How Long Do Cockroaches Live?

If you’ve had to deal with a cockroach infestation in your home or apartment, you might believe that they are indestructible and that they live forever. You’re probably wondering, “How can I get rid of these bugs?” or asking, “How long do cockroaches live?”

Cheer up – you can kill them, and the typical cockroach has a lifespan of only about 1.5 years

Cockroaches have starred in several movies and been the subjects of countless urban legends, but we all agree that we never want to see them in our homes. There’s nothing worse than turning on the kitchen light and seeing dozens of these little critters scatter and then disappear behind a baseboard, backsplash, or cabinet.

Read on to take a deeper dive into the world of cockroaches.

What is a cockroach?

Cockroaches are among the world’s most primitive-winged insects. Fossil evidence suggests that they’ve been here for more than 320,000,000 years and that they look about the same as they did back then.

This order of insects (Blattodea) will typically have a flat, oval, shiny black or brown body with six legs. They have antennae that are long and thready. Their heads bend downward and, unlike most other insects, their mouthparts point backward.

You can discern males from females by their wings. You will usually see two pairs of wings on the males. Females, on the other hand, are usually either wingless or might have what appear to be tiny, atrophied (vestigial) wings.

Cockroaches have exoskeletons. This means that, unlike humans, a cockroach’s skeleton is on the outside of its body to protect and support it.

What do cockroaches eat?

Naturally, cockroaches need water and food to survive. These insects stand out from the pack, though, because they’ll eat almost anything. And it takes very little food to keep a cockroach alive.

They are nocturnal hunters, which is why it’s common to see them scurry away when a light is turned on. They can subsist on food crumbs, glue, feces, paper, book bindings, fingernail clippings, hair, paper, stamps, dead insects (bedbugs are a real treat), and, in a pinch, other cockroaches.

One of the reasons they’re hard to get rid of is that their food sources are virtually everywhere in your home.

How long can cockroaches live without eating or drinking?

Ah, here’s where legends about their invincibility are fueled – because they are cold-blooded insects, they can go 30 to 45 days without a meal. They are extremely durable when you consider the small amount of food they require and the abundance of the food that they eat.

Water is a different story because cockroaches tend to dehydrate quickly and will die within 3 to 7 days without it.

How long do cockroaches live?
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Different kinds of cockroaches

When answering, How long do cockroaches live? we have to put a little refining spin on it when discussing different kinds of cockroaches. That said, there are other differences in these common types:

German Cockroaches  

If you’ve seen a cockroach in your home, this is probably your guy. Blattella Germanica is only about 1/2 inch in length and because of its size is often carried home in grocery bags or boxes.

German cockroaches are light brown and have two darker stripes on their backs just behind their heads and in front of their wings. Although they have wings, they prefer running to flying.

These cockroaches live between 6 and 7 months. They are the fastest-reproducing cockroaches. In their short lifespan, they can produce 2 or 3 generations of cockroaches.

The females produce egg sacks (oothecae) about 3 days after mating and carry them for about 20 days. Then she deposits them in cracks in the floor, behind wood molding, or even in clothing. The new cockroaches mature in about 120 days.

American Cockroaches

You’ll usually find this cockroach outdoors in wet, dark areas. Southerners find them in flower beds and on trees, while Northerners find them in sewers and drains. If they come inside because of food shortages or sustained unfavorable weather, they’ll most likely head for the basement.  

American cockroaches (Periplaneta Americana) are usually about 1 or 2 inches long and mahogany (reddish-brown) in color with a yellow circle that looks sort of like a crown on their heads. They live about 1.5 years, depending on their conditions. 

These are prolific breeders. A female will produce as many as 1,600 eggs that will hatch in about 45 days.

Oriental Cockroaches

Oriental cockroaches are considered one of the filthiest pests. Their color ranges from shiny black to mahogany. Their life span and size are similar to the American cockroach – 1.5 years and 1 to 2 inches long.

Blatta orientalis is sometimes referred to as a water bug or a black beetle cockroach because of the way they look and their love of wet environments. You can often find them in sewers, where they can gain access to the indoors through drains.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

It’s unlikely that you’ll find Gromphadorhina Portentosa in anyone’s home outside of a tank where they’re kept as an exotic pet.

By cockroach standards, these guys are giants – up to 3 inches in length. They have long, black oval bodies with brown stripes and fuzzy antennae. They are native to Madagascar where you’ll find them under rotting logs or scampering across the tropical forest floor. They live up to five years.

They hiss when they’re frightened, when they want to attract a female, or when they’re spoiling for a fight. Most insects make noise by rubbing parts of their body together, but these cockroaches hiss by expelling air through a respiratory vent in their body. 

Are cockroaches a health hazard?

