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Cockroach Behavior

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You already know that roaches are a nuisance, and you may be aware of the serious health risks they pose. But what attracts roaches to your home or business? And more importantly, how can knowing that help you stay free of them – or even get rid of them once they’ve settled in?

Let’s dig in and find the answers…

What Attracts Cockroaches the Most?

Let’s make one thing clear. There’s probably no one thing you’re doing wrong that’s inviting roaches in. There’s also no single food, liquid, sight, or smell that’s making them target your home.

Cockroaches are easy-to-please, equal opportunity invaders attracted to any space that serves their needs. Once they find it, they’ll set up shop for good if you let them.

And no, you never, ever want to let them.

So what specifically are they looking for? For the conditions that assure their survival –

  1. Food
  2. Water and Humidity
  3. Warmth
  4. Safety
  5. And sometimes… Light

You’ll notice that these just happen to be the same as our basic survival needs, too. When cockroaches are satisfied – hydrated, well fed, and comfortable – they spend most of their time hiding, reproducing, or (in a cockroach way) simply hanging out.

But when those needs aren’t met, they’ll begin a life or death hunt that may very well lead them to your home. Learning what they’re looking for will help you keep them out or kill them if they’ve already made their way inside.

Food

Illustration of 2 German cockroaches crawling into a pink box of cupcakes

Like termites, mice, and other household pests, cockroaches have a relentless, never-ending drive for food. Attracted to strong smells, they seek it out and easily track it to its source.

Though it’s possible they have a preference for the same starchy, sticky, sweet foods that junk food-loving humans also enjoy – and might even have a soft spot for the yeasty taste of beer, roaches are anything but picky.

If there’s organic material in something, roaches will feed on it. Period. Meaning that glue, paper, animal waste and dead insects are on the menu along with every single food you eat – or the food you feed your pets.

Not only that, but thanks to millions of years of evolution, cockroaches have developed an extremely high tolerance for “toxic” foods and materials. Ever had food poisoning? Cockroaches don’t get it. Bacteria like that found in feces, rotting flesh, and garbage cans has no effect on them – and yes, they’re attracted to it.

Floors and counter tops offer roaches more food sources, along with more opportunities to attract them. Carpets collect crumbs that are usually too small for you or I to notice, and furniture can hide lots of specks of food that are perfectly accessible for cockroaches.

Storing paper in your attic or closet? It can attract and feed hungry roaches. They’ll nibble on starches, including wallpaper and book bindings, without any complaints.

With these decidedly undiscriminating bugs, “cockroaches ate my homework” is almost a valid excuse, though since they need very little food to survive, it would take an awful lot of them to do it.

Water and Humidity

Illustration of a cockroach surrounded by beads of water, drinking

While cockroaches can go for long periods of time without food, they can’t live very long without water, and some need water more than others. When cockroaches are able to find a source of water in your home, it’s a signal that conditions there may support them.

Perhaps the best-known of the water-loving roaches is the American cockroach which is fond of infesting sewers and storm drains, sometimes by the tens of thousands, or sometimes even more. In the structures we live and work in, they’ll be drawn to areas that are similarly moist.

The Oriental cockroach will be drawn to those areas too, and like the American roach, will seek out your basement or bathroom. Leave them a leaky pipe, a faucet or a water bowl and they’ll thrive. Throw in more leaking plumbing and they’ll follow your pipes through the walls, moving easily from room to room, or apartment to apartment.

Warmth

Illustration of a cockroach crawling beside a heater thermostat

Warmth can attract roaches too. Many species are sensitive to cold and seek out warmth when outdoor temperatures begin to dip. When winter comes or a cold snap hits, they’ll be glad to find the warmth in your home and won’t be in any hurry to leave.

Warmth and humidity? Bingo!

Most roaches are especially attracted to warm and humid areas. Attics and closets are typically the worst-ventilated rooms in a house, making them prime cockroach habitats. Kitchens and bathrooms are also common cockroaches habitats because of the presence of moisture and food.

Your home doesn’t have to be dirty to provide all the things cockroaches need. It just has to be warm and offer a few crumbs, a little standing water and some cracks and crevices for cockroach hiding places.

Safety

Ever been munched on by a rodent or a gecko? Or been drowned to death in a seasonal flood? It’s sometimes not a good thing to be a cockroach out of doors and your home can be the perfect refuge.

Even in a home with rodents or other critters (like your cat) that might kill them, houses offer unparalleled protection for cockroaches, with lots of tiny hiding spaces and comfortable areas to wait dangers out.

In fact, if you’re a German cockroach, which feels safest in snug spaces, human homes – along with their warmth and ample food supplies -provide a better habitat than any they could possibly find in nature.

Light

Illustration of two wood roaches trying to enter a porch screen

Like moths and certain other insects, some cockroaches -especially the flying ones -are attracted to nighttime artificial lights. The male Pennsylvania wood cockroach is easily the best-known of them and bothers rural homeowners throughout mating season in the early summer. The Cuban cockroach, an even better flyer, annoys residents of southern states year-round.

How They Get In

Cockroaches are determined survivalists. And sometimes your home presents the ideal opportunity. Even roaches that prefer to live outdoors will seek out homes and businesses when necessary. And when they decide to, they’ll look everywhere for a way in.

Cockroaches can squeeze through tiny cracks and crevices in exterior walls to crawl into a building and take up residence inside the walls. Flying cockroaches have the additional advantage of flying or gliding onto your roof from tree branches. There, they’ll look for an attic vent or gaps between old shingles to come inside.

If you live in an apartment building, roaches can climb along pipes from unit to unit, spreading quickly through a building and bothering even the most careful tenants.

You might even bring a cockroach into your home accidentally. That pile of firewood under a tarp outside is the perfect hiding place for wood cockroaches. And it’s easy to carry a few surprise guests in with the wood.

Once they’re in, they’ll quickly find another hiding place (one that’s not on fire). The same goes for cardboard boxes you’d stored in the garage or shed: cockroaches love hiding in boxes and might take a short ride into your house.

