How Long Can Cockroaches Live Without Food? | Surprising Insights!

Written by George Climer

Cockroaches belong to cold-blooded insects and like many other cold-blooded animals such as other insects and reptiles, cockroaches take on the temperature of their surroundings. When it’s warm, all the chemical reactions inside their bodies happen much quicker, which makes them very active.

On the other hand, when the weather is cold, cockroaches become slow and their activity drastically decreases. The same thing happens when food is not available – they will keep their activities at the lowest level, using energy just for basic functions that help them survive.

Cockroaches can survive a month without any food intake. Staying alive even for a month without food makes them one of the most adaptable and annoying pests to deal with. This is because of their ability to preserve energy, using it only for basic functions if food is not available.

This article explains the dependence of cockroaches on food, how long they can survive without food, and which methods they use to search for food. Understanding these things about them may help you find the most effective way to eliminate cockroaches from your home and prevent their return. Let’s begin!

How Many Days Can Cockroach Live Without Food? | Information

How Many Days Can Cockroach Live Without Food

A cockroach is a very resourceful insect, it can survive in almost any circumstance, even when there is no food available. Some studies show that without water it can stay alive for seven days, and without food for up to 30 days.

How Long Can a German Cockroach Live Without Food?

A German cockroach is one of the most common cockroach species. It is very easy to recognize it by its light brown coloring with two parallel dark stripes located on the back.  An interesting fact about German cockroaches is that they can survive without food and water for a long time.

Females are even stronger than males. An adult female can survive without both food and water for 13 days, while males show a shorter survival time, about 8 days, under the same circumstances. Some studies show that the basic metabolism that keeps cockroaches alive is much more dependent on water than food. Water is essential and if they spend over a week without it, most of the cockroaches will die.

When it comes to food, the situation is a little bit different. Even the smallest amounts of food like crumbs are enough for them to survive for a much longer time. Completely without food, a German cockroach can stay alive for up to 30 days.

Just because a female German cockroach can stay alive without food for longer, it doesn’t mean it can reproduce. Some studies have shown that to produce viable eggs, a female German cockroach needs a diet that contains at least 5 percent protein.

How Long Can American Cockroach Live Without Food?

The American cockroach is considered to be the largest of the house-infesting roaches. Despite the name, its origin is connected to Africa, from where this species was carried to the rest of the world by ships in the early 1600s.

Their ideal living conditions outdoors are shady, humid areas such as flowerbeds and around trees. Usually, climate changes or food shortages force them to find shelter indoors. When American cockroaches infest a home, they seek food storage and preparation areas, and water. Without water, American cockroaches can survive for only a couple of days, and without food much longer, almost a month.

The ability of American cockroaches to use only basic metabolic functions and limit energy consumption increases their survival rate, which is normal for cold-blooded animals.

How Long Can Oriental Cockroaches Live Without Food?

The oriental cockroach is one of the larger species of cockroach. People also call these cockroaches waterbugs, as they are very dependent on water. That’s why they are mostly found in dark, humid, and cooler areas like basements. An oriental cockroach is easily recognized by its dark black, shiny body. 

Without water, their survival rate is very low, with 7 days in best cases. Food is different, as they can adapt to the absence of food by lowering their activity to a bare minimum. That way, they use only a tiny, limited amount of energy, which helps them stay alive for up to a month.

Does Cockroach Egg Survive Without Food?

Does Cockroach Egg Survive Without Food

Cockroaches don’t lay individual eggs. A female cockroach lays egg capsules, that look like small brown or black cases, filled with eggs. German and American cockroach cases are about 8 mm long, while Oriental female cockroaches lay slightly longer egg sacks, about 12 mm long.

Egg cases have a small ridge called a keel down the entire length of the case. It is a weak spot, that growing nymphs use to emerge from the case. Growing nymphs swallow air to make themselves bigger and escape the egg case!

