetles” because they tend to appear near water leaks or in bathroom areas.

Tips to identifying water bugs

  1. They are aquatic or live near water sources. or damp areas.
  2. They are mostly found outside near water sources or inside in damp places like bathrooms.
  3. They are large size, black or dark brown in color, oval-shaped bodies with paddle-like legs.

The differences between the two

The difference between water bugs and cockroaches is that cockroaches are typically found inside when they have an abundant food supply such as crumbs left on counters, pet food dishes and open trash cans. They multiply quickly and spread disease.

Water bugs tend to be found most often in outdoor areas where there is standing water but will come inside through wet or damp access ways like leaky pipes. They tend to be solitary except during breeding times, and most often when you see a single bug that’s all there is, not like with roaches where there is a ton of them hiding in drawers, cupboards and behind appliances.

Do Water Bugs Bite?

Water bugs are typically not dangerous but they can bite if provoked. Their bite is painful and similar to a spider bite in effect. They are not typically aggressive towards humans but do eat other insects and small water animals.

How Water Bugs Get Inside Your House?

Water bugs typically live in wet, damp rotting material such as leaves, debris and standing water. If you have cracks near the foundation of your house that is one way they get inside. Another is through pipes leading indoors and exiting through drains. They like wet or damp environments so you probably won’t see them in areas of the house that are dry. Most often they can be found in bathrooms and basement areas.

How to Get Rid of Water Bugs?

Natural methods

If you have pets or children in the house you may not want to use chemical preparations to kill unwanted pests. The best method for getting rid of them is to clean up the area, dry the water source ( fix leaky pipes) or caulk cracks. You can use a mixture of baking soda and powdered sugar near the entrance where they tend to hide. This is non-toxic and won’t hurt pets if they lick it. If you only see one or two, you can scoop them up into a cup and carry them outdoors away from the house.

Chemical alternatives

Chemical alternatives would be to use something like roach bait or glue traps to catch them and then dispose of the traps in the trash. If you see more than one or two you may want to call in an exterminator to do a thorough check to decide if there is an infestation going on or if you have a dual problem with cockroaches as well.

How to Prevent Pests from Invading Your Home?

To keep future pest problems at bay, take a proactive position and eliminate the things that draw or attract them.

  • Keep rotting leaves and debris away from the house.
  • Empty trash cans and eliminate access to food sources.
  • Keep pet food containers tightly closed and sweep and vacuum floors daily.
  • Seal cracks and around pipes with silicone caulk.
  • Empty any sources of water outside such as buckets, bird baths and cover or empty wading pools.

The best way to prevent infestations of water bugs and roaches is to keep things as clean as possible and dry up any wet areas as soon as possible. It is much easier to prevent bugs than deal with them afterwards, but if you find yourself surrounded by unwanted visitors a quick call to the exterminator should solve the problem in no time.

Additional Waterbug Resources:


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