Grocery stores and supermarkets are always at risk of cockroach infestations that could in turn affect your home. A roach could easily hide in the bag you’ve brought home then quickly scurry away to hide its egg case.

How to Avoid Attracting Cockroaches

What’s the most effective way to prevent cockroaches from entering your home?

Do the opposite of all of the things that attract them!

Clean on a regular basis, remembering to vacuum around furniture and sweep the kitchen floor. Seal or cover open food containers, including snack and pet food bowls, and check food items for infestation. Regularly clean and don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink. Repair any leaky pipes and make sure rooms are ventilated to reduce humidity and dry up standing water.

If you already have a cockroach problem, learn all about how to get rid of them and start taking action today. For large numbers of roaches, you should call a professional pest control service that can use specialized equipment and pesticides to eliminate the roach infestation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do roaches lay their eggs?

Cockroaches hide their egg cases well. Sometimes, they’ll attach them to walls or furniture. However, they’ll usually leave their egg cases in tiny crevices, in cabinets or inside boxes. They’ll probably hide their eggs close to food and water so the nymphs can survive once they hatch.

Does killing a cockroach attract more roaches?

There is a chance that killing a cockroach can attract more roaches. When food is scarce, cockroaches will eat other insects–including other dead roaches. It’s highly unlikely that that’s the only cockroach in your home, so others might come to investigate a potential meal.3

What attracts cockroaches in the bedroom?

The same things that attract roaches in your kitchen can also attract them in your bedroom. If you like to snack in bed or keep your laundry pile in a basket on the floor, cockroaches might come looking for the warmth and crumbs, or smell of food. Cockroach prevention includes washing those glasses and dishes that tend to pile up next to your bed.

Are roaches attracted to water?

All cockroaches need water to some degree, but some need water more than others. Those roaches that need water most will be attracted to water sources in your home, including leaky pipes, water spills, drips, and open containers of liquid.

What attracts big roaches?

Big roaches are typically the large species (American, Oriental, and Smoky brown cockroach) that actually prefer to live outside. They’ll be attracted to your home when conditions change in their natural environment – when it gets too dry or cold outside, or when heavy rains bring flooding and the possibility of drowning.

What attracts roaches to humans?

Some cockroaches, such as the German or Brown-banded cockroach thrive in human businesses and homes. Humans provide ample access to food, water, and warmth, and their homes provide both safety, and sometimes – optimal conditions to breed.

Are roaches attracted to cardboard?

Cardboard is a food source to roaches and they’ll eat it wherever they find it.

Do cardboard boxes attract roaches?

While cockroaches will happily seek out and eat cardboard by itself, cardboard boxes are even more attractive to them. They’ll eat the cardboard and the glue that binds them, and live and breed inside.

What attracts roaches the most?

The most powerful roach attractant would be cockroach sex pheromones, released by females to attract a mate. If you really want to attract a cockroach, you can buy a cockroach bait that uses pheromones to draw the insects in.

Sources

  1. Omg, Barb, et al. (2006) Cockroach Control Manual. University of Nebraska Extension.
  2. Pappas, Stephanie (2018) Here’s Why Cockroaches Can Survive Just About Anything. Live Science. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/62093-why-cockroaches-can-survive-anything.html
  3. Spector, Dina (2014) The Worst Way to Eliminate a Cockroach. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-get-rid-of-cockroachs–2014–3
  4. Wolfe, Ireland (2017) How Can I Repel Roaches from My Bedroom? Hunker. Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13420962/how-can-i-repel-roaches-from-my-bedroom

Cockroaches pop up in homes and businesses around the world, drawn in part by the easy food sources they find in them.

Though cockroaches can live a long time without eating anything, they spend most of their time either eating or looking for food, and food drives a lot of their behavior.

That’s good news for you, because understanding what and how they eat is one of the keys to controlling them.

So what do cockroaches eat?

Let’s see…

What Do Roaches Eat?

Like certain other insects, cockroaches are omnivorous creatures, happily eating both plant and animal matter.

They’re also dedicated scavengers and some of the least picky eaters in the animal kingdom. Just about everything digestible by humans can be food for roaches – and a whole lot more. If it comes from an animal or plant, chances are that cockroaches will eat it, including food that we eat and a lot of material we don’t.

Cockroaches Eat Human Food, Everywhere They Find It

Illustration of a cockroach facing frontward in front of shelled peanuts on a kitchen counter

Cockroaches not only seek out human food, but seem to prefer some of the foods we like most.

They like greasy foods (like french fries and things covered in butter and bacon grease), starches (like breads and cereal), meat products, and sweets. They even like beer so much that it makes for a very nice lure in a homemade cockroach trap.

But the thing to keep in mind about roaches is that controlling them hinges less on knowing their favorite foods than on denying them any food at all.

Here’s the ugly truth about a typical cockroach diet – the where and what of stuff they like to eat:

Food on Kitchen Surfaces

With food and water everywhere, cockroaches love kitchen surfaces. Countertop crumbs make a great midnight snack and roaches will target any fresh or processed food items that you leave out.

A few pieces of pasta or some stray vegetables in the sink are sure to attract cockroaches, and provide plenty for them to eat. Even a small splatter around a stove burner can feed them, too. Unsealed leftovers are a treasure trove for roaches, as are dirty dishes.

Food in Your Pantry

Chips, cereal, sugar and other pantry items are like a steak dinner to a bunch of roaches. They’ll chew through paper, cardboard, or even thin plastic containers to reach the edible contents inside.

Keep in mind that as soon as a package of food is penetrated by a roach, it should be considered contaminated. These bugs come from all kinds of unpleasant places and pick up lots of bad bacteria along the way. They truly live in places most people wouldn’t even defecate in.

Crumbs on Your Floor

When dealing with cockroaches, you have to get down on their level–that means focusing on the floor.

Roaches spend most of their active time crawling around on the ground. Even flying cockroaches usually stick to their feet when they’re out in search of food.

Carpets collect food morsels like it’s their job. And hunting for crumbs basically is a roach’s job. Your carpet doesn’t have to be dirty to trap plenty of crumbs for a cockroach. With its strong sense of smell, a roach will find every crumb that’s there.

