Cockroaches have chewing mouthparts. Unlike houseflies or bedbugs, cockroaches are able to eat solid food.
Documented cases of cockroaches biting humans are hard to find. Stories of people going to hospitals with cockroach bites may be urban legends. Scientists have found cases of people, usually children, having eyelashes or eyebrows bitten off by cockroaches during the night. In one case in South America, the cockroaches also chewed toenails. All of these took place while the children were sleeping. All of them happened in dwellings that were heavily infested with cockroaches.
What Kinds of Cockroaches Most Commonly Bite?
Entomologists regularly report instances of cockroaches biting humans in attempt to eat remains of food found on the flesh and underneath fingernails. The nocturnal insects often eat crumbs or traces of food left behind on the faces of individuals while they sleep in areas where cockroach infestations become an issue. While some species like the woods cockroach hardly infest homes or cause serious personal threat to humans, others like the German cockroach, the leading species of cockroach infestations in New England, are often the subject of reported cockroach bites.
Problems Caused by Cockroach Bites
Due to carrying a number of infectious diseases, cockroach bites should be taken care of immediately. Clean and dress cockroach bite wounds as soon as possible upon discovery. If faced with populations of cockroaches large enough that they are being bitten, individuals should consult a pest management professional to provide both quick knockdown and plan a long term cockroach suppression plan.
Cockroaches are scavengers. They will eat anything that can provide nutrition. A cockroach only eats a small amount. Several roaches can feed on a single kibble of dog food. One kibble can feed a single roach for many weeks.
Cockroaches will eat wallpaper paste, bookbinding glue, even the paste from postage stamps. They have been found eating vegetables, meats, and fruits.
Cockroaches have been found damaging seedling plants. They have also been found eating developing fruit, like strawberries on the plants.
In the home, the best cockroach defense is prevention. Inspect items from flea markets and garage sales. Inspect any used furniture from thrift shops or rental return dealers.
Caulk cracks and crevices, especially in the kitchen. This will eliminate hiding places for the small German roaches. Empty the trash regularly, wipe up any spills, wash dishes and put away leftover food before going to bed – roaches are active at night. The gel roach bait and the plastic bait stations are effective tools for eliminating roaches indoors. It takes time – cockroach control is not a one-shot treatment.
Keep the large cockroaches outside by closing the entryways. Make sure exterior doors close tightly and replace missing or damaged weather-stripping. Secure the crawl space access door and repair the screens on the crawl space vents.
Many brands of granular roach bait are water-resistant. They can be used effectively in flowerbeds and ground cover. An insecticide barrier can help prevent cockroaches from entering. Because of rain and sun, the insecticide will have to be re-applied periodically. Many people prefer to have pest control professionals get rid of cockroaches.