Do Cockroaches Bite? Your Questions Answered

A cockroach

If you find a cockroach—or even multiple cockroaches—in your home, it’s only natural to be concerned about the impact these pests can have on you and your family members. Since these creatures often seem to come out of nowhere and take you by surprise, you may have even wondered whether cockroaches bite or if they pose any other dangers.

While roaches are capable of biting us and our pets, this happens very rarely. With slightly cupped jaws that move sideways to chew food, a cockroach can technically gnaw on skin, although researchers argue that this only happens when a person is immobile and there are food particles stuck on hair and skin. These creatures would much rather feast on the food in your pantry, the leftovers on your counter or the scraps in your trash. Roaches are scavengers and omnivores and will consume practically any type of organic matter. As such, they are more likely to nibble on the pages of an old book or feast on the hair and dander that’s fallen from a person or pet to the floor than biting us. When food becomes too scarce, they’re even more inclined to eat each other before biting people. Therefore, the only real threat of a cockroach bite is in the case of severe infestations.

So, the raised welt you’re staring at? It’s most likely a bite from a different type of pest—such as a bed bug, flea, mite or mosquito. The real risk of a cockroach infestation is not from a bite, but rather from other associated medical issues, such as respiratory illness and bacterial infections.

Some of the health issues that have been linked to cockroaches include:

  • Salmonella
  • Staph infections
  • E. Coli
  • Typhoid fever
  • Stomach flu
  • Diarrhea
  • Dysentery

If you are wondering if cockroaches bite, you are probably seeing these pests around your property, and this isn’t the last of your questions. In this post, we’ll review many common questions and concerns regarding roaches and other pests, including how to control a roach infestation, what pest bites look like and if there are any smells that keep roaches away. But, first, we’ll discuss a cockroach’s preferred food sources.

A brown kitchen with a granite countertop

What Do Cockroaches Eat?

As we touched on above, cockroaches can eat nearly anything, including common items around a home, including:

  • Starchy bookbindings
  • Glue
  • Bar soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Leather
  • Nylon
  • Human dander

Even if you were able to control your environment to remove all potential food sources—which is practically impossible—you should know that a roach can go an entire month without eating anything at all! All of this being said, cockroaches do have preferences. Specifically, different types of roaches prefer meats, starches and sweets. What’s even more important than food for their survival? Water. After a week without it, they die.

While there’s no real way to eliminate every single possible cockroach food source from your home, you can take steps to make your place less desirable as a full-time abode for these pesky pests.

How To Prevent Roach Problems On Your Property

Cockroaches are prolific breeders, so even if you take the following steps to get rid of a roach infestation, it’s unlikely that you will never see one of these pests again. Eliminating roaches requires effective and consistent treatments, which is why most homeowners opt to enlist a pest control professional to help. If you would like to try a DIY approach first, there are some tactics you can try.

Eliminate Sources Of Moisture

Providing as little access to water as possible to cockroaches is an important step when it comes to cockroach control. Remember, a week with no water is certain death for these insects. Check for and repair any leaks (indoors and outside), empty pet water bowls at night and clean up spills immediately.

Practice Proper Food Storage

Keep all food in airtight containers, and keep lids and outer surfaces clean, including your spices and condiments. When you finish the food inside a container, rinse it immediately. Whether you ultimately plan on reusing, recycling or tossing in the trash, rinse away excess food matter right away.

Clean Well And Often

Do your dishes as soon as you’re finished eating. Disinfect your stove, cabinets and counters regularly. Make sure your trash and recycling receptacles have tight-fitting lids. Clean your trash cans periodically to catch and spills. Wipe down the tops and sides of your large appliances. Vacuum every crevice of your home. Do whatever you can to keep clutter to a minimum, as this will limit how much food is available to the roaches, as well as where they can hide.

With all of the hard work that you are putting in to try to reduce the population of roaches in your home, you may be curious as to whether there are any smells or scents that can keep roaches away.

A vial of mint oil which is a smell that keeps roaches away

What Smells Keep Cockroaches Away?

Almost two decades ago, a study was published that revealed mint oil in specific concentrations had a 100% success rate in repelling cockroaches. The study showed that within 24 hours of fumigating with mint oil, all roaches died. This would indicate that the scent of mint is enough to keep a cockroach away.

However, there are other considerations to take into account when using mint for cockroach control. In order for the entire roach population to be eliminated, you would need to have 100% pure mint oil pumping through your home for a full 24 hours. Additionally, roaches often hide in difficult to see areas, so it would be challenging to confirm that the mint oil had an effect on hidden roaches. Finally, this study did not study the effect of mint oil on cockroach eggs. So, even if you were able to eradicate the adult roaches on your property, you will likely have to deal with the next generation of these unwelcome guests.

Although mint oil has scientific studies to back its effectiveness, there are other scents some homeowners report having success with. However, there is no real evidence to back up these claims. Some of these supposed roach repelling odors include:

  • Lavender oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Crushed bay leaves

Some homeowners claim that certain plants have repellent properties when boiled into a tea to be sprayed around your home, including:

  • Catnip
  • Neem
  • Chrysanthemum

While some people swear by these natural remedies, there is little scientific proof to show that many of them actually work. Particularly if you’re already experiencing a cockroach infestation, your best bet is to work with a pest control professional to resolve your issue.

