Do Cockroaches Bite?

For some, cockroaches are a nightmare come true. These insects have been around for thousands of years and are found all over the world. There are about 55 species of cockroaches found in the United States, and while people know they are vectors for certain diseases, roach bites are also a concern for some. The five species of roaches found most often in U.S. homes are German, Oriental, American, brown-banded and smoky brown cockroaches. In some parts of the country, people may also see Australian cockroaches. Read on to see if any of these cockroaches bite.

Can cockroaches bite?

It may surprise you to know that cockroaches are, in fact, able to bite humans. There have been reported cases of cockroaches biting fingernails, eyelashes and calloused skin on hands or feet. Cockroaches will also eat dead skin cells. However, cases of cockroach bites are extremely rare.

Do cockroaches bite?

The answer to this question depends on the type of cockroach. German cockroaches, for example, may bite people, but it is not a common occurrence. There are two other species – American and Australian – that have been known to bite humans. In actual cases of documented cockroach bites, these latter two species were typically the culprits.

How do I know it's a roach bite?

Identifying a cockroach bite can be difficult, as they often look like the bites of other insects. Additionally, it is possible that it is not a bite at all. For people with sensitive skin or allergies, the debris left behind by cockroaches (including feces, shed skins and other particles) can cause an allergic reaction. According to a factsheet released by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, these skin reactions are often mistaken for insect bites. A cockroach allergy is also not as rare as you might think. According to the late Walter Ebeling, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, several studies showed that not only were skin reactions to cockroach extracts common in 7.5 percent of normal participants, but also 28 percent of people with known skin allergies.

So if it isn't a cockroach bite, what is it?

According to the same Texas A&M factsheet, the majority of the insect bites received by a person inside their home fall into just a few categories. Insects known to bite people include lice, scabies and hair follicle mites, fleas, chiggers, bed bugs, kissing (or conenose) bugs, mosquitoes, thrips and spiders. While there are some variations in bite appearance, it is often hard to distinguish between the bites of these insects.

Just because you now know cockroach bites are uncommon, does not mean you have to tolerate these nuisances in your home. A cockroach infestation is no laughing matter, and if you've seen one roach there are typically hundreds more nearby. If you are seeing signs of cockroaches or suspect you have a roach bite, consider calling in a professional to help you figure out your next steps.