What Do Cockroaches Eat?

Understanding what cockroaches eat can help us to control them. The search for food drives much of the behavior seen in cockroaches. While they can go a long time without food if they need to, that doesn’t stop them from spending most of their time searching for food and eating.

What do cockroaches eat?

Cockroaches are known to infest businesses and homes worldwide, and there are many different types. Some of the more common varieties found in the US are the German cockroach and the American cockroach. While each type has its preferred food source, they are not fussy about what they eat. Roaches eat many kinds of food and even various things that we, as humans, would consider inedible. 

Cockroaches eat Human Food

Cockroaches like human food and will eat pretty much any foods you can imagine having in your kitchen. They particularly enjoy starchy foods like cereal and bread, greasy foods like butter and French fries, sweet foods, and meat products. 

Cockroaches are often found in kitchens where food is readily available. Crumbs on worktops and floors, food left out, and unsealed food packages are all a lure for cockroaches. This is why it’s so important to keep your space clean to prevent or control cockroach infestations. 

If cockroaches get into food packages, you should consider them contaminated and discard them immediately. Cockroaches dwell in many unpleasant places and, therefore, pick up and carry bacteria that can cause sickness in humans. 

Cockroaches eating human food

Cockroaches eat Pet Food

From a cockroach’s perspective, pet food is not so different from human food, and they will happily consume it. Because pet food is often left out and in dishes on the floor, it makes for easy pickings. Even a small amount of leftover food – as little as a few crumbs – can be appealing to a cockroach. They will eat dog food, cat food, and just about any pet food imaginable if they can get to it. 

Clearing leftover pet food away as soon as it’s done with, along with any crumbs or mess made on the floor, can help when trying to deter cockroaches. As with human food, pet food should be stored effectively to deter roaches. 

Cockroaches Have a Range of Unusual Food Sources

You may be surprised at some of the things cockroaches eat that you wouldn’t think of as food sources. They have evolved to eat so many things is part of what makes them so difficult to control and eliminate. 

They can digest cellulose, allowing them to eat paper, cardboard, and even some types of clothing. They will happily nibble away at cardboard boxes, bookbinding, important documents, stamps, and even wallpaper glue. 

Outdoor species of cockroaches, including the American cockroach, particularly like to eat decaying organic matter. This includes things like dead trees, twigs, and piles of leaves and extends to fingernails, hair, and flakes of skin. 

If you’re not grossed out enough yet, consider that cockroaches eat other roaches and dead insects, garbage, and poop! Feces contains nutrients that cockroaches seek out and eat wherever they can, whether animal droppings or even the droppings of other roaches. 

You can be pretty sure that, if it’s organic matter, they’ll eat it, and they’ll also eat some types of inorganic matter too. 

The Digestive System of a Cockroach Explained

So how do cockroaches eat so many unpleasant and usually inedible things? The answer lies in their digestive systems. As a species, they have evolved over millions of years. They have had to learn to survive in harsh conditions, and the key to their survival has been their ability to eat whatever is available.  

Cockroaches have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria that live in their digestive systems. The cockroach acts as a host for the bacteria, and the bacteria provides it with the necessary nutrients to digest a range of harsh substances in return. According to a recent study on American cockroaches, a significant part of their genome is dedicated to metabolizing dangerous, toxic substances. 

Where Do Cockroaches Hunt for Food?

Cockroaches search for food wherever it can be found. If you consider the wide range of materials considered food by roaches, you would be hard-pressed to think of a place they wouldn’t go.

Restaurants and grocery stores are particularly vulnerable to cockroaches because they continuously have large food stocks and produce significant amounts of waste. These places are also prone to spillages that can attract these unwanted visitors,  

Our homes are also vulnerable to cockroach infestations because this is where we store and eat our food. Cockroaches are usually found in kitchens and pantries because it is the drive for food that brings them in. Keeping your home clean can help to deter them and prevent infestations, but this alone is not guaranteed to keep them away. Even the cleanest of homes are not immune to cockroaches. 

What do Cockroaches Drink?

Cockroaches need to drink to survive. Amazingly, they can survive without their head (and brain) but will die within a week because of dehydration!

Cockroaches mostly drink water but will happily drink a range of other fluids if they are available. They enjoy sugary drinks, including juices and soda. They also like alcoholic beverages, especially beer, which is why it is often used in homemade cockroach taps. 

Cockroach in the sink

How to spot a cockroach infestation 

The most obvious way to spot a cockroach problem is to see a live one. However, not seeing them crawling around does not mean they are not there. Cockroaches are nocturnal, so you’re unlikely to see them during the day. Signs of their presence include droppings, shed skins, egg cases, and damage to food and packaging. If there is a large infestation, you might notice an unpleasant odor. 

Cockroaches can contaminate food and spread disease, so it’s essential to act fast if you notice them in your home. They can destroy a business’s reputation, so they must have a reliable pest control plan in place. 

How to deal with cockroaches

With cockroaches, prevention is better than cure. The best way to deter cockroaches is to make it as hard as possible for them to access food. To do this, clean diligently and store your food in sturdy, cockroach-proof containers. 

