What Do Cockroaches Eat?

Don’t you ever wonder what those pesky insects called cockroaches love to eat?

After all, we see them almost every time. And there are so many myths in the world about what cockroaches actually eat.

Some factions believe ‌cockroaches eat human flesh, rubber, wood, tomatoes; you name it.

Others say cockroaches eat only plant materials. And the confusion just keeps growing from there.

To make the matter clear cut, this article will tell you all about what different species of cockroaches eat, what they don’t, and why they eat some bizarre things.

But first, let’s ask:

What Kind of Insects Are Cockroaches?

Well… Cockroaches are the disturbing kind that most people can bear the sight of.

But if biologists would describe them, they would say cockroaches are omnivores.

That means they can eat just about anything plant or animal-related. And they eat from time to time and as much as they can.

Although when food is scarce, cockroaches can go for months without food.

But to get food, water, and shelter, these cockroaches don’t mind invading your house as long as they get what they want.

That’s why many people often describe cockroaches as fast-breeding scavenging freebooters.

They are opportunistic.

Cockroaches feed on anything edible from debris, wood, and starchy and sugary foods to leftovers in your home, vegetables, furniture, and even books. But that’s not all. Sometimes, cockroaches don’t even mind eating through non-edible materials like nylon just to get to the food materials inside it. 

Now, don’t even talk about newspapers, magazines, and cardboards. Because those are their common snacks.

What Do Different Species of Cockroaches Eat?

In the world today, we have over 600 species of cockroaches.

Common ones we often found in our houses include the German and Brown-banded cockroaches.

Others include the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, American Cockroach, Oriental Cockroach, and Australian Cockroach.

In terms of scarcity, almost all species of cockroaches eat what they see.

However, when it’s to picking, each of these species has its diet preference based on its environment.

We’ll look into this later.

But indoor roaches often feed on sugar, sweets, starch, cheese, meat, cereal, oatmeal, and canned foods in your cabinet.

When food is scarce, these cockroaches go as far as eating human nails, hairs, and even eyebrows. So, all the more reason some people hate roaches.

Outdoors, cockroaches often feed on insects, debris, dead plants, and animals as well.

But when outdoor conditions become unbearable, these cockroaches also venture into houses.

There, they feed on things common to indoor species.

That said, let’s make a more specific list of cockroach species and what they prefer to eat.

What Do Australian Cockroaches Eat?

Australian cockroaches are typically found in the south and tropical areas like Florida.

But we often describe them as being peridomestic.

That means they are most commonly found both indoors and outdoors.

Their diets overlap between the two groups we described earlier.

So, Australian cockroaches can eat plant elements and decaying material, common to outdoor roaches. Likewise, they often chew on starchy materials like the bindings of your books, glues on boxes, and even clothing. 

That said, Australian cockroaches come with one problem; food contamination.

This happens because outdoors, they often come in contact with residue from decayed food sources.

When they get inside, they use the same set of feeding apparatus to dive into uncovered food and water.

So, that makes another reason you should always cover your food and leftovers alike.

What Do German Cockroaches Eat?

Unlike Australian roaches, German cockroaches are house-infesting cockroaches.

In fact, they are probably the most common household roaches in the world today.

So, they eat materials common to indoor species.

Among those categories of food materials, their favorites range from starchy foods, cereal, and sweets to bread, meats, and the food kept for your pets. 

Likewise, German roaches also feed on both furniture and luggage materials.

But just because German roaches are indoor species, it doesn’t mean they can’t survive outside as well.

Outdoors, you may see German cockroaches feed on dead wood and decayed plants.

What Do American Cockroaches Eat?

American cockroaches show a particular fondness for outdoor food sources.

In most cases, fermented materials, decaying leaves, fungi, tiny insects, and algae form a perfect list of things they like to eat.

Indoors, American roaches eat crumbs found on kitchen floors, under appliances, behind cabinets, and in sinks.

Besides that, they also eat sweets, bread, fruits, your hair, and technically anything palatable.

What Do Oriental cockroaches eat?

Oriental roaches are often found in cool and moist places.

So, they don’t really care whether it’s outdoors or indoors as long as the place fits.

This carefree habit also applies to their diet as well.

Oriental cockroaches prefer to eat decaying plants and dead animal matter. At other times, you may see them eating scraps from starchy foods, meats, and sweets. 

When no one’s looking, Oriental roaches also feast on human hair strands, fingernails, and books.

What do Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches eat?

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are terrestrial and outdoor insects.

Out there, they hide in-between leaf clutters and logs. And you hardly catch them on your premises.

Often, Madagascar roaches feed on decayed plants and animal matter.

But sometimes, they also feed on fruits like carrots and wood.

What Kind of Insects Do Cockroaches Feed on?

Earlier, we noted that cockroaches often feed on plant materials and dead animals.

Among their animal diet, roaches are more drawn to other insects like them because they provide a large amount of protein.

Then again, most of their insect diets are quite slow to latch on like bed bugs.

In fact, roaches are bed bugs’ number one predators and would do anything to tap the protein from them.

Besides bed bugs, cockroaches also eat the following insects and non-insects arthropods:

  1. dead fleas
  2. dead ants
  3. dead beetles
  4. dead house spiders
  5. and any other dead arthropods.

What Kind of Food Do Cockroaches Eat in the Wild and Houses?