Your Pet’s Food

All things considered, pet food is pretty close to human food (at least from a cockroach’s perspective). As a bonus perk for roaches, pet parents often leave a bowl of dog or cat food out overnight. That’s like leaving a buffet out for pests.

Even if your hungry pet leaves an empty plate, crumbs and residue are enough to satisfy a cockroach.

Your Store or Restaurant’s Reputation

Kitchens are cockroach hotspots for a reason: there’s food everywhere! And what other places have food everywhere? Restaurants and grocery stores.

A roach infestation in a restaurant or market can be devastating to the business’s reputation. Unfortunately, commercial spaces deal with so much food on a daily basis that it may be impossible to keep everything spotless.

That’s why restaurants and grocery stores are at higher risk of having cockroach problems. If you’re a business owner, it’s wise to have a professional pest control company inspect and treat your property regularly to keep roaches out and bring customers in.

What Else Do Cockroaches Eat?

Illustration of cockroach in front of a bunch of rotten, moldy grapes

Cockroaches eat much more than just the things we consider edible.

Roaches’ ability to digest cellulose lets them eat all kinds of paper materials and even some clothing. They’ll nibble on newspapers, book bindings, documents and cardboard boxes. Some cockroaches eat the glue on wallpaper and stamps, too.

The American cockroach and other outdoor species of cockroaches feed on piles of leaves, twigs and dead trees. Just about any decaying organic matter is fair game. That also includes skin flakes, hair and fingernails.

Many other roaches feed on roach or other animal droppings. Between garbage, dead insects and feces, there’s just about nothing organic that cockroaches won’t eat.

How Can Roaches Eat so Many Disgusting Things?

Cockroaches enjoy a symbiotic relationship with some kinds of bacteria that live in their digestive systems. The bacteria use the roach as a host and in return, provide the roach with nutrients and help it to digest many nasty substances.

One study found that a huge part of the genome of American cockroaches is dedicated to metabolizing toxic or dangerous materials. Their bodies have adapted over millions of years to surviving in harsh conditions and eating whatever’s available.

Cockroach Pest Control – Time to Act Fast

Closeup of a dead cockroach on its back- selective focus

Cockroaches can spread illnesses and contaminate food in homes and businesses. It’s important to have a solid pest control plan in place to protect yourself from these bugs.

Effective pest control starts with knowing where to find cockroaches. Focus your search on your kitchen and bathroom, looking for tiny crevices and in cluttered cabinets.

In the end, the best way to keep cockroaches out of your house is to clean diligently and make it as hard as possible for them to find food. If they can’t find dinner in your home, they’ll look somewhere else.

It’s important to get rid of cockroaches as quickly as possible. You can do it on your own with baits, natural pesticides and perseverance. Boric acid and food-grade diatomaceous earth are two products that you can use to kill cockroaches at home.

Or, you can call in the experts.

Remember, roaches are expert survivalists that spread quickly. They’re tough opponents! If you’ve seen more than a couple of roaches, it could mean a cockroach infestation, in which case your best bet is to hire a professional pest control service to get rid of them.

In the end, the best way to keep cockroaches out of your house is to clean diligently and make it as hard as possible for them to find food. If they can’t find dinner in your home, they’ll look somewhere else.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do roaches eat roaches?

Yes. At least some cockroaches eat cockroaches. The Oriental and German cockroach will not only eat their dead (anytime), but when food is scarce – eat their eggs and young. And just like black widow spiders, American cockroach females will sometimes kill and eat their mates.

Will cockroaches eat clothes?

Some cockroaches will eat clothes. These bugs feed on skin flakes and food crumbs, both of which become caught in the clothing we wear. Roaches might try to feed on dirty clothing if there’s no other food available. Enough roaches could damage the fabric.

Do cockroaches eat dog food?

Yes! Even things your dog wouldn’t dream of eating can potentially be food for roaches–and that’s saying something. A few dog food pellets left out overnight is an easy snack for a cockroach (or ten).

Do cockroaches eat cat food?

Cockroaches like cat food just as much as dog food, and don’t care if it’s moist or dry. To keep them out of it, you either need to get rid of the roaches or cover the cat bowl any time it’s not completely clean.

Do cockroaches eat hair?

Yes, including the hair in your hairbrush, your drain, or that’s fallen to the floor. They’ll also eat eyelashes, shaving stubble, or any kind of body hair.

Do cockroaches eat paper?

Roaches are one of the worst paper eating insects and will happily consume newspaper, copy paper, receipts, cardboard boxes, photographs, and any other kind they can find.

Do cockroaches eat poop?

Feces is a rich source of nutrients for cockroaches and they’ll eat it wherever they find it. This includes dog poop, cat poop, and rodent droppings.

Can cockroaches eat wood?

Cockroaches aren’t like termites that consume and destroy wood structures. But some cockroaches do seek out and eat dead trees, rotten wood, and similar decaying matter.

Do cockroaches eat grass?

Some cockroaches will both eat and live in grass clippings, especially as the grass decays and becomes easier to digest.

Do roaches like spicy food?

There’s no evidence to suggest that cockroaches either like or dislike spicy food. They’ll eat most crumbs or bits of spice they find as they would any other food.

Do roaches like sugar?

Roaches will gladly eat sugar and things that contain it. Some roaches have developed an aversion to glucose, a particular kind of sugar, but are currently the exception, not the rule.

Can cockroaches get into sealed food?

Cockroaches can chew through paper and plastic wrappers, sealed zip lock bags, paper and plastic grocery bags, and thin paper and plastic food containers. They can’t get into sealed glass food containers or sealed plastic food containers with thick walls .

Do cockroaches eat fruit?

Yes, cockroaches eat fruit, especially decaying fruit. Be sure to check the bottom of fruit bowls and trash cans where discarded fruit and fruit peels may have collected.

Do roaches eat coffee grounds?

Cockroaches will readily eat coffee grounds if available. If you have a cockroach problem, you should clean up any that you’ve spilled.

Do roaches eat onions?

