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You’ve probably heard warnings about how quickly cockroaches can reproduce and spread through a house. When cockroaches take up residence in a home, it’s because they’ve found conditions they like. A lot.
But do cockroaches really nest in homes? And what does a cockroach nest even look like?
In this short guide, we’ll teach you:
- How cockroaches hide
- How to find a roach nest, and
- How to get rid of a cockroach nest – possibly forever.
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What Does a Cockroach Nest Look Like?
A roach nest isn’t a tightly wound basket of twigs and grass like you might expect from a bird. And it’s not the sort of carefully gathered nest of materials that you might expect from a mouse or rat.
Cockroaches “nest” wherever they find a hiding place near food and water. A better word is colony: cockroaches live in colonies and their “nest” is simply the colony’s hotspot, where the roaches lay their eggs and hide from daylight (and people).
Basically, a cockroach “nest” looks nothing like a nest. It’s more like the roaches’ messy bedroom, where everything’s lying around in the same general area.
Finding a cockroach nest means finding several (or several dozen) cockroaches and, probably, a few dead ones.
You’ll also see plenty of roach droppings and old egg cases lying around. Cockroach droppings are tiny and look like coffee grounds or black pepper. Droppings start to collect in areas with high activity. You might even find it inside kitchen appliances.
Egg cases meanwhile, are usually brown and less than 1/4 inch long. Every egg case you can see might equal 40 or more baby cockroaches.
A cockroach “nest” also contains old skins that the baby cockroaches have molted. These young roaches, called nymphs, shed their exoskeletons 6 times or more before they’re fully grown. There might be dozens or hundreds of molted exoskeletons lying around, depending on the size of the infestation.
When a large number of roaches are present, you might even see some of the nymphs. And you might just mistake them for completely different insects. Nymphs sometimes appear white right after they’ve molted, while their new exoskeletons are still developing.
If the roach population continues to grow, you might see more and more adults out in the open as they’re pushed out or forced to cover more ground looking for food. They’ll also give off a strong, musty odor. Not only that, but everything they touch—including food items—will start to smell oily and stale, too. It’s a pungent odor that you can’t miss, but if you hadn’t seen a roach, you might’ve mistaken it for something else.
Where Do Roaches Live?
Most cockroaches love humid places. Depending on the type of cockroach, some like it hot and some stick to cooler, damp places. But one thing just about all of them have in common is a need for moisture.
For that reason, cockroaches almost always live near sources of food and water. Wherever they have easy access to snacks and drinks, they’ll find a hiding place nearby.
And hiding isn’t just something that cockroaches do. It’s one of their most effective adaptations, a skill they’re good at and spend most of their lives doing!
Even the largest roaches (like the Oriental cockroach, or the even bigger American cockroach) are small enough to squeeze into cracks and crevices you probably hadn’t noticed before. They’ll live beneath carpets and floor mats, too. Small species can even squeeze beneath loose wallpaper and use that tiny space as their hiding place.
It’s hard to find cockroaches because they make it hard; they like tight, hemmed-in places where they won’t be seen and won’t be disturbed. That’s why they often build colonies in crawl spaces and basements. It’s also why discovering even one cockroach, living or dead, is a warning sign you should heed. Because there could be many, many more only barely out of sight.
Hint: If you’ve come here because you’ve already found a cockroach in your home, you can identify and learn about the worst 8 Types of Roaches here.
How to Find a Roach Nest
Brace yourself for this one, because finding roaches means thinking like them too. You’ll need to get down on your hands and knees and poke around places that are hard to reach, and sometimes aren’t pleasant. You’ll probably get a little dirty, so put on some old work clothes and possibly a pair of gloves – because ready? You’re going in.
Thinking like a cockroach means identifying sources of food and water, so you’re going to want to begin in the kitchen and bathrooms where one or both are plentiful.
You’ll want to be thorough and check all of your cabinets, your pantry and any shelving or storage containers. You’ll want to look behind and under things, as well as inside of things. It helps to use a handheld mirror and a flashlight to check under appliances and behind the refrigerator.
Hint: If the thought of opening a cabinet door to suddenly see an active roach nest is giving you anxiety, remember: they won’t hurt you. The worst they’ll do is scurry away as fast as possible. You can do this.
Beyond the kitchen and bathrooms, the most common nest areas are dark, cluttered and damp places. If you found a roach in the attic or basement, you’ll have to check all of the boxes and bins stored there – they could be in all or just one of them- to make sure they haven’t “nested” inside.
It’s a lot of work but it’s better to be safe than sorry when you’re dealing with pests! Plus, it’ll only get more difficult to control the problem if it continues to grow.
How to Get Rid of a Cockroach Nest
If you’ve found a roach nest in your home, all hope is not lost! With a combination of baits, pesticides and wits, you can beat a cockroach infestation.