Do Odors (Besides Food) Attract Roaches?

If there are scents that some believe naturally repel the common cockroach, it stands to reason that there are odors that could seem particularly attractive to these creatures. Rotting plant matter like moisture-damaged and decaying wood and compost piles placed too close to your home can draw in roaches for a closer look. Cardboard, paper and paper bags are all highly porous and take on any strong food scents that might be permeating your home. Additionally, if any of the items we’ve listed for cockroach consumption have been affected by water, you can bet they now have a stronger scent, too.

We also know that cockroaches can actually smell each other. They give off a unique odor that exterminators and other pest specialists identify as musty which actually intensifies as an infestation grows. The cause of that smell? Cockroach carcasses and smells emitted during reproduction.

More than a decade ago, scientists cracked the code on female cockroach pheromones in an effort to create more effective extermination methods, and have since replicated that chemical concoction so that pest control specialists can incorporate it into their extermination programs.

We had previously mentioned that when cockroaches get desperate, they will turn to cannibalism. With a roach’s ability to smell each other, as well as potential food sources, you may be curious if roaches are attracted by the presence of other dead roaches in your home.

A dead cockroach

Does Killing A Cockroach Attract More Of Them?

If you kill a cockroach and leave the carcass where it lies, other cockroaches are likely to make a meal out of the mess. But dead cockroaches are never the primary reason for an infestation. In fact, the primary reason pest control specialists believe cockroaches eat each other comes down to regulation.

Female cockroaches produce offspring once they reach maturity, which is usually about a year after they are born. Female cockroaches will lay nearly 400 eggs every year afterward. You can see how a population can easily reach into the tens of thousands if a relatively small number of roaches is left to reproduce unchecked.

In scenarios like these, food sources can become scarce, and when they do, cockroaches’ cannibalistic tendencies may appear as a mode of survival and regulation. Often, it is females that eat roach eggs and young nymphs for sustenance, but really anything goes when these pests go into survival mode. Put another way, it is a rampant infestation that causes roaches to prey on each other, not dead cockroaches that are the primary cause of an infestation.

As we mentioned earlier, cockroaches will eat each other before they bite us. So, if you have spotted cockroaches on your property and you’re also noticing bites on you or your family members, you may be concerned that you have a severe infestation on your hands. However, what you may suspect is a roach bite is probably another types of bug bites.

A row of bed bug bites

Roach Bite Vs. Bed Bug Bite: What’s The Difference?

If you believe that you or your child may have been bitten by a cockroach, you may decide to contact a pest control specialist immediately. Sometimes, homeowners wind up discovering that the bite or affected area was actually not linked to roaches at all. A good number of those cases wind up being bed bug bites.

As we’ve already mentioned, roach bites are highly unlikely. Some individuals are allergic to cockroach waste products, saliva and body parts. Allergic reactions can even occur because of dead roaches. Symptoms include skin irritation or itchiness, along with other more typical signs of a reaction, including a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing or a cough.

Although cockroaches and bed bugs are more likely to bite at night, that is generally where the similarities end. There are some key differences between bug bites that can help you determine the culprit and the best next steps. Besides bed bug bites, flea bites and mite bites can all affect a sleeping household member at night. Here are some tips for discerning what kind of bug may be making a meal out of you.

Does Your Bite Have A Halo?

Flea bites usually appear in clusters or aligned as bed bug bites would, but they are more likely to show up around your feet and ankles, due to the fact that fleas typically hide in carpeted floors and will bite you as you walk across your carpet. These bites also tend to have a red halo around the center.

Do You See A Zigzag Or Cluster Of Bites?

Bed bugs usually bite us in areas that are exposed while we are resting: our face, neck, hands and arms. Victims often report a burning or itchy sensation after being bitten. If you make a sudden movement, a bed bug will often begin feeding at a nearby site, which is why bites can sometimes appear close together, or even in a zigzag pattern. Bed bug bites are small and dark red at the center.

Are Your Bites Similar To Tiny Blisters?

Mite bites usually appear around the waist, on the ankles or within the warm folds of your skin—inside a bent elbow, for instance. What’s different from most other insect bites is that the mite usually causes itchy red bumps that can look like tiny blisters or small hives. They increase in size over a period of a few days, as well.

Do You Have An Itchy Bump?

While less common, you can get bitten by a mosquito or ant indoors. These bites are also uncomfortable, and often look like a red bump, which can become swollen, particularly if you can’t help but scratch.

No matter what kind of bug bit you or a family member, you probably feel unsettled. If you suspect you may have a pest problem on your property, a pest control specialist can troubleshoot what’s going on and offer you options for treatment so you can gain peace of mind.

ABC Can Handle Any Pest Problem 

Dealing with a roach infestation—or any other type of common pest, for that matter—can be exhausting. If you’re tired of finding cockroaches when you open your pantry or turn a light on in the middle of the night, or if you are having another type of pest problem entirely, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our experienced technicians have a thorough understanding of the habits and behaviors of all common household pests and can use that knowledge to design and implement an effective treatment plan so you can feel comfortable in your home again.

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