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Cockroach vs. Beetle: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 12, 2023
Cockroaches are nocturnal insects with a flattened body, while beetles have a hard exoskeleton and elytra (wing covers). Both belong to different orders: cockroaches to Blattodea and beetles to Coleoptera.

Key Differences

Cockroaches are widely recognized for their flat, oval-shaped bodies and long antennae. They're notorious for their hardiness and ability to thrive in various environments. On the contrary, beetles carry a completely different reputation, often being admired for their various shapes and often stunning colorations.
In terms of morphology, cockroaches typically possess a softer exoskeleton compared to beetles. Beetles are characterized by their hard exoskeletons and the elytra, which are hardened forewings that protect the delicate flying wings beneath. Cockroaches do not have such a protective mechanism, instead featuring a more flexible and exposed wing structure.
Cockroaches have a notorious reputation for being pests in human habitats, often being associated with filth and decay. They can survive in various challenging environments, from freezing conditions to highly humid tropical settings. Beetles, conversely, boast a plethora of species that fulfill various roles in the environment, from decomposers to predators, and are not typically universally regarded as pests.
An interesting difference lies in the biodiversity of the two groups. Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, which is the largest order of insects, boasting a whopping 400,000 species. Cockroaches, however, are significantly less diverse in species, with about 4,600 known varieties, all belonging to the order Blattodea.
The lifecycles of cockroaches and beetles also present points of divergence. Cockroaches often exhibit an incomplete metamorphosis, transitioning through stages of egg, nymph, and adult. Beetles experience a complete metamorphosis, undergoing a transformation from egg to larva (often a grub), pupa, and finally, adult, each stage considerably different from the last.

Comparison Chart




Generally softer
Hard with elytra



Species Diversity

~4,600 species
~400,000 species

General Public Perception

Often viewed as pests
Varied, often positive

Cockroach and Beetle Definitions


A cockroach is a nocturnal insect known for its resilience and adaptability.
The cockroach scurried away when the kitchen light flicked on.


A beetle is an insect characterized by hard, often colorful, elytra.
The vibrant colors of the beetle stood out against the dull brown bark.


Cockroaches are omnivorous creatures, consuming various organic materials.
Surprisingly, a cockroach can survive on the glue from a postage stamp for a substantial period.


Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, the largest order in the animal kingdom.
Despite its diminutive size, the beetle is part of Coleoptera, an order that encompasses hundreds of thousands of species.


Cockroaches typically exhibit rapid and secretive movements, especially when exposed to light.
As soon as the flashlight illuminated the dark corner, the cockroach hastily sought refuge under a crack.


Beetles play various ecological roles, including being pollinators and decomposers.
The dung beetle, fulfilling a vital ecological role, navigated the savannah, rolling its nutrient-rich ball.


Cockroaches have been existence for an estimated 320 million years, showcasing their evolutionary success.
The cockroach, having existed since the Carboniferous period, witnessed the evolutionary journey of numerous species.


Most beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis during their lifecycle.
The beetle, once a tiny larva, transformed through stages into a striking adult insect.


The cockroach can live in a wide range of environments, from tropical to temperate regions.
Despite the harsh, arid conditions of the desert, the cockroach managed to find sustenance and survive.


Some beetle species are bioluminescent, meaning they can produce light.
In the dark cave, the bioluminescent beetle provided a natural, eerie glow.


Any of numerous insects of the order or suborder Blattaria, having oval flat bodies and laying eggs in hardened cases, and including several species that are common household pests.


Any of numerous insects of the order Coleoptera, having biting or chewing mouthparts and forewings modified to form horny coverings that protect the underlying pair of membranous hind wings when at rest.


A black or brown straight-winged insect of the order Blattodea.


An insect resembling a member of the order Coleoptera.


What order do beetles belong to?


Can beetles be found in various habitats worldwide?

Yes, they inhabit diverse ecosystems.

Are cockroaches capable of flight?

Some species can fly, though not all are adept at it.

How many species of beetles are there?

Approximately 400,000.

What is a notable feature of beetle anatomy?

Hardened forewings called elytra.

What order do cockroaches belong to?


What type of metamorphosis do beetles undergo?

Complete metamorphosis.

What do cockroaches typically eat?

They are omnivorous and can consume a wide range of organic material.

Are cockroaches commonly found in urban environments?

Yes, they are prevalent in cities and other human settlements.

Are all beetles considered beneficial to humans?

No, some are pests, while others are beneficial.

Are there beetles that are harmful to wood structures?

Yes, some beetles, like termites, can damage wood.

Are there any symbolic meanings attached to beetles in different cultures?

Yes, in ancient Egypt, scarab beetles symbolized regeneration and transformation.

Do beetles and cockroaches share the same habitats?

Sometimes, as both can be found in various environments worldwide.

What type of metamorphosis do cockroaches undergo?

Incomplete metamorphosis.

Do beetles have a significant impact on ecosystems?

Yes, they play varied and vital ecological roles.

Can beetles fly?

Many can, using hind wings stored under their elytra.

Are cockroaches considered pests?

Often, due to their invasive habits in human dwellings.

Can cockroaches and beetles be harmful to crops?

Yes, some species of both can damage crops.

How many species of cockroaches are there?

Approximately 4,600.

Can cockroaches survive in harsh conditions?

Yes, they are known for their resilience.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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