What are Cockroaches Attracted To?

You've seen it lurking around the kitchen for a couple of nights now, but you just haven't been fast enough to catch it. You are ready for it to meet its fate, and you want to call for help, but deep down, you are just a little embarrassed. What attracts cockroaches anyway?

cockroaches on fruit

There is no simple answer to that question. You might be better off asking yourself what doesn't attract cockroaches, and there might be a few things. But the list of what draws them in is long.

Not all roaches are alike, however. Factors that attract cockroaches can vary and often include the draw of pheromones (external chemicals emitted by animals to communicate with each other). When attempting to deal with a roach infestation, it is helpful to know the type of roach you are dealing with. Certain cockroaches are more attracted to one thing than another. Targeting key areas of weakness will help you resolve the issue quicker.

The bad news? There are 69 different cockroach species found in North American homes, reports the University of Kentucky. While there are many types of cockroaches, there are fewer than 10 that we commonly see in and around our homes, including German cockroaches, Brown Banded cockroaches, Asian cockroaches, Oriental cockroaches, Smoky Brown cockroaches and Wood cockroaches. And while these pests may look similar to each other, they each have their own distinct habits and — perhaps most importantly for you as a homeowner — preferences for the types of food and shelter they're attracted to.

For instance, the American cockroach is attracted to dark, moist areas like crawl spaces and basements. In contrast, the wood cockroach is attracted to bright lights.

Whatever type of cockroach infestation you're facing, scouring your home and eliminating some of the most common cockroach attractants and hiding spots can help you evict these unwanted house guests and keep your home looking fresh and clean.

Why Do I Have Roaches in My House?

Cockroaches can sneak into your home through a variety of methods. For example, the German cockroach often hitches a ride into your home in furniture or in infested groceries. Wood cockroaches and Oriental cockroaches typically sneak in through gaps in your home's exterior, such as vents or utility openings.

Just because you see these pests doesn't mean your home is necessarily dirty. It simply means your house or apartment provides a few of the key things that cockroaches need to thrive.

And that brings us to an important point: Cockroaches are lively pests that live in large groups or congregations. If you see one, there are likely more lurking around your home. Savvy homeowners know to take quick action the moment they spot a cockroach scurrying across a countertop or the floor.

Whether you're facing an existing cockroach infestation, or you want to proactively deter these pests from moving into your home in the first place, the following cockroach hot spots are some of the most popular attractants.

What Attracts Cockroaches?

Food and Crumbs

Cockroaches enjoy all types of food for humans, as well as pet food that has been left out. In fact, cockroaches will feed on anything of nutritional value. Even if we humans do not classify it as having any nutritional value.

Cockroach control and prevention typically involves a three-pronged approach to food and kitchen sanitation:

1. Eliminate food access.

Remove the pests' easy access to food to help minimize cockroach problems:

  1. Never leave food out on your kitchen counter.
  2. Wash dirty dishes in the sink, or place them in the dishwasher before going to bed.
  3. Rinse out empty beverage containers and drinking glasses every evening.
  4. Reconsider how you store food that's commonly left on countertops or shelves, such as sugar, flour, etc.

2. Clean food preparation areas and dining areas.

Always wipe up and clean your kitchen every evening. This includes wiping down all food preparation areas (cutting boards, counters, etc.) and sweeping up crumbs and debris from the floor in your kitchen and dining area.

Deep cleaning is very critical, too. Toasters, pressure cookers, stove tops and similar appliance surfaces often have spills, splashes and crumbs that attract cockroaches. Regularly clean appliances, including underneath them, and don't neglect deep cleaning in and around your refrigerator, oven, etc.

3. Store food properly.

Always store food in impermeable airtight containers. Aim for metal or plastic, since cardboard can actually be a food source for cockroaches itself. If you have products or items that are packaged in cardboard or paper bags, transfer them to a reusable, sealed container instead.