Cockroaches have no trouble eating onions. If you’re looking for a cockroach deterrent, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Do roaches eat bed bugs?

Yes. Cockroaches are opportunistic insects and will eat creatures that are slow and easy to catch like bed bugs.

Do roaches eat ants?

Roaches will eat other creatures, but aren’t known to eat living ants. They will gladly eat dead ants, however.

Do cockroaches eat fleas?

Cockroaches will certainly eat dead fleas where they find them, but don’t seek out living fleas.

Do cockroaches eat salt?

Put out a bowl of salt, and no, a cockroach won’t touch it, simply because there’s no nutritional value in it. But salty foods? That’s a different story. Cockroaches will devour salty foods with as much gusto as non-salty foods. Do they like salty foods more? No, they don’t.

Do roaches eat toothpaste?

Yes, and they’ll not only eat the toothpaste itself, but any particles of food they find in it- including the toothpaste at the bottom of your sink and the toothpaste stuck in your toothbrush.

Do roaches eat baking soda?

Mixed with sugar, baking soda is a natural, safe, and fairly effective cockroach killer. Roaches won’t be attracted to the baking soda itself, but will eat it along with the sugar.

Do roaches eat soap?

Soap contains organic material that cockroaches will happily eat and digest.

Do roaches eat plants?

Plants are a food source for many cockroaches, but if you’re worried about damage to your home or lawn plants, you can heave a sigh of relief. Roaches prefer dead and decaying plants to living ones, and actually help to environmentally break them down.

Can cockroaches eat through walls?

Cockroaches can’t eat through walls, but can squeeze through the tiny holes, cracks, and crevices that walls sometimes have. If your walls are well-sealed, cockroaches can’t get in.

Do roaches eat spray foam insulation?

Cockroaches don’t eat spray foam insulation, but can burrow through it. They can also pursue food sources (like the remains from other insects) that exist in compromised foam. If they were to eat the insulation itself, they’d likely die from the borate that’s typically mixed in.

Do roaches eat wires?

Cockroaches don’t eat electrical wiring, but can be attracted to the wiring’s insulation. Electrical insulation is made from paper or cellulose, both of which a cockroach can easily digest. When that happens, the wiring can become exposed, shortening the lifespan of appliances and electronics.

Sources

  1. Omg, Barb, et al. (2006) Cockroach Control Manual. University of Nebraska Extension.
  2. Pappas, Stephanie (2018) Here’s Why Cockroaches Can Survive Just About Anything
  3. Hadley, Debbie (2019) 10 Fascinating Facts About Cockroaches. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/fascinating-facts-about-cockroaches–1968524

Cockroaches are expert scavengers, admirable survivors and annoying pests. They crawl all over your counters and dirty dishes. They lay eggs in tiny crevices and contaminate food.

What’s worse than a cockroach crawling around your home? A cockroach flying around your home. So, do they? Do cockroaches fly?

Can Cockroaches Fly? Do They All Fly?

Yes, cockroaches can fly. That answer makes a lot of people unhappy. You’re already worried about them crawling around your floor, and now you have to worry about them flying, too?

The good news- sort of, is that not all cockroaches are capable of flying. Those that are capable of flight, have wings that are long enough and developed enough to sustain flight.

Roaches like the Oriental cockroach for example, do have wings, but they’re too short and stubby to be of very much use. (for more, also see “Cockroach with Wings? It’s Probably One of These“).

A cockroach’s ability to fly is also determined by its life stage, and sometimes gender. Immature cockroaches for example, can’t fly because they’re wingless. And females of certain species can’t fly – even though they have wings – because their highly effective legs do enough.

Why Do They Fly?

Illustration of three roaches on rooftop: Two in the gutter, and one cockroach flying away.

Flying isn’t really the preferred method of transportation for most cockroaches (and no, not because they’re afraid of heights). It has more to do with the design of their bodies.

While they can be very, very fast runners – moving as fast as 50 body lengths per second on the straightaway (the equivalent for creatures our size of more than 100 miles per hour) – flying isn’t easy for them, and they’re awkward in the air.

So why do roaches fly at all? There are a few reasons.

Self-Protection

Often roaches fly to escape a threat. Though much has been written about cockroach’s supposed invincibility, they have plenty of natural predators and creatures like you or your pets that would want to do them harm.

Mating

Some cockroach males become active flyers during breeding season, when they travel short and long distances in search of a mate. They become especially attracted to light during this time, and are known for their summer nighttime assaults against well-lit rural window screens.

Food and Shelter

Cockroaches also fly in search of food and shelter, which might include your home. Roaches living in a hollow tree for instance, might climb up its branches looking for food. Then take a short flight to the roof of your house to infest the decaying leaves in your gutter.

What Kinds of Cockroaches Can Fly?

Illustration of 8 types of flying cockroaches

There are several types of flying cockroaches, including these most likely pests:

  1. American cockroaches
  2. German cockroaches
  3. Pennsylvania woods cockroaches
  4. Brown banded cockroaches
  5. Smoky brown cockroaches
  6. Australian cockroaches
  7. Asian cockroaches
  8. Cuban cockroaches

These flyers live in a variety of environments and climates, though most prefer to live outdoors. They’re light brown, dark brown, reddish-brown, or golden in color, while the Cuban cockroach is a bright leaf-green.

The size of a cockroach doesn’t affect its flying ability. Both small and large cockroaches fly, and range in size from the huge, awkwardly flying American cockroach (up to 2 inches in length or more), to the tiny, occasionally flying German cockroach (which is smaller end-to-end than the face of a penny).

Where Do They Come From?

Flying cockroaches come from a variety of places, many of them the same as their non-flying relatives. They’ll enter a home in any way they can, from finding holes in exterior walls to following drainpipes into bathrooms and kitchens.

But flying cockroaches have a few more options available to them. They can come from trees, flying onto branches and then onto rooftops. Once on the roof, they can squeeze between shingles or through the gaps in an attic fan.

They can also come in through open windows and doors. They might be following the light of a lamp or a TV screen. If your window screens have tears in them, a cockroach might be able to climb through it.

