Cockroaches aren’t exactly the most beloved of creepy crawlies, and when most of us see them, we just want them gone! However, one of the best ways to get rid of and avoid them is to ‘know thine enemy’. This article is a deep dive into that particular topic, answering questions such as “how long does a roach live?”, “how long does a roach live without food?” and exploring the roach life cycle.
From baby roaches to nymphs to fully grown adults, we’ll look at everything you need to know about the cockroach population and ways to avoid them and be rid of them for good!
We’ll also look a bit at the different kinds of roaches, including American tree roaches, German roaches, sometimes called croton bugs, and Oriental or Asian roaches, also known as the water bug or black cockroach. Their habitats, behavior, needs, and life span will all be explored to help you be the best prepared you can be to face these pesky home invaders!
The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), winged cockroaches which average out at about 16 inches, is the most common type of cockroach in cities. Their full lifespans are about two and a half years on average, though they can live for over three years in some circumstances.
The next most common roach, especially in the south, is the German cockroach (Blattella germanica). They’re much smaller, under an inch on average, but also much more prolific. So how long does a German roach live? From egg to death, they only live about one hundred days at most, but they produce many eggs at this time.
Finally, the Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis) is about an inch long. They have wings, but they cannot fly. From egg to adult, these cockroaches live, on average, for about a year, though this can be shorter or longer by a few months.
Cockroaches are cold-blooded, meaning they can live without sustenance for extended periods. Without food, a cockroach can live around a month, though some female cockroaches can live close to two months. Without water, though, the creatures can only last around a week but bear in mind that they only need the tiniest bit of moisture to sustain themselves.
Cockroaches have varied habitats. Some prefer in-house living, while others live outside. They enjoy damp, moist places, often found in old furniture, cardboard, and anywhere near moisture, such as a leak or a pipe.
The German cockroach usually lives indoors since it cannot survive well in the cold, though if they live in a tropical or warm area, they might live outside instead. They can often be found in bathrooms near moisture and kitchens near food.
You can usually find the Oriental cockroach either indoors or outdoors, anywhere warm, shaded, with debris and moisture. Leaves are a common habitat in the fall. They usually move indoors when it gets too cold, but they can manage the cold much better than their cousins. Inside the house, they prefer basements, spaces in walls and under floorboards, the bathroom and kitchen, and within water pipes. They’re also common in the trash both inside and outside of the house.
The American cockroach is probably the most versatile when it comes to habitat. Like the German cockroach, they’re mainly found in the South, where things are warmer and moister. They live both indoors and outdoors. Their favorite living areas are storm drains, sewers, septic tanks, landfills, and particular trees. They’re also common on ships, under floorboards, in attics, and within electronic equipment—-quite the range! They also enjoy anywhere where moisture can be found. This type of roach presents a danger to healthcare workers as they are particularly endemic to hospitals.
All roaches are more active at night, especially in houses where they are timid of the human inhabitants. They are social creatures that live in groups and migrate to a place to live which is chosen by the whole colony. If a place gets overcrowded, they will split into smaller groups that are roughly equal in size and travel to new areas.
Surprisingly, roaches have rudimentary personalities! Some are braver, while some are timider. The braver cockroaches contribute to the group by scouting out new areas, while the more cautious ones stay behind and make sure their current surroundings are safe to live in.
German cockroaches prefer moving around in the dark and scatter if exposed to unexpected light. They will also eat anything from skin to soap to debris and more.
The Oriental cockroach adult is mostly found in late Spring through the summer. They are omnivorous and will eat basically anything, including animals and plants. It prefers sugar and starch and can drink any liquid to get its water fixed.
American cockroaches are fliers which makes their behavior more varied. One of their favorite things to drink is beer! They are the least likely roaches to make large infestations, but they still move in groups. Along with German cockroaches, they’re the most likely to bite, though this is rare as with all roaches.
All cockroaches carry bacteria that can lead to disease, to the point that they can become a public health nuisance. The most common diseases are intestinal issues, while their bites can cause mild to severe allergic reactions that in the worst cases, can lead to anaphylaxis if not treated quickly.
The most severe illnesses that cockroaches have been recorded to spread include:
They are also known to introduce E Coli, Streptococcus, and staph infections. As well, they can trigger dormant allergic reactions within humans as well as asthma through their feces, saliva, and some body parts.
No matter their full lifespan, roaches go through three stages—egg, baby roaches (nymphs), and adults.
As eggs, cockroaches take weeks to months to mature to nymph form. They are laid in protected dark places and left to grow alongside many siblings within a shared egg sac.
As a nymph, all cockroaches continually molt as they grow through metamorphosis, with each stage known as an instar.