Like anything; at all. That’s the nature of cockroaches.

Here’s a brief list of the things we often find them eating:

  1. Sweets
  2. Starchy foods
  3. Leftovers
  4. Sugar.
  5. Baked foods like biscuits and cake.
  6. Peanut butter
  7. Fruits, especially rotten ones.
  8. Tomatoes (though rarely)
  9. Rice, cooked or uncooked
  10. Tubers like potatoes, raw or cooked
  11. Vegetables
  12. Grease
  13. Dead leaves.
  14. Debris or garbage.
  15. Dead insects, as said earlier.
  16. Insect eggs like bed bug eggs
  17. And any edible liquid like fruit juice, water, and many more.

What Are the Weird, Inedible Foods That Roaches Eat?

Cockroaches are quite weird in terms of their food choice.

Here are some ones you won’t expect, but roaches often eat, especially when they have no other choice:

  1. Alcohol–like Beer; just to tap the sugar in it.
  2. Furniture clothing.
  3. Wood
  4. Books–We’ll dedicate a section to talk about this later.
  5. Human hair (on the head and skin)
  6. Eyelashes
  7. Fingernails, especially if you are the type who often forget to wash your hands after a meal.
  8. Dead skin cells–humans produce about 0.03g of it per day. So, we are some kind of food bags for roaches.
  9. Onions–They actually love onions. So, now you know you have to keep them far from roaches.
  10. Plastic bags–We’ll get to this later.
  11. Toothpaste – Like soap, toothpaste contains some organic compounds that roaches love. Sometimes, they even go down the bathroom sink drains just to eat toothpaste. So, keep your toothpaste and toothbrush enclosed.
  12. Soap – Soaps contain some organic ingredients that attract cockroaches. It is something these insects would very well not hesitate to eat when they get hold of it.
  13. Poop (dog, love, rodents, and human)–This may sound awful. But yes, roaches eat poop because it contains nutrients they love.
  14. Pet food

What Are the Things That Roaches Can’t Eat?

Even though roaches appear to be universal eaters, there are certain things they can’t eat. Not for anything and, of course, not for a million dollars!

Here’s a list of those that cockroaches will not eat:

Garlic: Roaches hate the smell of garlic. For that reason, they avoid it. And we use garlic as a roach repellent.

Boric acid: This is actually poison for roaches. So, when roaches consume boric acid, it causes a digestive system that later kills them. They stay away from it.

Salt: To delve straight to the point, cockroaches would turn a blind eye to salt.

This is because salt does not contain any nutritional value relevant to these insects. Then again, salt induces dehydration in roaches. 

So, rather than food, salt is used as a cheap roach repellent.

Expanding foam: Cockroaches don’t eat expanding foam or spray foam insulation. A

However, they can tunnel through it to reach for dead insects and other food sources found inside a compromised foam.

If they eat the foam itself, they may die from borate poisoning.

Electronics and Electrical wires: Although, many people claim roaches eat electronic casing and wiring.

However, this is quite unlikely because roaches only live inside them, not eat them.

If you notice pests eating your wires, you better look to other culprits like electrical ants, aka crazy ants.

Here’s how you can get rid of these crazy, electric ants.

Snails: Snails are bigger animals. So, cockroaches would be unable to feed on them.

However, cockroaches can eat snail eggs because they are rich in protein, plus cockroaches are known to eat snail eggs. 

Baking soda: Cockroaches are naturally not drawn to baking soda because it repels them.

In fact, if roaches eat baking soda, their stomach will build up gas that eventually kills them.

Do cockroaches eat other cockroaches? 

Well… yes, particularly when the other cockroach is dead. Besides that, this roach cannibalism even doubles up when in cases of large infestation and food shortages. 

In fact, some cockroaches like Oriental cockroaches even go as far as eating up their own egg cases and nymphs when food is scarce.

Sometimes, even female American cockroaches may eat their male counterparts during mating.

Why Do Cockroaches Eat Books, Other Papers, and Money?

Cockroaches are paper-eating insects.

This is because the paper is often made from wood pulp.

Paper and paper-based products are starchy and rich in carbohydrates that roaches like.

Therefore, when their normal food sources are scarce, roaches upgrade their scavenging attitude towards anything made of paper.

So, they may eat through paper bags, book bindings, newspapers, receipts, cardboard papers and paper money.

Can Roaches Eat Through Plastic Bags? 

Well… yes, roaches can chew through thin plastic materials.

This is because they do not make the chemical materials used in these plastics to repel roaches.

Then again, grocery bags and zip-lock bags often contain food that attracts roaches.

To get to it, roaches use their powerful jaws to break through the bags.

Sometimes, some plastic bags like bread bags have tiny pores in them.

When present, roaches expand these pores to reach for the contents inside.

Other common examples of thin bags that roaches can chew through include single-use grocery bags, garbage bags, zip-lock bags and bread bags.

As a remedy, you can opt-in for thicker polyethylene plastic jars instead.

Final Thoughts.

Cockroaches are adaptable survivors and opportunists.

They eat whatever food they consider edible and that may cost you a lot.

To get rid of roaches, you can start with this:

  1. Identify their nests by tracing food lines and poops.
  2. Use natural means to kill them.
  3. Or buy roach killers.

If you’re looking for how to get rid of roaches without touching them, check this step guide.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.