Bed bugs and cockroaches are pests that have learned to thrive when in close proximity to a human dwelling. Both these insects’ infestations are worsened by poor hygiene. Bed bugs flourish if you do not change your beddings often or if you do not vacuum your room, while roaches love living in homes with plenty of garbage.
Bed bugs live in bed rooms and couches, while roaches favor the kitchen.
Baby roaches have cylindrical bodies while bed bugs are shorter, oval-shaped, and look more like an apple seed.
Bed bug vs roach differences
Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color and oval-shaped. They have six legs and two short and thick antennae on both sides of their head. They have dark eyes on the side of their head. They have wing flaps covering vestigial wings. Baby bed bugs, or nymphs, look just like adult bed bugs but smaller and lighter in color.
Bed bugs have a straw-like proboscis that they use to puncture through the skin to drink blood from their host.
Bed bugs live near beds and couches because this is where their hosts sleep and easiest to feed on. They have hiding places, or harborages, that they return to after feeding to keep safe while they digest their latest blood meal.
Roaches are dark brown to reddish-mahogany in color. They have flat, oval-shaped bodies that are much larger than bed bugs. Adult roaches measure between 3-5cm. The most notable feature of the roach is the long antennae. They have big eyes and membranous wings that allow them to fly. They have a tail-like structure that protrudes from their abdomen.
Baby roaches look the same except smaller and without wings.
There are hundreds of species or roaches, some even observed in the Arctic.
Roaches are nocturnal and usually run when exposed to light. They are found in cupboards, pipes, bathrooms, and pipes.
Both insects have wings but they do not use them the same way.
Bed bugs cannot fly and only crawl to get around from place to place. That is also why they prefer living in mattresses so they will not have to travel very far to get to their host. Bed bugs have no need to travel out of the room or house they live in as long as there is a host readily available. They are spread from room to room or house to house by accidentally crawling onto a person’s clothes or luggage and getting carried into the new place and starting a new colony there.
Roaches can fly and glide through the air. They have body shells that open to reveal their delicate wings. Even if roaches are able to fly, they still prefer to crawl as it is more discreet and attracts less attention.
Diurnal or nocturnal
Both insects are thought to be nocturnal because they like to be hidden in the dark while they go about their business and looking for food.
Bed bugs do come out primarily at night but that does not mean that they will not come out in the day. If a person works during the day and sleeps at night, the bed bugs will come out at night. But if a person works at night and sleeps during the day, eventually the bed bugs will adapt to the routine and know to come out during the day.
Roaches, on the other hand, feed on food waste and garbage. They know that they will not be exposed to danger when they are covered in darkness. Which is also why roaches scatter and run to hide when you turn the kitchen lights on. Roaches may come out during the day, but they prefer coming out at night. They are also much quicker than bed bugs when escaping danger.
Fight or flight
Both of these insects will run and hide from humans if they can. They will find nearby cracks and crevices to squeeze into. Neither bug will fight back when faced with a human or a pet, like a dog or cat. Bed bugs, especially, do not have mouth parts to bite an attacker nor a stinger to defend itself. Roaches have mouths that can bite a person but it is usually when the person is unconscious. A roach that is faced with a human opponent would still run away rather than put up a fight.
Since humans are the bed bugs primary host, they will bite more frequently than roaches ever will. Bed bug bites are red welts that are painful and itchy. The redness is due to the histamine response our bodies have when something foreign enters it. Bed bugs feed every five to ten days, so if you have multiple new bites every night, that means you have a sizable bed bug population. Bed bug saliva has an anesthetic component that makes the host unaware that it is being fed on. It also has an anticoagulant that keeps the blood flowing so they can feed continuously.
Roaches do not bite humans regularly, but they definitely can. They focus their biting on food that they can find and will only bite a person if there is literally no other food left around.
Roaches do not have anesthetic saliva so you will feel it immediately when a roach bites you. It will also swell up and can possibly become infected because of how dirty roaches are.
Bed bugs and roaches are both insects that prosper around a human dwelling with poor hygiene. Bed bugs can multiply easily in a home where the bed sheets are never washed and roaches love homes with improper garbage disposal.
Roaches are larger than bed bugs and they can fly. Bed bugs are the size of an apple seed and they can only crawl to get from place to place.
Both bugs do not like to be exposed to humans in the light so they only come out when they know they are safe. Both bugs can bite humans, but roaches are the ones that have bacteria in their mouth and bodies.
Image: istockphoto.com / Matteo Lanciano