What is the difference between a cockroach and a beetle?

Posted by Beth Watson on

What is the difference between a cockroach and a beetle?

Roaches & beetles are not the same. I always thought they were, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Roaches and beetles come from 2 completely different orders, although they are both of the class Insecta, which is the largest group within the arthropod phylum. Insects have a tough protective exoskeleton, a three-part body (headthorax, and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legscompound eyes, and one pair of antennae. They include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known living organisms.

Roaches belong to the order Blattodea (Blatta is actually latin for roach), along with termites. They appear to have hard shells on the back of their bodies, but in fact the shell is more of a papery, leather texture, not solid at all. This "shell" is there to protect the wings from destruction. In some cockroach species, the males possess a double set of wings while the females have no wings at all. Not all with wings can actually fly. There are over 3,500 identified species of cockroaches, roughly 10 of those are considered a pest to the household. At any stage of life, cockroaches can carry and spread bacteria to you and your family. Their saliva & waste can contaminate food with bacteria like salmonella, staphylococcus, & potentially the polio virus.

Beetles are in the order Coleoptera & most typically possess two sets of wings, with the stiff, outer set (elytra) used to protect the inside wings which are used for flying. Though, not all beetles can fly. With 400,000 different species, they all have a different appearance. Their sizes range from 6 inches in length all the way down to 1/16th of an inch and while most beetles are vibrant in color and very pretty, others are plain black or brown. Beetles can be considered a problem in the household, and have been known to cause significant damage to agriculture, forestry, and horticulture. Most destruction caused by beetles is from larvae. Larvae could be found in the home or other structures containing wood or carpet. The wood-boring beetle can live in wood up to 10 years, without any obvious signs. Because beetles have mandibles, or two hard “teeth” in the front of their mouth, carpet beetles are able to chew through leather, carpet, or any type of cloth, even dead organisms. While beetles do not spread disease, if left untreated, they and their larvae can cause excessive problems to your home and property.


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