What Attracts Cockroaches?

Harlequin Cockroach – Neostylopyga Rhombifolia with egg sack in plastic box
Harlequin Cockroach – Neostylopyga Rhombifolia with egg sack in plastic box

If you’re one of the millions of homeowners with cockroaches, it’s high time to learn why and how it is that they are reproducing in the house. To determine the source that keeps them coming back, reproducing and staying in your house – let’s start with a little background.

About Cockroaches

The most common household cockroach is the American or German cockroach, though there are over 4,000 species of cockroaches in the world. Usually found in the tropics, these bugs are extremely resilient and have been known to cause allergic reactions, such as asthma, and other unpleasant effects.

Food is Attractive to Cockroaches

To crush any possibility of them ever reappearing again in the kitchen, spare bedroom or garage – first, get rid of the source of food. Food is the biggest reason they are attracted to a place. Even if the room has been cleared of all food sources, it’s likely that a nearby location has something edible for them. It can be a piece of cardboard, too.

Due to their resilience, cockroaches may survive up to three months without eating. It is often a good idea to exterminate them with chemical treatments. Then, to be sure, the location must be checked for other attractive conditions for the cockroach.

Moisture Attracts Cockroaches

Any damp, dark, and wet place will likely begin to have cockroaches within a few weeks. It’s key to stay vigilant about areas that are not readily maintained. These areas could be a spare garage outside the house, a storage unit, or some other space that is not normally inhabited.

A floor that is damp or an old mop that is always sitting in water, are places that require extra attention.

Darkness and Hidden Places Attract Cockroaches

Cockroaches seek locations that are hidden because they are safe from dangers like humans. So any boxes, shelves, books, roof tiles that are not regularly checked are, technically speaking, home to the cockroach. They will scramble into these spots and stay there until it is safe to step out again. Removing these objects, or cleaning certain parts of the home that are especially attractive to cockroaches, will help keep the house a clean environment.

Strong Smells Attract Cockroaches

Garbage will attract not just one type of pest, but all of them. A small litter of trash bags, or improperly disposed of compost will attract cockroaches very quickly. To reduce that possibility, simply take out the trash and move the compost to the proper location – a sealed bin dedicated for composting. Using a tighter lid on everything that carries garbage, i.e. food for the cockroach, will help ensure no cockroach ever returns.

The Bread Crumbs

All the little things count in the war against the cockroach. Areas that rain down generous amounts of food bits will constantly attract bugs – some large, and some bitterly annoying, like the cockroach. Regular sweeping AND regular vacuuming make the most attractive cockroach home undesirable. They will look for better real estate, though using chemical solutions to help them make that decision sooner will prove worthwhile. Remember, they live up to 3 months without food!


If there is less water, the better for your home and your family: cockroaches expect there to be water where there is food. Removing the source of the water makes the home less attractive for a nesting ground. The pet water bowl is a safe location for cockroaches to hydrate themselves. Remove it. A leaky pipe near the sink? Fix it.

Water, is the groundwork to a much worse situation. One cockroach moves in, invites others, eggs soon hatch – then an professional exterminator-only situation arises. Don’t make that mistake; take action quickly, deal with a few cockroaches rather than hundreds.


The best homes are clean and without pest problems, as they invite comfort and pleasant conversation. On the other hand, a place that has cockroaches will continually bring discomfort and, in some cases, health problems. Taking into account what attracts cockroaches in the first place – water, food and moisture – the homeowner can rest easy, since there’s no place for the cockroach to make their home.


Author: Darren

Darren Urman became a professional writer 15 years ago, when he retired as a building contractor. Darren joined the THF team of writers in July, 2009. He enjoys cooking, writing, and traveling.

30 thoughts on “What Attracts Cockroaches?”

  1. Tryin to ” Bait “em to bring ’em into the open. What would bring ’em out to be dealt with? This article doesn’t state what I was lookin for. If anyone has an idea to bring ’em out email me at …. michaelnickerson90@yahoo.com….wanna try to see if I can deal with them when they are not convealed first well again LOL the exterminator said there would be an increase in activity, yep sure was and they brought along guests and clan too. I can kill ’em if they are seen but not hidden. I have a pesticide with residual effects but I gotta know where to place this chemical.
    Any info is appreciated please.