Are They Dangerous?

Flying cockroaches are dangerous because they can carry bacteria from waste and decaying material into homes and businesses. This is true of all cockroaches. They feed on garbage and dead organic matter, making them a risk to your health if they start invading your home.

Many people think they’re being attacked when roaches fly towards them. But cockroaches don’t feed on our blood like other flying pests. They either fly toward you accidentally, or head in the wrong direction in their hurry to avoid getting squashed.

That said, there are certain circumstances that may draw them toward you…

The light you’re sitting under may attract them to you. And the light reflecting off your forehead or face can do it, too. Can cockroaches fly right at your face when that happens? You bet they can. You become irresistible!

What Areas of the Country Have Them?

Cockroaches live all over the world and flying ones aren’t picky.

From trees, mulch and sewers to alleyways and kitchen cabinets, flying cockroaches follow food sources anywhere necessary. They’ll fly around cities, farms, buildings and even into trees. Here are some of the areas across the United States that have them:

Florida

The infamous Florida palmetto bug (a.k.a. the American cockroach) is a type of flying cockroach that’s incredibly widespread in the state. It’s also one of the largest cockroaches around. A male palmetto bug’s folded wings are long enough to extend past the bottom of its abdomen. Female palmetto bugs also have wings, but they’re shorter.

Palmetto bugs mostly live outdoors and can fly short distances. They use their wings to glide from a tree onto your patio or porch. If your windows are open, they’ll just as easily swoop into your house.

Texas

Texas’s famous “tree roach” is yet another name for the American cockroach and you’ll find quite a few of them flying in and around Houston.

Cuban cockroaches are also fairly common flying roaches in Texas. These green bugs are usually outdoor insects. Unlike many other cockroaches, they’re excellent fliers and commonly live in trees. They’re also strongly attracted to lights, which can lead them to fly into homes and businesses through open doors and windows.

Asian cockroaches are also present in Texas. These twins of the German cockroach are relatively strong fliers, too. They’ve been seen flying up to forty yards at a time.

New York City

New York City is a well-known American cockroach hot spot. There’s enough garbage on the ground and in alleyways that they don’t usually have to fly in search of food, but in hot, humid summers such as the one in 2016 (when city scientists found them flying around in large groups), they become more restless and active.

Georgia

Some of the most common cockroaches in Georgia are American, smokybrown, Asian and German cockroaches. You’ll notice that all four species of cockroaches are flying roaches! Being a southern state, Georgia has its fair share of giant flying cockroaches as well as some of the smaller species. A few of these roaches will be attracted to lights and could fly into open apartment windows or onto roofs to feed.

California

The most common cockroach found indoors in California is the German roach. These cockroaches rarely use their wings to fly, preferring to crawl around homes in search of food. The American cockroach also infests California. Warm temperatures in some parts of the state let them thrive outdoors, flying around and feeding on whatever they can find.

Hawaii

Yes, there are flying cockroaches in Hawaii. German roaches, American roaches and over a dozen other species are present on the island, invading homes, gardens and all of the usual places. Like their counterparts on the Gulf Coast, flying roaches there can be found outdoors and indoors. They’ll fly into and out of trees, through windows and straight past your head.

Las Vegas

Like all urban areas in the U.S., Las Vegas is home to a number of flying roaches, with German and American species the most common. Since both of these cockroaches can fly, it’s important to keep windows and doors closed or covered by screens at all times.

Alabama

At least 25 cockroach species call Alabama home. These include many of the flying species listed above. Alabama faces the same cockroach problems as other southern states: not only do they crawl in through drains and holes but they also fly in through windows and find entry points in roofs.

North Carolina

There are a few flying species in North Carolina, including wood cockroaches and American cockroaches. Wood cockroaches aren’t very capable fliers; they can do it but only for short distances at a time. They’re much more of a risk to homeowners on the ground. These roaches live in forests and among shrubs but they’ll come inside when food is hard to find outdoors.

Illinois

Where there are large urban areas, cockroaches often follow. That means Chicago residents are no strangers to cockroaches of both the crawling and flying kind. The ones in Illinois include American, brown banded and wood cockroaches. Whether you live in the city or somewhere more rural, you’ll have to protect your home against flying cockroaches making themselves comfortable inside or around it.

Conclusion

Do roaches fly?

Yes, and they can be dangerous to your home and family. They carry bacteria from all kinds of disgusting places and spread it on everything they touch, contaminating food and potentially triggering allergies. Flying ones pose an additional risk because they can easily fly through open windows and doors and find gaps between shingles that could let them into your attic.

If you’ve seen flying roaches in your space, it’s time to take steps to get rid of them. Learn how to prevent and get rid of flying roaches for good in the next pest control article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cockroaches fly towards you?

Although many winged cockroaches can fly, only a few fly well. Sometimes when they’re threatened, they’ll fly to escape– either from a predator or from a human who wants to kill them.
If they take off and fly straight towards you, they’re usually just frightened and not in very good control of where they’re headed. On the other hand, a light above or behind you could be attractive to certain species, in which case yes – they may try to fly right at you.

What are bugs that look like roaches but fly?

You might be thinking of palmetto bugs, the large insects found all over Florida and the surrounding states. Palmetto bugs are actually cockroaches–they’re members of the American cockroach species. Palmetto bugs can fly for short distances. They often use their long wings to fly into trees searching for food.

How high can cockroaches fly?

Cockroaches’ ability to fly varies based on their size and wing strength. Some of the strongest flying cockroaches can fly for a little over 100 feet at a time. However, they can’t fly 100 feet vertically – most cockroaches only fly as high as an average treetop.

Can big roaches fly?

Yes, American cockroaches are some of the biggest roaches commonly found across the U.S. and can fly short distances at a time. Their bodies can grow to 2 inches in length but their wings extend beyond their abdomens, allowing them to fly.