To Find Cockroach Hiding Spots and Kill Them Quickly When You Have Just a Few
Recommended for all cockroaches
To Kill Cockroaches Inside Your Home When You Have a Serious Problem
Recommended for German cockroaches and Brown banded cockroaches, as well as American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), and Oriental cockroaches when they enter in large numbers.
To Kill Cockroaches Outdoors Before They Have a Chance to Get Inside
Recommended for American cockroaches (Palmetto bugs, Water bugs, Tree roaches, Sewer roaches), Oriental cockroaches, and Smokybrown cockroaches.
Bayer Polyzone Suspend Insecticide
When used on exterior foundations, entries, and walls, Suspend insecticidal liquid stops outdoor roaches before they get in. It requires a separate sprayer (see below), and works best alongside a granular outdoor bait like Intice and an outdoor crack and crevice treatment like Delta Dust.
Start with Gel Baits
Safe, inexpensive, and easy to use, roach gel bait is a good first start. Use tiny dabs of bait around the most likely entry points roaches are using, whether they’re holes in the wall or gaps between the oven and the cabinets.
Baits are effective and easy to use because roaches do most of the job themselves, first eating the poison, then carrying it back to their “nest,” where others in the colony also get to it.
Baits will help you begin to kill roaches, but for long-term roach control, look to a combination of products, including insecticidal dust and IGR.
Insecticidal dust works alongside bait by killing roaches in a different way, damaging their bodies as they crawl through it, eventually causing them to dehydrate (to death).
Boric acid and food-grade diatomaceous earth are popular dusts that work well, but an even better product is CimeXa, which is both faster and safer. Dust in conjunction with gel bait is a seriously effective way to cut back roach populations.
The third part of the trio is insect growth regulator (IGR), which renders newborn roaches infertile. IGR products like Gentrol are easy to use, and complete a very potent roach control plan.
Finally, you or a pest control professional (who ought to be consulted in the event of an overwhelming roach infestation) can use outdoor baits, dust, and insecticidal sprays if necessary to treat the perimeter of your home.
The best long-term plan is a good defense. That means cleaning your home regularly and keeping things organized. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the areas just outside of your house—including the garage, garden, patio and yard—for debris and clutter that can attract cockroaches and other pests.
It’s scary to think about a cockroach colony living in your home, sneaking out at night and crawling around the kitchen. But it’s a problem you can handle! Armed with the information in this article, you’re ready to find the cockroach nest and get rid of it forever.
Frequently Asked Questions
When cockroaches take hold in a house, their go-to habitats are in kitchens and bathrooms. Roaches spend most of their time hiding, so they’ll look for dark, out-of-reach places to build their colonies. Large appliances can hide cockroach colonies. These tiny insects can hide behind appliances, live in furniture and squeeze into cabinets and crevices.
Usually the first sign there are cockroaches present is… seeing a cockroach! Otherwise, you might not even think about a roach nest being in your home. Other signs include dead roaches or old, molted exoskeletons, roach droppings (which looks like black pepper) and the musty odor roaches tend to produce. Keep a close eye on any signs you see to find out the size and location of any infestation you could be dealing with.
A cockroach colony can contain anywhere from a few roaches to a few hundred. If you find any kind of established “nest” in your home (that means multiple roaches, droppings and evidence of molting) you should treat it as a serious infestation. Cockroaches reproduce quickly and just a few females can produce hundreds of offspring in a year.
German cockroaches don’t build nests, but these extremely common pests usually live very close to their sources of food. They’re widespread pests that gather in warm, humid places. German roach colonies hide around appliances like stoves and dishwashers, in cabinets and anywhere else that’s dark and hidden from humans.
Written by Andrew Martin, Reviewed by Helene Steenkamp, PhD.
Disclaimer: This page is strictly for informational use. When using insecticides, keep in mind—the label is the law. Insecticides should be applied correctly and safely when needed, and according to the laws of your state or country.
Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.
Helene Steenkamp, PhD.
Helene is a Namibian born South African citizen with a great love for nature and its intricacies. She completed a PhD in molecular phylogenetics at the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 2011, and has since worked as a postdoctoral researcher in this field at the University as well as the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa.
She has published several peer reviewed scientific articles with the use of genetic, taxonomic and phylogenetic tools, specializing in Entomology, taxonomy, zoonoses, epidemiology and bacterial & viral genetics.
These days, she is a stay-at-home-mother of two lovely boys, with whom she loves to explore nature from a different point of view. She also works as a freelance writer, editor and researcher for all things science.
You can learn more about our contributors here.
- Evans, Judith (2018) How to Kill Cockroaches Behind Appliances. SFGate Home Guides. Retrieved from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/kill-cockroaches-behind-appliances–32052.html
- Briseno, Terri. 10 Cockroach Hiding Spaces. HowStuffWorks. Retrieved from https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-hints-tips/insect-control/10-cockroach-hiding-spots.htm