The development of the eggs depends on the cockroach species. German cockroaches carry the eggs until just before they hatch. American cockroaches find shelter near food and water and place the egg case when they make sure that the area is safe. Oriental cockroaches also search for hidden areas near food for placing the egg case.

Another name for the egg case is oothecae. These cases contain two equal rows of eggs, between 14 to 48 eggs depending on the species. Also, development depends on the conditions around the egg case. If the weather is warm, development is much faster and it takes from 6 to 8 weeks. If the weather is cold, this period can be longer.

Inside the oothecae, the eggs are safe and developing. They don’t need food from the outside at this stage. Once the egg becomes a nymph, a young and not fully matured stage of cockroach, it needs food. A nymph can survive only for ten days without food, as some fast-developing processes require nutrients. If the food is not provided, the nymph dies. This can rarely happen, as adult female cockroaches always choose safe locations near food and water to lay the egg case.

Will Cockroaches Leave if There Is No Food?

Eventually yes, cockroaches will leave the area where they cannot find food, but that is not enough to eliminate the infestation from your home. They can easily find another suitable spot and food source inside your apartment, as they feed on literally anything.

Lack of food forces a growing population of cockroaches to be active during the day, which is not their preferable time for hunting. This usually happens if you are dealing with a bigger infestation inside your home and you manage to clean up food leftovers and get rid of all the food sources near the cockroach nest.

Will Cockroaches Leave if There Is No Food

Preventing them from finding food is extremely hard, as they can use so many things to feed on, including the sludge which they can find in the sink or drains, but it is not impossible. If you manage to do so, the first thing you’ll see is increased cockroach activity during the daytime. Roaches are nocturnal pests, and a sign for them to come out of the shelter and start hunting for food is turning off the lights.

Lack of food for a growing population is a serious problem, which makes them hunt during the day. Of course, the absence of food is not enough to eliminate the infestation, but it’s a great start. Cutting food and water sources, along with using remedies to fight the infestation is a solution you are looking for.

Once you start the elimination process, never clean up dead cockroach bodies. When they cannot find food they start eating dead roaches! The better solution is to set some kind of bait, which will kill the one that tries to eat the body.

How Do Cockroaches Find Food?

For years, researchers believed that cockroaches walked around searching for food without any order. It turns out that the opposite is true. They create paths between food sources, water, and shelter, leaving behind a chemical trail. Other cockroaches from the nest follow this trail when they start hunting for food.

Can Cockroaches Smell Food?

Another popular belief about cockroaches was that they don’t use their sense of smell. This is completely wrong! Cockroaches use their two antennae for finding food sources. They can be strongly attracted to a certain smell. Starches are the most powerful foods for attracting these pests, along with sugar, grease, meat, and cheese.

Cockroaches can smell food from a large distance and even find small particles like crumbs to feed on. There are also some scents that cockroaches find strongly repellant. Strong fragrances that we find pleasant can suffocate cockroaches, for example, essential oils.

As cockroaches breathe through the small holes on the surface of their bodies, strong fragrances can clog these holes and create breathing problems. This is very important information, that we can use to create baits for cockroaches to help us eliminate them from unwanted areas, such as homes, basements, and buildings.

How Far Can Cockroaches Smell Food?

The sensitivity of their antennae is very delicate, which gives cockroaches the ability to sense strong fragrances within the entire house or even further. This ability makes them powerful hunters. It’s not unusual for them to go from one apartment to another by following the smell of food. As they can feed on almost anything, cleaning your apartment of food for roaches can be very hard to accomplish.

What Food Attracts Cockroaches?

What Food Attracts Cockroaches

There is a difference in feeding patterns for cockroaches living outdoors and for the ones living in your home. In their natural habitat, cockroaches eat various plants, and other insects, all the strong-smelling decaying matter, dead trees, dead bodies, animal feces, etc. They can even feed on their own young or other dead cockroach bodies.