In adulthood, cockroaches find homes, begin to mate, and produce eggs, and infestations begin. They spend most of their lives foraging for food and water.
Adult cockroaches tend to spend most of the day in shelters, preferring to come out at night when things are dark. They spend most of their time foraging for food and water, though they can survive some time without either.
Cockroaches will mate every few weeks or months, after which the female will gestate eggs. She lays these eggs differently depending on the species of cockroach.
Adults and nymphs follow a group mentality, meaning that they work together in colonies to make important decisions, such as where to live and where best to find food. They avoid humans when they can, at least when the human is awake.
German cockroaches breed throughout their whole adult life, and usually, multiple generations exist at a time, often leading to overpopulation. The whole process of their life takes about a hundred days, give or take, depending on outside circumstances. The eggs are carried by the mother and sometimes hatch before she has fully laid them. Each egg sac contains thirty to forty eggs.
As nymphs, they are dark brown or black and don’t have wings until they have almost reached their full adult stage. They molt about six times and take around two months to fully mature.
Adult German cockroaches spend most of their lives foraging for any food they can find. They live in large colonies, often together with younger generations, creating a balance of 20% adults and 80% of nymphs on average. The female lays anywhere from a hundred to four hundred eggs in her life.
The egg sacs of an American cockroach take about six to eight weeks to mature, after which the nymphs emerge and begin their life without parental input.
As American cockroach nymphs grow, they molt on average around eleven times. During each molt, they look much more like adults, and by the time they reach adulthood, they have fully grown their wings. They are white at first and gradually turn darker with age to a reddish brown. Nymphs also forage for food and water.
As adults, American cockroaches begin to move into groups and start to choose a place to live, which is when infestations generally occur. They grow more and live longer in better conditions (warm, damp, and dark), whereas their lives are much shorter and develop much less active in less favorable conditions. In her lifetime, a female produces over 250 eggs at around fifteen eggs per month.
The Oriental cockroach carries her egg sacs for just over a day and then hides them in a secluded dark area to hatch. Each sac contains about sixteen eggs and takes around two months to hatch. The female lays around 200 eggs in her lifetime.
As nymphs, these cockroaches molt up to ten times, taking between a month and five months to fully mature depending on conditions. In the spring and summer, they are prevalent, but they often die off early in the winter months.
Adult Oriental cockroaches can live anywhere from a month to a year, again depending on circumstances. They forage in dirty conditions and decaying organic material. Both nymphs and adults forage for food.
Hiring a pest control company is usually the most effective way to get rid of cockroaches, but of course, this can get expensive and isn’t always feasible in the case of large infestations which might require the household to vacate.
There are also the options of the best roach bombs and foggers, but these aren’t very safe for households with pets and children as they release toxic chemicals into the air. They are effective, but probably best to avoid in favor of safer solutions.
Bait stations and gels such as Advion Roach Bait Gel and Maxforce FC Roach Bait Stations are a good way to draw cockroaches out and either trap them or cause them to carry poison back to the nest. Sprays and other effective remedies are available at home improvement stores.
There are also natural solutions such as baking soda and Diatomaceous Earth. Citrus and some essential oils also act as repellents but don’t kill the roaches.
It’s important to keep the house clean, seal up any cracks and gaps, and solve leaks as quickly as possible. Don’t leave food lying around or stagnant water; avoid stacks of cardboard or trash.
Bear in mind that they don’t drown and cutting off their heads doesn’t make much of a difference. As well, vary your pesticides, as nymphs quickly develop resistances.
It’s also a myth that they can survive nuclear explosions, but we don’t recommend that as a form of pest control!
A cockroach can hold its breath for over half an hour, which means you must be consistent with foggers and air sprays if these are chosen methods of getting rid of them. German cockroaches have a large population, so may take days, weeks, or months to be rid of the infestation completely. Be aware that treatments don’t kill eggs, so repeat treatments are often necessary.
Roaches come from warm climates, though they can end up anywhere. Most likely, they are transported worldwide in ships, where infestations are often found. They like to live under floorboards, in walls, and in plumbing pipes.
Roaches are cold-blooded, meaning they go into a type of stasis and do not need to process food as much as warm-blooded animals. This means it is easy to go several weeks without eating.
Most roaches are omnivorous and will eat anything from skin to animals to trash and organic matter. They tend to avoid humans except in rare circumstances.
Answering the question “how long does a roach live?” is tricky because it depends on the species of cockroach, and also how favorable the conditions are for that particular cockroach.
However, all roaches are long-lived and hard to be rid of, but they aren’t as scary as they might seem. The roach life cycle means you must be vigilant, but with the right information, you’re able to protect your home.