Do Cockroaches Bite?

Do cockroaches bite? Cockroaches rarely bite humans only in overcrowded situations. You probably don't need to fear bites from cockroaches. It's unlikely you'll be bitten, but not entirely impossible. According...

You probably don't need to fear bites from cockroaches. It's unlikely you'll be bitten, but not entirely impossible.

According to Stoy Hedges, an entomologist and Manager of Technical Services at Terminix International, "They [cockroaches] have been known to bite but only in rare circumstances, when they have exploded into large populations. They are known to crawl onto people's ears, bite off their eyebrows and things like that. They are looking for food, but that's when they are in large populations. They only do this when there is no food available."

The website for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at, agrees. "In extremely heavy infestations [German cockroaches] have been reported to bite humans and feed on food residues on the faces of sleeping humans."

Other stories recount how children have been known to have cockroaches climb on their faces, and derive moisture from their noses and mouths if dehydrated enough. This mostly is attributed to populations of cockroaches living in Central and South America.

Also, in perusing you can find an article under their "The Odd Truth" section, dated December 14, 2004, that might make your skin crawl. "A doctor in the southeastern port city of Xiamen plucked a half-inch roach from a 12-year-old boy's ear with tweezers four minutes after dousing it with alcohol," reports, citing a story in the China Daily newspaper.

Apparently, this doctor reports seeing about two such cases a month at the Zhongshan Hospital. He recommends, "Victims of similar intrusions should seek medical help and not attempt to remove the cockroach themselves as there is a real risk of the eardrum being damaged."

While again, it is not likely that you will be bitten by a cockroach, here's what Joe Kunkel, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says on his web page section on cockroaches, at www.,
"The cockroach is an omnivore, that is, it eats everything edible, animal and vegetable. So if we do not move around too much while sleeping they might be inclined to nibble on our earlobes at night. They are rarely aggressive enough to attack us while we are awake."

Kunkel describes a personal experience with cockroaches, "When visiting Tulane University in New Orleans many years ago I slept in a dormitory room and cockroaches were flying down from the ceiling onto my head. I would guess that these large American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) would be capable of taking a good bite out of me. Only the larger species could take a bite through our skin. Of course the skin of children is much more tender and vulnerable to a roach bite."

So while cockroaches can, and have, bitten humans, children seem especially targeted by feisty ones. However, even children are highly unlikely to experience a bite unless they are living in the midst of a huge population of cockroaches. And if they are, the allergens are much more likely to be a cause of health concerns.

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