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Many people hear horror stories about bugs that go bump in the night and are left wondering: do cockroaches bite? While cockroaches can be a huge nuisance to humans, biting is not usually on the list of things to be worried about. Cockroaches typically stick to food sources like human food, pet food, dead insects, plants, and other organic matter. However, in heavily infested areas, there are documented cases of cockroaches gnawing on human skin and nails.
DO COCKROACHES BITE HUMANS?
Typically (and thankfully), the answer to the question, “do cockroaches bite humans” is a resounding no. But the likelihood of a cockroach bite increases when humans live in a heavily infested dwelling.
The reality is, some infestations become so overwhelming that cockroaches begin to move about during all hours of the day, without attempting to hide from view, and become desperate for food sources as their numbers increase. In a home swarming with cockroaches, there is a chance that its occupants could suffer bites—especially when living conditions are unsanitary.
It’s also worth noting that cockroaches do often bite (and feed on) deceased humans when bodies are not discovered right away. In fact, crime scenes can be altered by cockroach bites.
WHY DO COCKROACHES BITE HUMANS?
Cockroaches biting humans is an unusual behavior. So why does it happen on occasion? The same reason cockroaches do anything: survival. Rather than seeking out humans to feed on, cockroaches sort of stumble upon humans while looking for smells they’re familiar with like sweet, salty, or decay.
Once they find a food source on a human, they may begin to chew, without ever intending to break the skin.
Many reported cockroach bites are on children’s faces, usually around the mouth. This leads researchers to believe cockroaches are attracted to food residue on humans since infants and toddlers are more likely to have unwashed faces and hands. Cockroaches may also be drawn to perspiration, wounds, or dead skin on the human body.
Cockroaches are also attracted to the scent your ears give off because of the composition of human earwax. News stories of cockroaches getting stuck in the ear canal surface often and are definitely more common than receiving a cockroach bite on the body (though still rare).
DO COCKROACHES BITE PEOPLE IN THEIR SLEEP?
If a cockroach does bite a human, it will likely be while the person is asleep. This is largely due to the fact that cockroaches are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they’re more active at night. When you’re sleeping, you’re lying still, making it easier for cockroaches to approach. You’re also not as likely to swat a cockroach away when you’re asleep, so they may have the opportunity to gnaw for a little while before you even notice.
One study found recurring German cockroach bites among sleeping children in the Amazon in Brazil. Authors discovered that children received bites to the soles of their feet and palms of their hands while sleeping, leaving behind painful sores.
Just remember—biting humans is not typical cockroach behavior—so the thought of a cockroach biting you in your sleep shouldn’t keep you up at night. Cockroaches are not aggressive creatures or predators that attack at will. They are scavengers by nature.
WHAT DO COCKROACH BITES LOOK LIKE ON HUMANS?
Roach bites may vary in appearance, depending on the type of cockroach and the duration of the bite. Many people report red raised bumps on the skin or scabbed-over ulcerations.
Others have reported that Oriental cockroach bites cause inflammation and tissue necrosis.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A COCKROACH BITES YOU?
Cockroaches bite and chew laterally (side to side) with sharp mouthparts that pierce and suck (imagine the mechanism of a lobster claw). Still, their mouths are small, so they may not break the skin but instead scrape at it and irritate the area. A cockroach bite will likely feel itchy and painful after the fact, and symptoms could persist for several days while your skin is healing.
Like other typical insect bites, you should clean the affected area, apply a cold compress to help with pain and swelling, and take pain medication as needed. You may also want to take an antihistamine if you’re experiencing a systemic reaction with hives or swelling.
Above all, if you suspect you’ve been bitten by a cockroach, you should seek medical attention right away. Cockroaches are known for carrying many diseases, so it’s best to get examined to rule out any serious illnesses.
ELIMINATE COCKROACHES IN YOUR HOME
If you’ve been bitten by a cockroach, there’s a high likelihood that your living space is infested with these creatures. Call a pest control professional right away to start the process of getting rid of cockroaches in your home.
You can prepare your space beforehand by emptying out cupboards, sweeping and mopping, vacuuming, taking out the trash, and getting rid of any food that isn’t stored properly.
Call Joshua’s Pest Control for friendly, expert service. Our team is highly trained in cockroach removal, so contact us today to schedule a visit.
Courtney Enzor has worked in the pest control industry for about a decade. From helping you build a fly trap to giving you the best tips for identifying various bugs, she loves answering all your pest-related questions and sharing her pest-related expertise through writing. At the end of the day, she hopes her content will help people avoid mishaps and keep families happy and healthy!