Sources

  1. Brunskill, Amber, et al (2011) Common Urban Pests: Identification, Prevention, and Control. PennState Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/common-urban-pests-identification-prevention-and-control
  2. Drees, Bastiaan M. (2010) Texas A&M: AgriLife Extension. Retrieved from https://landscapeipm.tamu.edu/what-is-ipm/ipm-concepts/pest-identification/good-bug-bad-bug/neither/cockroaches/
  3. HowStuffWorks: Animals. Retrieved from https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/flying-cockroaches-behavior-target-face.htm
  4. How to Recognize the Five Cockroaches Common in Georgia (2018) Retrieved from https://www.bredapest.com/news/how-to-recognize-the-five-cockroaches
  5. Sutherland, Andrew M., et al (2019) Cockroaches. UC Pest Notes: Cockroaches. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7467.html
  6. Hawaiian Insects: Cockroaches. Instant Hawaii. Retrieved from http://www.instanthawaii.com/cgi-bin/hi?Animals.roach
  7. Holt, Courtney (2011) Insects of Alabama. Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1809

Introduction

Where do roaches hide? It’s a tougher question than it seems.

Because cockroaches aren’t like most other creatures we encounter day-to-day. They’re tiny survival machines. And a big part of what makes them so tough to control or kill – or even spot before you’ve got an infestation – is their ability to hide so well. And do it so much.

Cockroaches can actually hide just about anywhere, so long as:

  1. They’re near food.
  2. They’re near water.
  3. They’re sheltered from things they fear.

Add those things together and you’ve got a lot of cockroach hiding places, including some that wouldn’t necessarily occur to you.

But knowing what they need also makes finding cockroach hiding places easier. Because you know how to track them down – in bathrooms, kitchens, living spaces, and some of the less frequently used areas of your home.

Let’s take a closer look at this important first step in cockroach control…

Where Roaches Hide in Bathrooms

Where do cockroaches hide in bathrooms? With lots of water, even in places you might not guess, roaches flourish in bathrooms and find plenty of places to hide in them:

  • Bathroom Sinks, Tubs and Toilets: Cockroaches love hiding under sinks, which are great sources of water. And they like drains, pipes, and the gaps in walls around pipes for the same reason. You’ll find them around tubs and toilets, which are particularly attractive not just for the water that drips, collects, and condenses around them. But for the soap residue, toilet paper lint, dead skin, and hair that accumulate nearby (and that they eat).
  • Bathroom Tiles and Baseboards: If your bathroom tiles and the caulking around them are cracked, roaches may squeeze themselves into the empty space.
  • Bathroom Cabinets: In bathroom cabinets, roaches may set up camp at the back, where they can snack on soap and toilet paper undisturbed.

Where Roaches Hide in Kitchens

Where do roaches hide in kitchens? With easy access to food, water, and warmth, you’ll find roaches hiding in obvious places, as well as areas you might not suspect:

  • Kitchen Cupboards and Counter Tops: You’ll often find roaches hiding in kitchen cupboards, typically in the corners, or in the space between the shelves and wall where they’re difficult to see. Drawn to drips and puddled water, you’ll often find roaches hiding beneath dish mats and drying racks. And find them lurking all but invisibly in the gap between the kitchen counter and the cabinet below.
  • Kitchen Appliances: You may find cockroaches hiding behind (as well as inside) every appliance in your kitchen: Refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers, washing machines, ovens, water heaters, coffee makers, microwaves, blenders, and toasters. Refrigerators are a favorite hiding place for roaches because the voids behind and underneath them are dark, warm, and full of water from condensation (thanks to the refrigerator’s motor). They’re also areas where food crumbs, spills, and bits of pet food typically collect. Likewise, the voids under and behind dishwashers provide lots of warmth, water, and spilled or forgotten food -and become roach infested quickly.
  • Ovens and Stove Tops: With plenty of warmth and crumbs to eat, ovens and stove tops are a bonanza for roaches, and make prime cockroach infestation areas. If you have a stove with a top that flips up, you just might find cockroaches living there. They often set up shop inside the oven’s clock and electronics too, where the warmth and tight quarters make them feel safe.
  • Pictures and Decorations: Cockroaches aren’t attracted to kitchen art, but they do like the voids behind pictures and other decorations. Even lifting a corner here or there can sometimes send them scurrying.

Where Roaches Hide in Work and Living Areas

Where do cockroaches hide where you work and live? “Everywhere” wouldn’t exactly be incorrect, but certain work and living “trouble spots” are worth a second look:

  • Desk and Computer Areas: If you eat at your desk and your home is infested, there are probably cockroaches hiding out behind your computer. You may not see them during the day, but at night they’ll come out to snack on the tasty crumbs that have fallen into your keyboard.
  • Furniture: Cockroaches are comfortable inside and underneath furniture. They may even lay their eggs there. On shelves, you can expect to find them behind whatever the shelf is holding, including books, pictures, and knickknacks.
  • Pictures and Mirrors: Cockroaches will hide on the backsides of posters, mounted pictures, and wall mirrors. Less moisture-dependent than other species, Brown Banded cockroaches are particularly likely to be hiding behind pictures, especially those hung higher up, where the temperature is warmer.
  • Closets: Cockroaches hide readily in closets, which are kept dark for long periods, and visited less frequently than other rooms. If you don’t see them on the walls, the ceiling, or the floor when you peek inside, look on the inside of the door, especially where it meets the wall, frame, or paneling.
  • Walls, Wallpaper, and Electrical Covers: Roaches frequently wedge themselves into light fixtures and find their way inside electrical outlet covers. If there’s a tear in your wallpaper, cockroaches are happy to crawl right in behind it. And if there are holes, cracks and crevices, or air vents in your walls, cockroaches will find them and climb right in.
  • Ceilings: Some species, most notably the Brown Banded cockroach, like to hang out on ceilings, especially in dark rooms. They wont be hiding when it’s dark, but if you turn on the lights, they’ll scurry into the molding or into cracks behind the trim.

Where Else Do Roaches Hide?

Where do they hide where you may not encounter them as much? And what overall are some of the worst trouble spots?

