What Do Roaches Eat?
Cockroaches are creatures that have been around for millions of years but are definitely not what we want to see around our home. Not only do these pests cause us to feel uncomfortable, they also carry bacteria and diseases. Finding out what cockroaches eat can help us reduce the risk of them invading our homes.
There’s not much worse than the thought of these insects running around the home. They climb onto furniture, run across our carpets, and worst of all—crawl on us. To understand their habits more and the reasons why they invade our homes, let’s look closer at their eating habits.
What Do Cockroaches Eat?
There are more than 3500 species of cockroaches worldwide, but only around 50 to 60 of these are found in the US. From those species, we only need to concern ourselves with a few of them being pests to us.
- American cockroach
- Oriental cockroach
- Brown-banded cockroach
- German cockroach
- Pennsylvania wood cockroach
These are the species that are likely to invade our homes. The most common one being the American cockroach. They arrived in the States in the 1600s, on boats which came from Africa.
Cockroaches are omnivores, much the same as humans are. Like humans, they eat food of either plant or animal origin. The difference is they aren’t as fussy as humans and will eat anything, including rotting food.
Feeding time for roaches is at night, when the lights are out and all is quiet. You will sometimes see them in the day, but this is quite rare. They are generally in their hiding places during daylight, waiting for nightfall so they can feed.
Cockroaches are resourceful eaters, and as long as they can find some organic matter, they will eat it. This means they don’t eat items made from plastics or metals, but they will eat wood.
Roaches have the same taste as humans do for food. That is the reason you find them in kitchens, restaurants, and food storage places. These are also the areas in which you're most likely to find cockroach fecal matter, too.
Although cockroaches aren’t that fussy, they do have their favorite types of food. They prefer to eat proteins, starchy foods and sweets. These would be foods such as:
- Sugary and sweet foods
Other things they like are food products which ferment or go moldy, like cheeses. If you make yourself a sandwich at night, be sure to clear those crumbs away. For a cockroach, this would be a gourmet meal of leftovers to feed on from your counter-top.
If their favorites aren’t on offer, that still won’t stop them. Cockroaches will take a taste of different things along their travels. They will sample any available cuisine they find.
If there is any decaying matter around, this will spark their appetite. Cockroaches can make a gourmet meal out of many things. As long as the food contains proteins that are rich in lipids as well as carbohydrates, they have a meal. These would be things such as:
- Human waste
With such a varied palate, it’s easy to see why these pests invade our homes, and even our cars. There are many gourmet offerings available to them, even in the cleanest of establishments. Another food source which attracts roaches is pet food. How many people who own dogs or cats will leave a dish of food down for their beloved pets? While you don’t want your pet to go hungry, you also don’t want to gain roaches as pets either.
An important part of a cockroach’s diet is water. This is why sources of water are attractive areas to them.
What Do Roaches Do If There Is No Natural Food Around?
A cockroach’s perspective on food is very different from ours, even though they are omnivores the same as humans. They find certain food items to be viable additions to their diet that we would never even consider.
If we wanted to add starch to our diet, we would look at adding things like potatoes, pasta, or bread. A cockroach takes a different angle, and would consider such things as:
- Glue from book bindings
- Wallpaper paste
- Glue from stamps or envelopes
When looking to add protein to their diet, they might opt for dead insects, human hair, and fingernails. They also like animal skin as a source of protein when there is nothing else available. This can be the leather items in the home, where they will feed on the soft inside part.
If the supply of food becomes sparse, they may even consider cannibalism and eat their young. In very rare circumstances, they have even bitten humans. This would be rare, however, and only if infestations have reached catastrophic levels.
Cockroaches aren’t equipped with the mouthparts to be able to feed on humans. Their mouthparts are primitive compared to some other species of insect.
These mouthparts allow them to manage their diet by chewing and carrying their food. If they tried to bite a human, it would prove difficult to pierce the skin. However, they will feed on dead skin, eyelashes, and callouses from the human body.
How Long Can Roaches Live Without Feeding?
It would be a very rare occurrence for an expert scavenger like a cockroach not to find a food source. The chances of them running out of food is very low. Outdoors, they will even eat dead wood or rotting plants.
If roaches are in sewers, there would be ample amounts of waste for them—both human and environmental. Unless the roach infestation exceeds the resources, a shortage of food is highly unlikely.
If the situation did get so bad that food wasn’t in ample supply, there wouldn’t be too much of a problem in the short term. Generally, the lifespan of a cockroach is around a year. As they are cold-blooded insects, most species of roach can survive for a month or more without food. However, to do this, they must have a supply of water.
If they were to have food but not water, then the story would be different. Without water, cockroaches could only survive for up to a week. This is why you will generally find them living in dark and moist places. Water is the most important source for them and can help them survive for long periods of time.
These insects are very cunning and resilient. It is easy to see why it can be hard to keep on top of infestations. They hide in cracks and crevices or behind walls, and eat pretty much anything, so they are a tricky enemy to deal with.
As you can see, the prospect of eliminating cockroaches could prove difficult. It’s pretty much impossible to rid your home of all food sources for these hungry creatures. These insects are extremely resourceful. Not only are they experts when it comes to finding food sources but they can also live without eating for a long period, if necessary.
It would also be impractical to remove the water sources which attract them, as these are vital to humans too. The fact that they have been around for millions of years proves how adaptable they are. You may need professional help to destroy an infestation. But knowing what cockroaches eat can at least help you identify what is attracting them to your home.
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