You wake up one day with an insect bite. Mosquito and flea season have long passed, and since you haven’t been out hiking, it probably wasn’t a tick.
As you try to figure it out, a small dark shape darts across the floor. And you realize. It’s a cockroach.
With a sinking sensation, you ask yourself “Do cockroaches bite? Is this a cockroach bite on my foot?!”
You’ve never heard of cockroach bites before, so maybe it’s something else. Time to investigate.
Do Cockroaches Bite?
The short answer? Yes they do. Cockroaches don’t discriminate when it comes to biting things, including lots of things in your home. Do cockroaches bite humans? In a word, yes.
But also… not very often.
Unlike fleas, ticks, and bed bugs that bite humans for survival, cockroaches aren’t actually out looking for a feast of human blood. They’re just scavenging and well – there you are. Sleeping so peacefully with your foot out of the covers.
Roaches really don’t go after humans in general, and roach bites on humans happen very infrequently. If you did get a cockroach bite, it was probably just taking a nibble to see if you consist of the food they like. When roaches encounter humans, they’re seldom out to bite you, and just move on to tastier treats most of the time.
But that doesn’t mean roach bites are okay. They’re not. More about that shortly.
What Does a Cockroach Bite Look Like?
What does a cockroach bite look like? Like other insect bites, mostly. A cockroach bite mark is going to look similar to a mosquito bite. It will probably itch and you may see some swelling.
Does it hurt when you’re bitten? Possibly. Possibly not. Though cockroaches have extremely strong jaws that can chomp down with a force fifty times their own weight, some people don’t feel them at all. Others who do say they feel like an ant bite. It probably has to do with the size of the roach.
That’s roach bites on humans. But do roaches bite pets?
Yes, they can bite pets too. But they’re even less likely to bite pets than humans though because pets are typically seen as predators by roaches. Those rare cockroach bites that do occur to pets aren’t visible because of fur, but are uncomfortable and itchy, so if they happened, you might see pets visibly scratching.
Which Type of Cockroaches Bite?
Another short answer: They all do. But none of them bite very much. There are 4,500 species of cockroach in the world, thirty of which are known pests. Of those 30 species, you’re only likely to encounter five in the U.S. that might take a nibble of you:
The German Cockroach. The German cockroach is one of the most common cockroaches and biggest pest problem globally. You can distinguish them by their size (they’re small), the two dark stripes on their backs, and their light brown color. Sugar and starches are preferred food sources, but like all cockroaches, they’re scavengers and don’t shy away from proteins. Do German cockroaches bite? They can, but it’s unlikely to happen to you.
The American Cockroach. The American cockroach, sometimes referred to as the palmetto bug, is a larger species of cockroach that can grow up to three inches in length. Doubling the survival rate of most roaches, it lives up to two years. It’s either dark reddish in color or brown with yellow edges across its shell. It feeds on fermented organic matter or dead animals, but will eat lots of other things you wouldn’t believe. It’s possible to get a palmetto bug bite, but rare.
The Oriental Cockroach. Sometimes mistaken for water bugs, Oriental cockroaches are winged but can’t fly and grow to one and a quarter inches in length. You can tell them apart by their dark brown or black color and distinctive shape. Do Oriental cockroaches bite? Sometimes, yes. But not very often.
The Brown Banded Cockroach. Smaller than an Oriental or American roach, the Brown Banded cockroach measures just half an inch in length. They tend to flock to warm, dry areas. Males can fly, but more often leap. They’re golden and dark brown colored, although females have a reddish cast. Like other roaches, they’ll occasionally but rarely bite.
The Smoky Brown Cockroach. This species relies on moisture to live. (A dehumidifier might be a weapon of choice.) Smoky brown cockroaches are about one and a half inches long. They are good flyers, for roaches. A dark brown shell and body distinguish this roach. Does it bite? Rarely, but yes.
So can cockroaches bite? Yes. All of them can bite. Do cockroaches bite? Yes, but not very often. At least not to you and me. And though it’s possible that bite on your foot is a cockroach bite, it’s far more likely to have come from a mosquito or spider.
Treating Cockroach Bites
Cockroach bite treatment is the same as other bug bite treatments. Use soap and warm water to clean the area. Then sterilize it with alcohol or another disinfectant. Bites can be treated with ice to reduce swelling and by applying anti-itch cream. Also possibly soothing for cockroach bite first aid would be tea tree oil, lemon juice, aloe vera, or a moist tea bag placed over the wound.
Try not to scratch. If you have an allergic reaction to a roach bite, it may need medical treatment.
Preventing Cockroach Bites
Though cockroach bites can (though rarely) occur, the greater danger has to do with what seeing cockroaches in your home means. If it means you have an infestation, coming into contact with that infestation has the potential to make you sick.
Cockroaches can be disseminators of salmonella, streptococcus, staphylococcus, cholera, dysentery, escherichia coli, poliomyelitis virus, giardia, listeriosis, and gastroenteritis. They can make your allergies worse, and if you have asthma, can increase your risk of an attack.
How to prevent cockroach bites and the risk of disease too? Once it’s clear that cockroaches have invaded your home (and if you actually have cockroach bites, it’s a pretty scary sign), you’ll need to take action as soon as possible, eliminating the pests and cleaning up the signs of infestation that remain.