By the time you’re typing in the Google query, “do roaches bite?” – you already know cockroaches are one of the most troublesome pest species on earth.
And yes, cockroaches cause a lot of problems. Perhaps the worst thing about them is that they can spread several diseases by carrying pathogens on their bodies.
Not to mention the fact that many people can develop allergies to cockroaches which can trigger asthma attacks.
On top of all that, roaches are also a major source of food contamination, so any restaurant that has them will quickly feel the wrath of the health inspector.
The worst news, of course, is that once a population is established, cockroaches can be very tough to get rid of.
Do Roaches Bite Humans?
Cockroaches have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and one of the ways they have survived so long is by being willing to eat almost anything.
Unlike some other insects which specialize in a particular type of food, cockroaches are the garbage disposal of the insect world. They will eat anything that was once alive, including each other.
But unlike bed bugs, mosquitoes, and fleas, cockroaches don’t see humans or other mammals such as cats and dogs as a food source. As a rule, cockroaches try to stay hidden.
They like to live close to humans because of the food that we consume, which cockroaches will happily scavenge for themselves. But they don’t actively seek us out to bite us the way the bed bugs do.
So do cockroaches bite? Well, yes they can. And they do. It’s not a common phenomenon, so if you discover some itchy red bumps on your skin, don’t assume it’s cockroaches.
There are many more likely possibilities. But if you know you have a cockroach problem, and you’re getting bitten, you can’t rule out the possibility that the cockroaches are the culprits.
What’s Eating You?
German cockroaches are by far the most common cockroaches in human homes. This species is relatively small by cockroach standards, and a small cockroach means small jaws, which make humans an intimidating food source for these bugs.
Still, you can’t put it past them – there have been rare cases of German cockroaches biting people.
The larger American cockroach is less frequently found in homes, preferring instead to stay in sewers and other areas with high humidity.
But these big cockroaches can infest human homes, and when they do, they are more likely to bite than the German variety – and if they bite, they can bite hard. That still doesn’t make it likely to happen, but it’s not unheard of.
When cockroaches do bite humans, they will generally go for fingernails and hair. Because these parts of our bodies don’t have nerves, we are less likely to feel the cockroach attempting to feed.
However, these are not great food sources for cockroaches, and so this behavior usually only happens in the case of extremely heavy infestations where all other food sources have been exhausted.
If you ever reach this unfortunate point where roaches are actively feeding on your fingernails and hair – you don’t need us to tell you you’ve got a serious problem at hand.
Do Roaches Bite Dogs and Cats?
From a cockroach’s point of view, you are not very different from a dog or a cat. It’s an unflattering viewpoint, but no one said cockroaches are nice.
Just as they will with humans, cockroaches will bite dogs, cats, and other mammals if they have exhausted other food sources.
Again, they will most likely start with fur and claws but may bite the skin in extreme circumstances.
What Do Roach Bites Look Like?
Everybody’s skin is different, and will, therefore, react differently to cockroach bites. Remember that cockroaches are not like bed bugs, which have a specialized mouth designed for piercing skin.
A cockroach’s jaws are more like those of an ant, with large mandibles on either side of their mouth. These mouths are designed for chewing and gnawing rather than piercing.
In most cases, cockroach bites will form swollen red bumps on the bitten skin.
Generally, when a cockroach bites a human, it will be on the hands or feet. Tough skin, for instance on the soles of your feet, might prove too much for them to bite through, but softer skin around those areas may get bitten.
Like other bug bites, cockroach bites can become itchy due to the body’s histamine reaction trying to stave off infection.
How to Treat Roach Bites
If a cockroach has bitten you, the first thing to do is to wash the affected area with soap and warm water. Cockroaches live in filthy conditions and will eat almost anything, including sewage.
And no, they don’t kiss their mothers with those mouths. Your first goal should be to clean the bite thoroughly to reduce the risk of infection.
Cockroaches carry many diseases, but fortunately, none of them are transmitted by biting. Infection is really the only thing you need to worry about.
To that end, even though the bites will most probably itch, try not to scratch them. Scratching only irritates the skin and increases the risk of infection.
To relieve the itching, try a soothing skin cream such as aloe vera gel. Available from grocery stores and pharmacies alike, this natural product is useful for relieving the symptoms of all kinds of skin conditions.
If you want something stronger, you could consider a topical corticosteroid from a pharmacist. These creams do a great job of reducing itching, but they are not recommended for long-term use as they can thin the skin over time.
Before taking any medication, consult with your pharmacist or doctor. This goes double if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are on any other kind of medication.
Technically, it’s not the bite of the cockroach that causes the itching sensation, but your body’s attempt to fight infection. This histamine reaction can be reduced by antihistamine allergy medication, such as Benadryl.
Even pets can be given Benadryl, but make sure you consult with a vet to get the correct dosage.
How to Prevent Roach Bites
It bears repeating: you are very unlikely to be bitten by a cockroach, even if you have an active infestation. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Treating the bites will provide some temporary relief and help to prevent more serious infection, but the long-term solution is always going to come down to getting rid of the cockroaches.
Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can do this. Practicing good hygiene by cleaning up any spills and sealing all food products will dramatically reduce the cockroach population.
So will sealing up harborage areas around pipes and in cracks and crevices in kitchen cabinets. And once you’ve got the basic prevention methods down, you can go nuclear with an assortment of the best cockroach killers on the market.
Whether cockroaches bite you or not, they make for very poor houseguests. Get rid of the roaches, and you won’t have to worry about things that go bite in the night.