Avoid leaving food out, and make sure any crumbs or spillages are cleaned up immediately. If they can’t find food, they will go and search for it elsewhere. 

If you think you might have a roach problem, search for places they are likely to be found, including kitchens, bathrooms, cluttered cupboards, and small crevices. You must get rid of roaches as quickly as possible. 

One option is to tackle the problem by yourself. You can do this by setting baits and using natural pesticides. It will require patience and perseverance. Cockroaches can be tricky to eliminate due to their life cycle. Food grade diatomaceous earth and boric acid are effective for killing cockroaches in your home. 

The other option is to contact pest control experts. This is a costlier option but is likely to be more effective and resolve the issue quicker. If you have seen more than one cockroach, this could indicate an infestation that requires expert help to resolve. 


Do cockroaches bite humans?

In theory, cockroaches could bite humans, but it is unlikely to happen. Cockroaches would only bite humans as a last resort if food were scarce. Having an extensive infestation, where roaches are competing with each other for food, makes it more likely that they would bite a human. It has also been known to happen in cases where people have had open wounds. 

Do cockroaches only infest dirty houses?

It is somewhat of a myth that cockroaches only infest dirty houses, although it is undoubtedly true that they will be more attracted to this type of environment. Many places that we would consider to be clean still have readily available food sources for roaches. Diligent cleaning will help to prevent an infestation, though, because it limits the availability of food. 

Do cockroaches eat cockroaches?

Some varieties of cockroaches eat other roaches. That is more likely to happen if they are dead. Female American cockroaches can kill and eat their mates just like the black widow spider. German and Oriental cockroaches do not eat their dead but are known to eat their eggs when food is scarce. 

Do cockroaches eat wires?

Although cockroaches don’t eat electrical wiring itself, they can be attracted to its insulation. This is because electrical insulation is made from cellulose or paper, which they can digest easily. That can be problematic, leaving exposed wiring and reducing the lifespan of your electronics. 

Can cockroaches eat through walls?

Cockroaches cannot eat through walls. They can gain entry by squeezing through holes, crevices, and cracks, though. 

Do cockroaches eat mold?

Although mold is not a typical food source for cockroaches, they can eat it, and it can even help to break down any paper materials they have eaten previously. 

Do cockroaches eat expanding foam?

Expanding foam is not a food source for cockroaches. They can burrow through it, though, eating any dead insects trapped in it as they go. 

Do cockroaches eat hair?

Cockroaches will eat all types of body hair wherever they can find it, including in hairbrushes, drains, and on floors. 

Do cockroaches eat clothes?

Cockroaches feed on crumbs and flakes of skin that become caught in clothes. They can digest some fabric types and may try to eat dirty clothes when there is no other food source available. 

Do cockroaches eat spicy food?

Cockroaches will not discriminate against spicy food. While spices are known to deter some other insects, there is no evidence to show cockroaches avoid it. 

Do cockroaches eat grass?

Cockroaches are more likely to eat dead grass, but some will also eat live grass. They can digest grass and other organic materials more easily when it is decaying. 

Do cockroaches eat wood?

Cockroaches don’t destroy wood structures like termites but do eat decaying wood-like dead trees, twigs, and rotten wood. 

Do cockroaches eat soap?

Cockroaches have been known to eat soap. This is because it contains organic materials. 

Do cockroaches eat baking soda?

Cockroaches don’t eat baking soda on its own. They will eat it when it’s mixed in with other things, though. Baking soda mixed with sugar is often used as a safe and natural cockroach killer that can be an effective home remedy. 

Can cockroaches get into sealed food bags, packages, and containers?

Cockroaches can chew through some food packaging. They can chew through plastic bags, cardboard, and paper packaging. To keep them out of food, store it in thick plastic or glass containers. 

Do cockroaches eat bed bugs?

Cockroaches usually eat insects when they are dead, but they do eat live bed bugs because they are slow and easy to catch, compared to other bugs like fleas. 

Do cockroaches eat coffee grounds?

Cockroaches will happily eat coffee grounds, so it is essential to clean up any spillages and keep packaging sealed and stored away safely. 

Do cockroaches eat salt?

There is no nutritional value in salt, so cockroaches don’t tend to eat it on its own. They will happily eat salty foods, though. 

Do cockroaches eat fleas?

Unlike bed bugs, fleas are notoriously difficult to catch because they jump and move around quickly. Cockroaches will eat dead fleas, though. In fact, they will pretty much eat any dead insect. 

Do cockroaches eat live plants?

Cockroaches prefer dead plants to live ones because it is easier for them to digest decaying organic matter. It is unlikely they would eat your house plants or those in your garden but may feast on dead leaves. 

Now you know what cockroaches eat, you can take steps to eliminate readily available food sources to avoid an infestation. Diligent cleaning and savvy food storage are key. If you find a cockroach in your home, try some of the home remedies in this article or call in the experts. Fast action is essential to prevent a larger infestation. 

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