Cockroaches have chewing mouthparts. This means that cockroaches are equipped to eat solid food. Cockroaches only need a small amount of food at a time. A single kibble of dog food could feed one cockroach for several weeks.
Some cockroaches have food preferences that people might call “unusual”. In some areas of the United States, the wood cockroach, Cryptocercus punctulatus (Scudder), feeds on decaying wood. Scientists study this cockroach to learn about its similarity to termites.
Travelers in the 1850's discovered that cockroaches had eaten all of the bedbugs on their ship. They were not sure whether this was a good bargain to trade bedbugs for cockroaches. During the 20th century, scientists conducted laboratory experiments to confirm the cockroaches would indeed eat bedbugs.
Many species of cockroaches have been observed eating their own young. Adult German roaches readily eat the nymphs when they are small. Some scientists suspect this may be a reason for the nymphs leaving the hiding places before they are mature.
On the other hand, newly hatched German roach nymphs often eat the droppings of the adult roaches. The droppings are available in the area where they hatched. The nymphs often do not go out to search for food until they have molted once or twice.
Most cockroaches are scavengers. They are sometimes called opportunistic feeders. This means that they will eat the first thing they find that can provide nutrition. The cockroach diet often depends on its location. Sometimes cockroaches eat some disgusting things.
Large cockroaches that are outdoors around a commercial building will find food scraps in the dumpster or the sewer. In the landscaping around an office complex, large cockroaches can also find decaying leaves and dead insects to eat.
In a subdivision, large American or Oriental cockroaches may eat pet food that is left on the porch or patio. They may also eat scraps from the garbage can or pet droppings that are in the yard. smokeybrown cockroaches often eat decaying leaves in gutters. They also have been seen eating live plants.
When cockroaches move indoors, their food opportunities are almost unlimited. Modern homes often have snack food scraps in the family room, fast food packages in the trash, and food residue in the recycling bin. Cockroaches can also find crumbs, spills, and dirty dishes that provide food.
Eliminating the food is the first step in controlling cockroaches. Outdoors, put trash in cans that have lids and wash the trash cans occasionally. Clean leaves out of the gutters and rake them away from the foundation. Pick up any un-eaten pet food when the pet has finished eating.
Indoors, put leftover food away and wash dishes before going to bed. Take trash out regularly. Rinse recyclable items as much as possible and keep the recycling bin outside. Store food in containers that can be sealed.
Because cockroaches are scavengers, roach bait is a very effective control tool. Many brands of outdoor bait are water-resistant. They are effective in flowerbeds and under ground cover. Indoor cockroach bait is available as a gel and in plastic stations. Because cockroach control takes time and follow-up, many people turn to pest control professionals for help with these pests.