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Sand Roach: Identification Guide (Interesting FACTS!)

Sand roach is also known as the desert roach, and it belongs to the genus Arenivaga. The sand roach is different from other roaches in its unique and peculiar characteristic called dimorphism. Dimorphism makes the male and female sand roach quite different from each other to a level they appear different species.

Sand roach is a dimorphic insect, with the male roach measuring between 0.5 to 0.9 inches. It has a pale tan to light brown color with a flat body and long antennae. The male sand roach has two sets of flight-capable wings.

The female sand roach is light brown to dark with a round circular body measuring between 0.6 to 0.8 inches. It has tiny legs and antennas and has no wings making it noncapable of flight. The female desert cockroach appears like a thick penny with a coarse body.

The sand roaches love to live outdoors and never infest homes. However, because the male sand roach is flight-capable, it often flies toward a bright light and enters indoor spaces. Therefore, in places where sand roaches are common such as Colorado and parts of Southern California, people should install window screens to prevent them from entering indoors.

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Appearance, and Identification Points of Sand Roach

Pic of a Male Sand Roach
Pic of a Female Sand Roach

Sand roach is not too common, and therefore it’s often difficult to identify. Moreover, they are predominantly found around sand are difficult to spot.

However, the appearance of the desert roaches makes them unique, and you can easily differentiate them from other roaches if you have previously encountered them.


The male and female sand roaches are pretty different from each other in terms of size, shape, and structures. Moreover, sand roaches keep changing their color based on their diet intake. Therefore, no single color can be strictly assigned to them.

Male Sand Roach is a light brown to tan or dusty in color with a smooth flattened body. It has two long antennas and visible legs.

Female Sand Roach is light brown to dark with a round circular penny-like striated body. It has two small antennas and tiny legs.


The male sand roach measures between 0.5 to 0.9 inches long, whereas the female measures 0.6 to 0.8 inches.


The male desert roach has two sets of wings that are longer than the abdomen. It makes the male desert roach an excellent flyer.

The female desert roach lack wings and are unable to fly.


Neither the male nor the female sand roach bites humans. However, they can trigger allergies just like other roaches.

Identification Points

Identifying and differentiating Desert cockroaches from other roaches is very easy. Here are a few differences,

  1. They have distinctive shape and color
  2. Both male and female cockroaches are quite differnt from eash other. Therefore, spotting two quite different cockroaches hanging out with each other will clearly indicate that they are sand roaches.
  3. They are found burrowing in sand dunes.

Distribution and Habitat of the Desert Cockroach

Desert cockroach or sand roach is native to Southern New Mexico, Colorado, and Southern California. These roaches are among the few prominent cockroaches that live in Colorado.

Interestingly, Unlike other roaches that prefer a humid climate, Sand roach predominantly lives in the wild in the sandy soil. These roaches usually burrow inside the desert soil and come out at night, although males also come out during the day.

Like Wood cockroaches or Asian roach, the male sand roach is particularly attracted to light flashes and usually flies towards it. As a result, sand roaches can sometimes move indoors but never cause infestation.

Do Cockroaches Play Dead? Read this interesting article to know more!

Desert Roaches: Diet and Life Cycle

Although Sand roaches are omnivorous, they love to feed on mycorrhizal fungi, decaying plant matter, and the seeds burrowed by the mammals under the sandy soil. They are also known to absorb water from the atmosphere at night to meet their water demands.

There has been little research about the life cycle of desert roaches, but it is known that, like other roaches, the female sand roach releases pheromones to attract male roaches. After they mate, the female starts to lay eggs after 30 days.

The male sand roaches have a very short life compared to female roaches. The female sand roach lives for approximately 2 years, whereas the male roach has a life span of 1.5 years.

Additional Read!