No major disease outbreak has ever been blamed on cockroaches, but the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” Cockroaches are unhygienic scavengers. You don’t want bugs in your home, especially cockroaches for these reasons:

  • They are a source of allergens.
  • They can trigger asthma.
  • They carry bacteria that can cause illnesses like salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus.
  • They can be carriers of dysentery, diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid fever.

Why do you have cockroaches in your home?

Cockroaches don’t signal that you’re a bad housekeeper. They are very clever insects that have survived for millions of years because they are resourceful and adaptable. Here are some of the ways that they can get into your home:

  • You can inadvertently carry them into your home. Cockroaches are adept at taking a ride in bags, backpacks, and cuffs.
  • They can squish down to 25% of their size and then squeeze through small holes in your home, including the small spaces around your doors and windows.
  • If you live in an apartment or share a wall with anyone, they can move from one living unit to the next by crawling through pipes, vents, and other openings.

How to get rid of cockroaches?

We’ve already covered that you probably aren’t going to win by trying to starve them out because they can go quite a while without food. Even if you figure out how to keep food away from them – and remember, they eat virtually anything – you would still have to deal with all the eggs that are tucked into nooks and crannies.

You can, however, get a head start by making their lives more difficult. Seal up any holes or cracks or other openings that allow them to come into your home. Thoroughly clean and vacuum frequently, so that they have less access to food sources. This won’t get rid of the cockroaches, but it will slow their progress.

Pay attention to water drips like leaky pipes or faucets, too, or any water collection areas in your home. They can’t live too long without water.

You can launch a do-it-yourself attack on cockroaches, but you’re usually better off hiring a professional exterminator because they have access to various remedies and know how to use them safely.

Here are four techniques for eliminating cockroaches:

Putting out bait

When their usual sources of food are depleted because of your preventative measures, cockroaches will be drawn to the fragrance of the bait. They’ll usually die within 1 to 3 days after eating the bait.

There is a small amount of insecticide in bait, enough to kill roaches but probably not dangerous to humans or pets in such small quantities. Regardless, you should always keep bait away from humans and pets.

It’s worth noting that you might be concerned if you suddenly see more cockroaches than usual after putting out the bait. That’s because they’re attracted to it and more come looking for this easy source of food. Don’t worry – the bait is working and the cockroaches will slowly disappear.

Setting traps

  • Liquid bait traps are a little more expensive but worth it. Cockroaches are attracted to both food and water and the combination in these traps is as attractive as it is lethal. It will kill the cockroach as well as any eggs that it is carrying, usually within 24 hours. You have to replace the trap once the water is gone, which normally lasts about 1 month.
  • Gel bait traps are small syringe-like tubes that you use to spread the bait gel in cracks, crevices, and any other place where you’ve noticed the cockroaches tend to travel. You’ll have to reapply the gel after the cockroaches have eaten it. This is very effective for more serious infestations and can kill cockroaches within a few hours.
  • Sticky bait traps are the least expensive, yet very effective for remedying the occasional roach problem. These traps will usually last about 4 months, depending on how many cockroaches you have. You check these occasionally to see how many dead roaches are inside and then replace it as needed.


Sometimes cockroaches get away from your traps. You can increase the effectiveness of your bait by paying attention to the traps that get the most cockroaches and then sprinkling insecticide dust in the area around the traps.

Even the cockroaches who avoid the bait and walk away after taking a look-see will walk through the dust, which is a death sentence. The dust clings to their feet, and when they groom themselves it’s all over within a day. Better yet – the roach will carry the dust back to the nest and kill others.

Insect Growth Regulators

Keeping it simple – IGRs are birth control for cockroaches. An IGR is designed to be used with baits and will help prevent cockroaches from interrupting the earliest stages of the cockroach’s life cycle. This is effective because even if the young roaches survive they can’t lay eggs that could hatch later after you think that you’ve remedied your problem.

Some interesting cockroach facts

Cockroaches are full of surprises. Here are some things you probably didn’t know:

  • Do you think that you can smother one? Definitely, but you’d better be patient because a cockroach can live without air for as long as 45 minutes. Why? Because they are in the habit of always regulating their respiration to reduce the risk of dehydration.
  • How about if you want to drown a cockroach? Go for it, but, again, patience is necessary. A cockroach can stay underwater for as long as 30 minutes. They’re really good at holding their breath.
  • So, what if you decide to cut off a cockroach’s head? It’ll kill him for sure, but only because he’ll die of thirst 3 to 7 days later because he doesn’t have a mouth. A cockroach breathes through small holes in its body, so it does not need its head or mouth for breathing.
  • Can cockroaches have a drinking problem? I hope not, but the American Cockroach is attracted to beer because of the hops and sugar.


Cockroaches have been around for millions of years, and haven’t changed much in all that time. They are sneaky scavengers who rapidly multiply and are unhealthy household pests. How long do cockroaches live? That depends on their environment, but usually only a year. There are several effective techniques for eliminating cockroaches.

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