When they infest the indoors, they usually eat whatever is available in the environment. All human foods are great food for cockroaches. Crumbs, stains, food leftovers, and even garbage is a perfect choice when it comes to picking food for them. Cockroaches can use hair or fingernail clippings as food, as disgusting as this may sound! Pet foods are a treat for them! In absence of nutritious meals, they can even use paper, cardboard, or toothpaste to feed on!

That is why regular hygiene maintenance is essential for cutting down food sources for cockroaches or at least minimizing it.

As these pests are commonly found in restaurants, grocery stores, or any food storage units, it is essential to keep the food sealed up properly. This will prevent the attracting odors be present.

Cockroaches are mostly attracted to sugary foods and grease. Rotting fruits and vegetables give off a strong smell that keeps these pests near! Regular hygiene, taking away the trash, and trashcans with a lid that seals the can properly is a must if you want to keep these unwanted creatures away.

Do Cockroaches Take Food Back to Their Colony?

Cockroaches consume food at sight, meaning that they don’t bring it back to their shelter. They don’t live in centralized nests or colonies but you will find them close to the same spot if it has favorable conditions. Cockroaches are nocturnal pests, meaning they start their activities when the lights are off.

Plan your actions well. If you choose a bait, there is a high possibility that if a cockroach eats the bait, and dies, he will bring death to other cockroaches as well after they eat his body.

How Long Can Cockroaches Live Without Water?

How Long Can Cockroaches Live Without Water

When it comes to food, cockroaches can last for some time, but it’s a different situation with water! Without water, a cockroach dies within a week or even less. This is because water is essential for even basic metabolic processes that are needed for survival.

A cold-blooded cockroach will adapt to the conditions without food and water by entering the phase where the energy is used only for survival, but it cannot last long without water. Smaller cockroaches that are in the nymph stage won’t last for two or three days without water.

This is why during the process of eliminating cockroaches cutting the water supplies is essential. This may require fixing your plumbing installations, leaking pipes, clogged drains, or sink, and eliminating extra humidity for your kitchen cabinets or bathroom area. Also, regular hygiene and cleaning all the stains inside the kitchen help you leave cockroaches without a water source.

How to Keep Cockroaches Away from Food?

Keeping cockroaches away from food should be much easier now that you understand how they search for food and where they usually find it. Cleaning the area you want to eliminate the cockroach infestation problem is the first thing to do. Vacuum cleaning, mopping, and keeping the food storage and preparation surfaces clean is essential.

All your food should be kept sealed up in proper boxes and packages, which makes it hard for them to access the food. Taking out the trash daily is also very important. Never leave an open trashcan full of garbage during the night. Also, dirty dishes kept in the sink at night are a great source of food for them, which means that dishes should be washed before ending the day.

How to Keep Cockroaches Away from Cat Food?

Pets feed on various types of food that cockroaches simply adore! Make sure that food for your cat is never left open. All the cans and boxes should be sealed and kept in clean and safe storage.

The dish that you use for serving your cat food should not be kept filled with food during the night. Before going to bed, clean the bowl and take away any food leftovers. Any crumbs or stains near the cat’s eating dish should be cleaned as well.

How to Keep Cockroaches Away from Dog Food?

The same rules should be applied to dog food. Specific foods that you give to your dog have a strong smell which makes them very attractive to cockroaches. If you leave dog food during the night accessible to cockroaches, they will feed on it without a problem.

Usually, the area around the bowl that the dog eats the food from is greasy or there are leftovers around it, so this entire area should be cleaned daily. Before going to bed, clean the bowl and leave it dry. Dog food should be kept sealed up, in a storage unit, and without easy access. Never leave an open bag on the floor or anywhere reachable.

Click on the following links for DIY guides on how to get rid of American, German, and Oriental cockroaches.

List of Sources

The Cockroach FAQ, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Research Into Cockroach Behavior Could Lead To Better Baits, University of Florida

Rozental J., Norris D., Chemosensory Mechanism in American Cockroach Olfaction and Gustation, Nature Portfolio