You might have heard that cockroaches can bite you, but how common is this, and what causes them to bite? Read on to find out if you are likely to find roach bites on your body if you have an infestation in your home.
Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional
Do cockroaches bite?
Yes, cockroaches can bite you. Although it is uncommon, it is not unheard of, and there have been several reports of cockroaches feeding on people. Generally speaking, cockroaches won’t bite you as they can always find something to eat.
Out of all the cockroach infestations I have treated, I have not had anyone report they have roach bites. But that’s not to say it won’t happen, especially when the infestation is large.
Why do roaches bite?
If a roach tries to take a nibble on you, it would be because the infestation is so large that there is no longer enough food available for them all.
In this case, you’ll likely see roaches scurrying around your home during the daytime as they will be looking for food and somewhere to hide.
Several cases were reported long ago of cockroaches feeding on fingernails, toenails, calluses, and dead skin of sailors on ships, which ties in with having a large infestation and not enough to eat.
Roaches are different from other insects that feed on us, like bed bugs, as they don’t need human blood to sustain them. They don’t need our blood at all, as they can survive on a range of substances such as feces, dead animals, rotting food, and glue, for example.
What time of day are roaches more likely to bite?
If a cockroach bites you, it will likely be at night time when you’re asleep as they are a nocturnal pest. It would also mean that you have a massive infestation in your home.
Roaches are more active at night and come out of their harborages searching for food. If you have a roach infestation and turn on the light in your kitchen late at night, you’ll probably see the roaches quickly scurrying off to their hiding spots.
Remember, even though cockroaches are common pests, it is extremely rare for them to bite.
Where on your body would a cockroach bite you?
From the reports on cockroach bites, it appears they have a preference for specific areas of the human body, which are:
- Fingers and toes – they chew on nails and dead skin.
- Mouth – in the corners of the mouth and lips where small amounts of food remain.
- Eyes – roaches eat the crusty material (rheum) that builds up in the corners of your eyes when you sleep. They have also eaten children’s eyelashes when they were sleeping.
- Ears – they nibble the thin skin on the earlobes.
Which roaches bite?
Do German cockroaches bite? As this type of roach is the most common worldwide and can live in our homes, it explains why this question gets asked.
The answer is yes, a German cockroach (Blattella germanica) can bite you, but again, it is extremely rare.
Reports of other types of cockroaches that can bite people include:
- American cockroach (P. americana),
- Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis),
- Australian roach (P. australasiae).
These cockroach species in some countries, which are uncontrolled and infestations are large, have been observed crawling onto people and eating their scabs, causing the wounds to enlarge.
Additionally, it has been documented that American roaches fed on the open wounds of animals in a zoo in Germany.
Will cockroaches really bite you?
Although cockroaches can bite 50 times stronger than their body weight, it doesn’t mean you are on the menu. If you find insect bites on your body, the chances are they are bites from bed bugs or mosquitoes rather than roaches.
Cockroaches are scavengers and will eat almost anything, so they are good at finding things to eat before they think about feeding on us.
Having said that, unsanitary conditions in the home and lack of pest control measures help them thrive, meaning your home will soon be overrun with these pests, especially German cockroaches.
However, it’s not so much cockroach bites that you have to worry about, it’s the bacteria and germs they carry on their bodies that are cause for concern because they crawl across your kitchen countertops and in the cutlery drawer.
Cockroaches can be harmful to your health as they can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma attacks. If you are concerned you have a roach problem and have seen signs of cockroaches, get some handy tips from the how to get rid of cockroaches page. However, the best option is to contact a reputable pest control company to eliminate the cockroach infestation for you.
[2, 3] Roth, L. M., & Willis, E. R. (1957). The medical and veterinary importance of cockroaches (Vol. 134). The Smithsonian Institution.