Pet Food

Cockroaches are omnivorous. They're not picky eaters and and are considered opportunistic feeders when it comes to food. They'll eat anything, including pet food. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Don't leave pet food out overnight.
  2. Consider feeding your pet in servings that he or she will finish in one sitting, instead of keeping their pet food dish full all day.
  3. Clean up the area in and around pet food dishes, sweeping up and sanitizing spills and crumbs.
  4. Store pet food in sealed containers instead of leaving the bag open in your pantry or garage.
  5. Don't forget to clean your pet's water dish, too (you may want to consider putting it away at night to deprive cockroaches of access to moisture).


Your trash can represents a significant source of food for cockroaches, but it's a far more complex issue than you may presume.

Not only do cockroaches feed directly on the material in your trash, but they're also drawn to any spills or splashes on the inside of your trash can.

What cockroaches consider to be "edible" garbage may surprise you, too. It's not just kitchen garbage that attracts the pests. Soap, dandruff, hair and other excrement can also draw the pests to the trash.

Change your trash strategy appropriately:

  1. Use sealed trash cans and wastebaskets throughout your home.
  2. Line your trash cans with a plastic bag or a trash can liner to prevent debris and food from accumulating on the inside of the trash can or wastebasket.
  3. Take the trash out every evening, including trash from the bathroom and bedroom wastebaskets.
  4. Don't ignore recycling boxes or bins in your home or garage: They're common pest breeding grounds.

Water and Moisture

Most cockroaches come from humid, tropical climates, so they're naturally drawn to similar conditions in your home. Reduce moisture and humidity to decrease how hospitable your home (and especially your bathroom) is to cockroaches:

  1. Remove standing water in your home by checking pipes and having any leaks repaired.
  2. Use caulk in gaps around sink and tub areas to help keep water out of walls.
  3. Don't allow water to stand for long periods of time in plants or pet bowls.
  4. Hang wet towels and mats to dry after use.
  5. Keep kitchen sponges dry and off the counter.
  6. Run a dehumidifier, if appropriate.


Cockroaches typically hide during the day and emerge at night to breed and to search for food.

Spend a weekend combing through your house to get rid of any common cockroach hiding spots.

Use caulk to block any gaps or crevices where roaches may enter the home. Make sure you have weather stripping on all entryways, including windows and doors. It's also important to remove clutter. Cardboard , wood and paper are among cockroaches' favorite substances to infest. This is why it's important not to store paper bags and corrugated cardboard.

And unlike some other insects, cockroaches are a year-round problem. It can be hard to determine what attracted the cockroaches in the first place because they are not the pickiest of pests. Practicing the preventive measures above can help reduce an infestation, but a variety of treatments may be necessary to eliminate one. For the most effective approach, it is best to call a pest control professional.


Some species of cockroaches, such as wood roaches and smoky brown cockroaches, thrive in outdoor habitats where they breed before invading your living spaces. Cleaning up your home's landscaped areas helps to drive away these pests and also improve the curb appeal of your home:

  1. Rake up and remove leaf litter.
  2. Consider reducing the thickness of your bark mulch (you only need a couple of inches of mulch for soil health, moisture retention and weed control, and anything deeper can create a haven for many unwanted critters).
  3. Relocate compost bins, mulch piles, firewood and other cockroach attractants away from your home.
  4. Reduce irrigation to the bare minimum needed for your specific plants and microclimate (overwatering creates the humid, damp conditions in which cockroaches thrive).
  5. Wood roaches are attracted to light. Swapping light bulbs out from white light to yellow light bulbs can reduce an area's attractiveness to wood roaches.
  6. While not strictly landscaping, per se, keeping the area outside your home neat and tidy can help make it less inviting to roaches. Be sure to keep trash bins sealed and clean.

What to do if you have roaches in your home

Make a habit of reviewing your home and landscaping once a month to ensure your cockroach prevention strategies are up-to-date, paying special attention to the hot spots highlighted above.

If you're still struggling with cockroaches after you've eliminated the common cockroach attractants we've discussed, don't try to solve this complex issue on your own. Talk to a trained pest professional who can identify the cockroach attractants that are specific to your own home and lifestyle.

Contact Terminix® today. Our pest control professionals can create a personalized prevention and control plan for you that is tailored to your unique circumstances and provide a comprehensive pest control plan for cockroaches and any other pests you may be dealing with.


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