Found a brown cockroach and wondering what to do? You’re in good company.
With 7 species that fit the color scheme, and trillions of the pesky critters turning up in homes around the world, the brown roach you’ve just discovered is on a lot of other people’s radar, too.
If you’re looking for ways to get rid of your newfound friend, we’ll show you how to make that happen. But first you’ll need to identify the species, because each one calls for a specialized approach. We’ll do that with you here on this page, then link you off to the precise solutions that you need.
Sound like a plan? Let’s go.
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The American Cockroach
You’ll know an American cockroach when you see one, not so much due to its characteristic reddish brown color, as its size. At up to 2 inches long, it’s not just big. It’s huge, and is a familiar sight in homes, restaurants, and markets across the country.
Learn more about the American cockroach.
American roaches are not good house guests. They emerge from sewers and garbage containers, invading human structures when the weather becomes too hot, too cold, too dry, or too wet. They come in search of moist, warm living conditions (like your basement or bathroom) and food. Luckily, they’re gentle giants that don’t bite humans. They do, however, spread potentially harmful bacteria wherever they go.
The Brown-Banded Cockroach
It’s all in the name: this tiny, light brown cockroach has distinctive tan or yellow bands running horizontally across its back.
Learn more about the Brown-banded cockroach.
While male brown-banded cockroaches have long translucent wings that completely cover the pattern, the female brown-banded cockroach has shorter wings that leave some of the bands exposed, making them easier to spot (and the roach easier to identify).
Brown banded roaches sometimes hitchhike in grocery bags and furniture that you’re bringing inside. They do nothing but complain when it’s cold, so they typically live (and lay their egg capsules) in warm, high-up places, like the upper third of walls.
They’ll eat a wide variety of things, including cardboard and paper. So pack rats (you know who you are) beware: all those high school report cards, college posters and decades-old newspaper clippings are at risk.
The German Cockroach
The German cockroach is the pest in the U.S. These roaches are everywhere. If you’ve ever lived in a city apartment, you’ve almost certainly seen them.
Learn more about the German cockroach.
It’s a tiny roach—only about the size of a penny—and a very light brown. Look for two dark vertical stripes running down its back on each side—that’s its giveaway.
They have wings, but don’t worry—German roaches rarely fly. They do run like track stars though, and are difficult to catch, or squash.
The Asian Cockroach
The Asian cockroach lives mostly in the southern United States. It’s a prolific egg layer and tends to spread quickly after it’s found a suitable habitat.
Learn more about the Asian cockroach.
Perhaps most striking about the Asian cockroach is its uncanny resemblance to the German cockroach, and even experts have been known to mix them up. Asian cockroach adults have longer, thinner wings than German’s though. And if you really wanted to, you could look under the wings of a dead one and see that its stripes are thicker than the German’s.
Or you could just wait a little while to see if it flies. While German roaches hardly ever leave the ground, Asian cockroaches fly easily when disturbed.
The Smokybrown Cockroach
Smokybrown roaches are flat, narrow and pretty long. They’re close relatives of the American roach and also fairly large. If you were to compare them side by side, the smaller, dark brown roach will be the smokybrown.
Learn more about the Smoky brown cockroach.
Smokybrowns are infamously attracted to lights and bright TV screens. If there’s a big brown cockroach buzzing around your patio lights, it’s probably one of these. They’re big fans of attics, especially attics without fans, where they can bask in the humid air.
The Australian Cockroach
The Outback’s most famous brown cockroach is the Australian cockroach. At about 1 1/2 inches long, it’s far from small. While it looks remarkably similar to the American cockroach, its signature yellow wing stripes give the game away.
Learn more about the Australian cockroach.
These bugs look for ways inside when the temperature starts to drop, so if you’ve seen this roach, watch out for more in your kitchen and bathroom.
The Wood Cockroach
Though there are actually twelve types of wood cockroach species in the United States (twelve!) the one you’re most likely to encounter in your home or yard is the Pennsylvania wood cockroach.
Learn more about the Wood cockroach.
This outdoor roach is a dark brown color with tan or transparent stripes around the upper part of its back. At an inch or so in length, it’s about the size of a quarter.
You might find wood roaches hiding in your garage or living in piles of firewood or decaying matter. They’re attracted to lights, so don’t be surprised if yours got in through an open window.
Discovering an ugly brown cockroach can ruin a perfectly good day. But once you identify it, you can find the specific solutions for dealing with it (by clicking into any of the species-specific guides above).
You can take a DIY approach to pest management using roach baits, powders, and plenty of prevention- or call a pest control company to take care of the job. But for the sake of your home, your peace of mind, and possibly your health, you don’t want to do nothing. Because where there’s a single brown roach, there are often many more.
And with a little information, you can head off or solve a roach control problem before it gets any worse. Cockroach infestations are not a lot of fun.
Frequently Asked Questions
The largest of the brown-colored species are the American cockroach, the smokybrown cockroach and the Australian cockroach. If you’re looking at a bug that’s bigger than 1 1/2 inches, it’s probably one of these heavyweights.
American roaches are wood-brown while smokybrown roaches are darker in color. The Australian roach has a distinctive yellow ring around the area behind its head.
It’s probably a German cockroach, an Asian cockroach, a brown-banded cockroach or one of a dozen wood cockroaches.
German and Asian roaches look almost identical, with dark stripes running down their backs. Brown-banded cockroaches give themselves away with their horizontal light-brown bands. And wood cockroaches come in a variety of styles.
Big brown cockroaches are typically outdoor species. The come from lots of gross and unsanitary places, including drainpipes, sewers, dumpsters, forest undergrowth and gutters. When they come inside, it’s usually through a hole or crack in a wall, a torn window screen or the pipes beneath your sink or bathtub.
Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.
Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.
Rae Osborn, PhD.
Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.