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Do Roaches Bite?

A large cockroach with spiny legs on pavement.

When you find red bumps on your skin that you hadn’t noticed before, you might wonder where the itchy markings came from.

Finding out what type of bug bit you can be a challenge given that each one may present different symptoms or health effects.

While we are familiar with cockroaches scurrying and burrowing, we don’t typically hear about their bite. 

Do roaches bite? Cockroaches can bite, but it is very uncommon as they feed on plants and meat. They do not rely on humans in their life cycle as other biting insects do. Roaches will only bite humans if there is a depleted food supply with an extensive roach infestation.

While it is uncommon, if roaches are biting humans, this suggests a larger infestation problem or lack of resources for the roaches to find food elsewhere.

If you do notice that you have bites and suspect roaches, keep reading to learn what your options are.

Discover more prevention tips, elimination strategies, roach info, and natural, effective products in our other roach articles. Click here to see them all.

Why and When Do Roaches Bite? 

Cockroaches are scavengers that are always in search of food for themselves and their friends.

This is why even clean homes can develop a roach problem – food attracts them.

They feed on both plants and meat, giving them a wide range of options in finding sustenance.

This is often why they are found in areas with garbage or access to leftover food.

The primary reason roaches will bite is if food access is depleted or severely limited.  

This only happens when cockroach populations are quite large and they must go in search of other food sources.

Contact pest control before these high numbers are reached.

Roaches will only feed on humans as a last resort and if they do, it’s typically in areas where food residue might be found or near dead skin.  

If a cockroach does bite, it is most likely on or around these areas: 

  • Fingernails – Food can easily collect under your fingernails, making it a primary target for cockroaches if they have no other food sources. 
  • Lips – Because this is an area where food residue can be found, bites may occur on your lips or around the mouth. Regularly wash your face and brush your teeth to remove debris and mask food smells. 
  • Areas with dry skin (callouses) – While uncommon, dead skin is an easy target for cockroaches. It can be found on your person as well as around the house in the form of dead skin cells. 
  • Hands and feet – Your hands are more likely to have food residue or odors than feet, but bites have been found in both places.  
  • Eyelashes – Cockroaches are attracted to protein sources, which is why they may target eyelashes. This is also very uncommon but has occurred. 

It is most common to be bitten by a cockroach at night as they are nocturnal and you are in a stationary position for an extended period.

In most cases, cockroaches have been known to bite dead humans over living ones, as the decomposing body is easier to access and more attractive to the roaches. 

Don’t waste time and money on products that just don’t work. Read through our article “Best Roach Killer” to see carefully reviewed products that will wipe out a roach infestation.

What Do Roach Bites Look Like? 

Roach bites are similar looking to most insect bites, making them difficult to distinguish from other common critters.

It is easy to mistake roach bites for bed bug bites, but there will typically only be one bite rather than multiple bites. They also appear larger on the skin. 

The common characteristics of a cockroach bite include:

  • Red bumps – These will be raised bumps on the skin’s surface that can range in size but typically fall within 1-4 millimeters. They will often be bright red in color as opposed to a light tone.  
  • Skin irritation or swelling – Roach bites may be itchy and uncomfortable following the bite. It is crucial to avoid scratching, which can cause other infections or damaged skin. 

There are over 55 species of cockroaches found in the United States, and even more globally.

If a cockroach bites you, it is most likely an American, Australian, or German cockroach.

Skin irritation may occur without any bite.

If a cockroach comes in contact with your skin, it may leave other particles or debris that cause an allergic reaction. 

To best treat roach bites, you should consider the following:

  • Clean the bite – Clean the area with warm water and soap to prevent infection from developing. 
  • Reduce swelling – If inflammation occurs, applying ice or hydrocortisone cream (like this trusted product) can help. Make sure you check with a medical professional before using or ingesting medications. 
  • Avoid scratching – The opportunity for further infection or irritation is increased when you scratch the bite. Follow the aforementioned recommendations to reduce discomfort or cover the area to avoid contact. 

Can Cockroaches Be Harmful to Humans? 

Cockroaches can be harmful to humans as they transport bacteria and allergens.

Because bites are uncommon, you are more susceptible to the spread of disease from infestation and debris (aka poop) left in the areas they frequent.

(Find out how to identify roach droppings here.)

Unlike other bugs that transmit diseases when they bite, roaches cannot. They carry these diseases in their digestive system and leave excrement behind. 

The potential harm cockroaches can pose to humans:

  • Spread of bacteria and disease – They have been linked to the spread of salmonella, E. coli, and polio.
  • Spread of allergens – Cockroaches can easily bring allergens into your home or other places they visit. This could trigger asthma or other conditions that require greater medical attention. 
  • Impacts of insecticides – Eliminating cockroaches with insecticides can be dangerous to humans. If the roaches are not killed right away, they may track poisons through the home and contaminate multiple areas. 

If you find a bite on your skin, it is doubtful that it is the result of cockroaches. However, if this is the case, you are in an area with a large infestation.

Cockroaches are most harmful when they defecate or leave dangerous microbes on surfaces you come in contact with.

(We explain how essential oils can help disinfect surfaces and repel future roaches in this article.)

If you see a cockroach, you will likely find many more in the nearby area. The same is true if you spot a baby roach.

(We explain the implications of seeing babies in this article.)

Cockroach bites are rare, and you will likely only suspect a roach bite if you see the cockroach itself.

As mentioned, their presence and ability to spread harmful bacteria pose a much greater risk than their bite. 

For severe infestations, consider “bombing” the house with a roach fogger. Find out which foggers are the most effective and easy to use here.

Preventing Roach Bites

Preventing roach bites is most effectively accomplished by preventing cockroach intrusions altogether.

(Click here to check out our complete prevention and elimination guide.)

Cockroaches are often found in areas where they have access to rotten or leftover food.

Keep your home or space clean and do continual maintenance on areas that may be hidden.

Be sure to keep kitchens, bathrooms, and any rooms with food clean. 

If you do see signs of cockroaches in your home or other areas, you need to act immediately.

Roaches are good at hiding, but you likely have a large problem on your hands if they are seen in plain sight.

You can seek professional help with pest control or purchase roach traps (like these that use pheromones) and/or roach bait (like this child-resistant bait station).

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, roach bites are very uncommon, and you will most likely never encounter one.

On the very rare occasion that you do, you are very close to an extremely contaminated or dirty area that faces a significant roach problem.

If you find a bite on you, your first guess should be one of the many common bugs, such as mosquitoes, spiders, or other biting insects.