  • Basements: Certain cockroaches in the United States, like American and Oriental cockroaches, can withstand cooler temperatures, and like to hide in basements. They both also live in sewers which connect to the basements of commercial spaces, such as restaurants. If you find a cockroach living in your basement, it’s probably one of these.
  • Attics: Some species may hide out in attics, especially if there are leaky pipes to drink from, and cardboard boxes to use for food. When they aren’t living in the ceiling itself, they wedge themselves behind baseboards. Or in the cracks where baseboards meet. Or behind door and window trim.
  • Clutter: Clutter may be an eyesore to you. But for cockroaches, it means food and protection. They not only hide in it, but find things to eat in it. And if it holds any newspaper, cardboard, or paper of any kind, they’ll eat it, including the glue that holds cardboard boxes together and seals envelopes shut.
  • Trash: Trash is a cockroach’s favorite thing and they’ll hide in it whenever they find it. Look for cockroaches wherever trash accumulates, and wherever it’s been, including the bottoms of trash cans, and the walls, electrical outlets, and baseboards that are behind them.

Getting Rid of Cockroach Hiding Places

Finding cockroach hiding spots is a start. But you’ll want to get rid of them and keep them from infesting those areas again. We tell you elsewhere how to find them, and how to kill them, but here’s how to begin making your home a much less comfortable place for roaches to hide:

  • Get Rid of Easily-Accessed Water: Whether it’s drips, drops, or puddles, roaches need water to survive, and you’ll want to find out where they’re getting it. Find water, and if your home is infested, there are sure to be roaches hiding somewhere nearby. Seal any leaks you find, clean up standing water, then wrap and seal exposed pipes.
  • Remove Food Sources: Where do roaches hide when they can’t find food? To somebody else’s house. Clean up spills and crumbs everywhere, including hard-to-reach areas under refrigerators and stoves. Then keep food sealed and stored in air-tight containers.
  • Seal Up Your House: You may not be able to make your house totally inhospitable to roaches (after all, you like warmth and comfort, too). But you can do things to keep them out, like creating barriers at entry points that keep them from getting inside. Seal holes and cracks in your outside walls, and fill gaps along window sills and door frames.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do roaches hide in mattresses?

Typically they do not. Cockroaches prefer kitchens and bathrooms, where there’s ample food and water. The only roach that actively targets other parts of the home- the Brown-Banded cockroach- prefers to hide high up on walls or ceilings.

However, furniture often offers a safe, warm place to lay eggs, so it’s never a bad idea to double check your furniture, including your bed, if you discover you have a roach infestation. Afraid you might have bed bugs? You might want to find out here.

Do roaches hide in clothes?

Cockroaches hiding in your clothes is unlikely, unless they’ve infested your dresser drawers. Most roaches prefer kitchens and bathrooms to the drier parts of your home. That being said, if you have a severe infestation, the population can spill over into other areas of the house. In a pinch, a dresser drawer might serve as a safe hiding place for cockroaches.

Do roaches hide in electronics?

Yes. Finding roaches in electronics is not uncommon, including computers, TV’s, and game consoles. They like the warmth and darkness they can find within electronic devices.

Conclusion

Where do roaches hide? In all the places you don’t want them.

If you suspect cockroaches in your house, it’s critical to find out where they’re lurking. And take steps to get them out. It’s equally important to find out how they got in, so you can stop them from getting in again.

With just a little know-how about pest control, the next time a cockroach hides in your home, you’ll be more than ready to find it. And make that visit its last.

Introduction

When you find yourself face-to-face with a roach infestation, certain discoveries are unpleasant, while others are just plain… awful.

Roach poop for most of us fits right into the awful category. And if you’ve been unlucky enough to find the stuff somewhere (like where your family eats and sleeps and lives), you’re probably not only thoroughly disgusted. But angry. And more than a little confused.

After all, roaches haven’t just been attacking your home. They’ve been using it for a toilet. And if there’s enough poop around that you’ve actually seen it (think for a moment about all the poop in places you can’t see), the roaches have been winning. That is, until right now.

If you can manage to hold your nose to the end of this article, you’ll not only have a better idea of how and why roach poop got into your home. But how to get rid of it, along with all the roaches too. Ready?

What’s Inside Roach Poop

Cockroach poop is made up of all sorts of things that roaches have digested: Food from your cupboards, counters, and drawers. Garbage. Rotting flesh. And dead insects, including the carcasses of other cockroaches.

Cockroaches don’t pee (a not-so fun fact), but instead secrete solid and semi-solid waste. All of which varies in appearance, depending on the size, age, and species of roach you’re dealing with.

What Cockroach Droppings Look Like

What does roach poop look like? What you find will probably look something like this:

Cockroach poop on wall beside a light switch

Generally speaking, cockroach droppings are dark brown or black pellets. They’re either roundish chunks or oval-shaped, and much of what you find will simply appear as smears and stains on the surfaces that cockroaches have been crawling over.

Of course, before a full-blown infestation, roach droppings will be so minimal and scattered that you may not even see them. While during a large infestation they’ll be almost impossible to miss – with cockroach poop (and other nasty cockroach stuff like egg cases, discarded shells, and cockroach body parts) literally everywhere you look.

Since you’ve managed to make it this far, let’s take a closer look at the poop of some leading culprits.

Poop From Large Cockroaches

If there were a single rule of thumb that helped identify roaches by their poop, it would be this: Larger roaches make bigger roach poop. American, SmokyBrown, and Oriental cockroaches are all considered larger species. They are usually more than 1 inch long. They produce solid, cylindrical feces that can be as large as a grain of rice.

Roach poop example from large species such as the American cockroach and Oriental cockroach

If you were to look closely, you’d see ridges running from one end of the dropping to the other – giving it an appearance sort of like a fennel seed.

Do you have mice, too? Other than cockroach poop being smaller, this is one of the main differences between mouse poop and roach poop. Because mouse droppings will be mostly smooth. It will also be pointed at each end (unlike roach feces which is blunt), and sometimes has small hairs from the animal’s body stuck to it (which roaches of course don’t have).

