Cockroaches are the most resilient and robust insects on the planet and are known for their extreme survival skills. Cockroaches are omnivores so will eat almost any type of food, even if it’s their own species.
Cannibalism may be repulsive to some, but loyalty to one’s species has never stopped a roach from choosing its own survival over others in the colony.
This can occur when a roach has run out of food sources or their nest is over-crowded leading to mating disputes. Larger roaches can even eat their own eggs and younger roaches in extreme cases.
The primary goal of roaches is to preserve the species, so whilst this may seem like an unusual behavior trait, it’s very normal for them if the choice is between life and death and the survival of the fittest is the only law by which they abide, this is just another example of this.
Why Do Cockroaches Eat Each Other?
Cockroaches will not go after their own species first, this only happens when the conditions have reached an extreme level and they have no other option. They can usually find plenty of food if they have inhabited a home, but even outdoors they will find food sources including decaying matter, fruit, rotting wood, or even carcasses of other dead insects. They are scavenger experts and can eat almost anything but can’t live more than a month without food so are always on the lookout for their next meal.
There are several situations when a cockroach may decide to eat its own species:
Roaches live in colonies, so overcrowding is a potential issue that can lead to cannibalism. Roaches continue to lay eggs until they die and the female roach can produce up to 200 eggs per year.
This means that cockroach populations can double every few months, which means trouble for any homeowner with an infestation, but also for some cockroaches.
If an infestation is too big, the resources and environment they require could be overused and not suitable anymore – their shelter, food, and water will only provide for a certain number of roaches.
This will mean the larger cockroaches will cull the colony of the smaller roaches to make room. With their breeding behavior being to grow the colony as quickly as possible, this can often be the result as the nesting area could be too small for their requirements.
Food Source Running Low
Cockroaches are scavengers, as mentioned above they will eat almost anything. If your home is being overrun by roaches and you have a serious infestation, they may start eating each other if their food source is running out.
This means that the most effective way of getting rid of roaches is to cut off their food and water supply.
Roaches will be in great need of food if they dwell in a home that has been properly cleaned and free of exposed leftovers.
Roaches that are hungry from having their food source removed or reduced will eat whatever is accessible, which is most often other colony residents.
If the mating season is coming to an end, cockroaches can be very aggressive and territorial. Roaches will fight for any available place where they could build their nests.
The largest cockroaches may cannibalize smaller roaches or remove them from their territory so that they can lay eggs in peace. The biggest male cockroach usually dominates the nest, so if you have a lot of smaller cockroaches in your home, this may be the reason why.
Do Cockroaches Eat Other Dead Cockroaches?
Cockroaches will definitely eat other dead cockroaches if they are in the nesting area or near it. Roaches will eat any decaying or dead matter such as leaf litter, rotting fruit, and decaying bodies of other insects.
Dead roaches can often be found around their nests, especially in the outer areas. Cockroaches will eat them because they need to get rid of waste products, and they don’t leave anything to waste.
However, roaches won’t eat their own dead straight away. When a cockroach dies, it releases an unpleasant odor that can inform other members of the colony. This usually causes them to stay away from the area until the smell has cleared.
This feature of the cockroach evolution has developed to warn other cockroaches away from potential danger.
This smell eventually fades over time. If nearby roaches are hungry and the smell is strong enough, they will overcome their instincts and approach the dead cockroach.
If there are no other options available, some species may attack each other and engage in cannibalism. This is usually for more aggressive, desperate, or hungry roaches who have not been involved in mating conflicts
Do Cockroaches Eat Their Young?
Cockroaches will eat their young if they are hungry enough. Large cockroach colonies with overcrowded nests may be forced to eat the youngest of their family members.
It is more common for large cockroaches or males to eat young roaches than female cockroaches who would eat only during scarce periods when food is almost nonexistent.
This behavior is also triggered if their nesting area is too small and they need to cull the weakest to make room for the others.
One of the reasons roaches will eat their young during mating season is because this would ensure that only the strongest babies survive to adulthood and can reproduce.
Do Cockroaches Eat Their Own Eggs?
It is common for male cockroaches to eat eggs if the nesting area becomes overcrowded. This is often seen when a female has many eggs at once and there’s not enough space in the nest to accommodate them all.
They are under environmental pressure to ensure that their offspring survive, so they may eat some of the eggs or kick them out of the nest, which would give them a better chance at survival.
However, female cockroaches usually eat their eggs only if they need nutrients to make more eggs or produce milk for their first batch of offspring.
Do Cockroaches Eat Their Own Poop?
Another disgusting trait of cockroaches is that they are known for eating the feces of other animals. They may do this as a last resort but feces from larger animals will be packed full of nutrients and minerals so it’s actually quite a good food source and will sometimes be a preference for them if they have access to it and that certain feces is of the right consistency.
However, roach poop isn’t as nutrient-packed as large animals so will not be a favored food source for cockroaches. If they are pushed to desperation, you may find roaches eating their own poop but this would definitely be extreme environmental circumstances and all other food options depleted.
Do Cockroaches Eat Molted Skins?
Molting is a natural process of cockroach development that happens when an increased level of hormones is being made. These hormones signal the need to shed the old shell and produce a brand new one. You may spot white cockroaches in your home when the nest is large enough and roaches are molting.
A cockroach will usually molt about 6-12 times in its life before it dies, however, some species have been known to molt more than this and some less.
Depending on the species of cockroach, they will molt around 5 times as an adult and double that during development. Generally, male roaches tend to molt more than females throughout their life cycles
Cockroaches usually eat molts of their own skin, which contain excess minerals and nutrients such as chitin, that they may not be able to absorb. The nutrients and minerals leftover in the molt is a useful resource for the roaches and nothing goes to waste, so the molt is a very effective way of building up their strength.
They will also eat molted skins of other cockroaches when there are no other available food sources.
Cockroach nymphs will also eat their molts to regain some of the minerals that were lost during development. They will do this each time they molt in order to strengthen their exoskeletons.
Over 10 molts are required before they can complete their growth cycle. If they don’t acquire a hard shell, they will be vulnerable to predators or other roaches looking for weak individuals in the colony.
Do Cockroaches Eat Other Insects?
Cockroaches will eat other insects if they are smaller than them or if there is a lack of alternative food sources.
The problem that roaches face is they don’t have strong mandibles or teeth so they can’t break up the chitin on most insects. This means they would need to swallow it whole.
Insects with hard outer shells, even when dead, will not be an attractive meal for roaches. Soft insects such as worms and flies would be an ideal feast, or the young and larvae of insects left unprotected.
Roaches will certainly eat insects when they have no other choice but it just isn’t their preference for food.
Do Cockroaches Attack Each Other?
Yes, cockroaches will attack each other to defend their territory if food is scarce and they are competing with one another.
This doesn’t typically happen in larger roach colonies because there is less of a need for aggressive behavior when food isn’t an issue and they will usually share everything that they have.
Cockroaches do this by using their antennae to feel the presence of other roaches close by. They will then attempt to fight and kill them with powerful pincer-like jaws that bite into the top of the head and back of the neck. If they are successful, death is usually not instant and it may take several days before they finally die depending on the severity of the injury – however, it will take a lot for this to happen as roaches can survive severe injuries and even grow back body parts including legs.
If roaches do not have enough space and resources to live they will fight one another in order to survive. Overcrowding, limited food and mating-related fighting may lead to roaches turning on each other and consuming their own species, even their young.
Believe it or not, humans are the main consumer of cockroaches, many people around the world eat cockroaches and treat them as a delicacy!