Poop From Small Cockroaches

The poop from small cockroaches is different. Not just in size, but in shape. Small species like Brown-Banded and German cockroaches leave behind tiny brown or black specks or stains. The droppings can look like coarse ground coffee or grains of coarse black pepper, while the stains can be inky, smeared, or raised.

Cockroach poop from small species such as the German roach and the Brown-Banded cockroach

If you had to distinguish German cockroach poop from Brown-Banded cockroach poop, you’d find that German roach poop was moister (more smeary), due to the German roach’s preference for wetter environments.

Poop From Baby Cockroaches

Baby cockroaches (called nymphs) produce feces similar to adult roaches, but smaller. The droppings of large cockroach nymphs are small, cylindrical, and ridged, while those of small cockroach nymphs are minuscule brown or black specks.

Does Roach Poop Have a Smell?

Does roach poop have a smell? Absolutely. Cockroach poop stinks and has an acrid, oily odor. But what your nose smells is only half the story. Because the odor roach droppings give off harbors a sinister secret.

It conveys signals to other cockroaches that they’re around, provides a trail for other roaches to follow, and ultimately helps them find each other.

Which means that the smell of roach poop isn’t just bad. It’s actually attracting more roaches.

Can There Be Poop But No Roaches?

In a word, yes. There can be roach poop from roaches that once lived inside your house, but have died or somehow left (like from a past extermination). Unless a roach or other insect eats it, or you knuckle down and clean it up, the droppings will just sit there, slowly decaying and sometimes molding for many, many years.

One way to tell if you have an active cockroach infestation is to clean up all the poop you’ve found, then monitor your home to see if more appears. If it stays roach poop-free, you probably don’t have a current infestation. If you find that more droppings appear however, it means it’s time to get those roaches out.

Can Roach Poop Make You Sick?

Can cockroach poop make you sick

Even if you don’t have an active infestation, roach feces is a bad thing to have around. Can roach poop make you sick? Yes, it can.

Cockroach droppings (and shed skin) contain proteins that trigger allergies and asthma attacks in some people. They may even cause children to develop asthma. These proteins can linger in the home even longer than the feces themselves, remaining dangerous for years after the roaches themselves have gone.

Not only that, but cockroaches’ eating and living habits bring them into contact with bacteria, mold, fungi, viruses, and worms that they leave behind in their feces.

Couple that with the fact that roaches poop literally everywhere, including in the food that you and your family eat.

Let that sink in for a moment. It means that if cockroaches are living anywhere inside your home, there’s a good chance you’re ingesting roach poop.

Now consider this: Food poisoning can be caused by cockroach poop. And if the harmful bacteria that’s sometimes carried by cockroaches spreads from your digestive system to your blood stream, it could – potentially – even kill you.

How to Clean Roach Poop

Vacuum cleaner cleaning carpet
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Cleaning up roach poop is nobody’s idea of a good time. But with your family’s health and safety on the line, you’ll be more than glad you did.

Suit Up

Suit up before you get to work. Old clothes are fine, and put on a pair of gloves. Purchase a protective face mask or a respirator to reduce exposure to potential airborne allergens.

Vacuum

Plan to vacuum first, using the vacuum to remove loose, dry roach droppings that have accumulated over time. Since vacuuming can stir up allergens, you’ll want to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to keep the air around you safe. If a HEPA vacuum isn’t available, soak the feces in disinfectant spray instead, then wipe it up by hand.

Clean

Everywhere that you find roach poop will require different cleaning methods.

  • For carpets, start with the vacuuming tips above (you can scrape any dried, stuck-on cockroach poop off before vacuuming to get the most poop up to begin with). Next, either use a carpet detergent (read the label to determine how much to dilute it) or mix up white vinegar, dish soap, and water (one teaspoon each of vinegar and soap to a full spray bottle of water) and spray the area. Scrub to work the soap into the carpeting. Let it fully dry before vacuuming again.
  • On walls and hardwood, tile, cabinets, or vinyl flooring, choose a disinfectant spray that is safe for the material. Spray the affected area and leave it on for the recommended amount of time, then scrub to get out the stains.
  • If you find roach droppings on your clothes, first scrape off any dried poop, then treat stains and wash in the warmest water that is safe for the fabric.
  • Cockroaches can also infest mattresses. As with clothing, the first step is to scrape off the dry feces. Next, mix disinfectant soap and warm water in a spray bottle, spray the area, and scrub with a coarse sponge. Spray again with just water to rinse the soap out, then let the mattress air dry.

Dispose

Since roach poop is so unhealthy, you’ll want to wash or throw away anything that comes into contact with it. When you’ve finished the job, be sure to wash (or throw away) your gloves and work clothes, and dispose of rags and vacuum bags, preferably in sealed plastic trash bags that animals or other people can’t get to.

Next Steps

Cleaning up the cockroach poop is the first step to living cockroach-free and ultimately reclaiming your home. The next steps are to get the roaches that have set up residence, and to keep them from coming back. You can attempt to do that by yourself (and we’ll show you how here), or call in a professional pest control service to do it for you (we’ll show you how to do that here).

Either way, by knowing what to look for and knowing what to do, you don’t have to live with the stains, bad smells, and health risks of roach poop even one more day, so long as you take action.


Questions & Answers

How to Clean Roach Poop Off Circuit Boards?

Circuit boards are delicate. They need to be protected from water and kept away from cleaning agents. They also need to be protected from static electricity when exposed.

Take the same precautions you normally would when removing or exposing the board (such as wearing an anti-static wrist band). Then gently vacuum up loose roach droppings. Dip a small, soft nylon brush in isopropyl alcohol, remove excess alcohol, then carefully rub the cockroach poop that remains.

How to Clean Roach Poop Off Books?

Because books are handled regularly, you might first consider whether those contaminated with cockroach feces should be simply thrown away. Otherwise, this site offers a good place to start on cleaning them.

Are Roaches Attracted to Dog Poop? Do Cockroaches Eat Cat Poop?

Cockroaches aren’t especially attracted to dog or cat poop, but will eat it when they find it. If you’re trying to eliminate roaches and are removing potential food sources, you should plan to remove any dog and cat poop, too.