      1. Thank you. I have a plan to bring them out of hiding then place roach pruffe brand powder every where they are not. A neighbor moved that was infested so I am hoping it will at least drive them back, the surviving ones at least.

        1. We live in a rural area where roach infestations are common. One trick you might try is the one my mother-in-law is using. She gets the sticky type of mouse bait pads to control the roaches. Apparently the roaches are attracted to them and then can’t free themselves from the glue.

          I don’t know if it will work or not, but you may also try making some homemade sticky flypaper (using strips of newspaper or brown paper bags soaked in syrup or glue, then hung to dry before using) or other roach baits and place them within 18 inches of the walls. From what I’ve been reading, roaches don’t like to venture too far from the walls if they can help it, especially during the day or in well-lit areas. There are several organic or natural ways to deal with roaches too. These include using hedge apples, bay leaves, catnip tea, cucumber slices, diamtomaceous earth, and soapy water. Of course, you also need to keep the place thoroughly cleaned, especially keeping it free of food spills. You also have to eliminate any sources of water, such as leaky pipes and a pet’d water bowl. And get rid of any paper/plastic grocery sacks as soon as you finish putting away the groceries.

          1. Hi Penny,
            I’ve been at war for 5 days now. I kicked my filthy tenant out and found an infestation. There was a leaky pipe under the sink (now fixed and dried the area out with a fan heater) they had also nested inside one of the fridge rubber door seals. The bigger ones were getting in the fridge by a run off drip tray at the back (now siliconed up). Also pulled the fridge apart to find another nest in the back. Ive sealed this up so they cant get back in.

            Ive also used some of the expanding foam to seal up some gaps that were under the kitchen units.

            This and some kill powder had made a huge difference already, for the last 2 days there has been 6 or so big ones in the toilet (looking for water).

            Just curious, why get rid of the shopping bags straight away? Is if the food or the bag itself?

            Great blog, I kew nothing about these evil creatures a week ago. To kill them you have to think like them.

          2. Clintlegend, it sounds like you have really taken the battle to the roaches. As any military strategist will tell you, the best defense is a great offense. To have a great offense, you have to think like your enemy. So for any type of pest control management to work, you have to know about the creature’s habits and think like the pest. So keep up the good work!

            Roaches like to hide and lay eggs in shopping bags, especially the paper sacks. But they also like the plastic bags because the bags are more waterproof than paper bags are. They also like to lay eggs in any cardboard boxes. Stores tend to store things for a long time, in dark places, so despite the pesticides used, some roaches survive and get carried out in the bags and boxes.

          3. Excellent Penny, thats for that useful info! The war continues but they are certainly slowing down. Its a war of attrition.

          4. Yip! Cant say enough for finding leaks under the sink and fixing. Once they have no water or food they leave pronto. There was a drain hole in the fridge where they were getting food from so siliconed that up for a month or so as well. Sped the process up by adding roach hotels and Boric acid. Took about a month in total. Thanks for your help Penny!

          5. Hi, Clintlegend! I’m glad I was able to help you out. It took quite a long time and a lot of effort, but I’m sure you feel it was well worth the effort, time, and money to get rid of those pesky roaches. Most people fail to completely rid themselves of the roaches simply due to being unwilling or unable to do simple home repairs and change some of their habits.

    1. You can also use chemicals to bring them out… spray chemical in the dark corners and every other place they might be and you’ll see them running out….

    2. try leaving a pot and fill it with 3 inches of milk they love milk and they will drown in it…This was said to be true when I tried it from the man who told me so ,he lived in Europe and they are plenty there..works

    1. Niki, it probably depends on where in NY the building is located. If you’re talking about NYC, it would be pretty difficult to get rid of every single cockroach in a building simply because of how close the buildings are. They’d run from one building to the other if anyone tried to do a massive extermination.

  2. So my parents saw one in the bathroom last night and are convinced it is my room that it was living in… why? because I have a messy room with literally just clothes on the floor (most of which are in the laundry basket I have sitting in my room). BUT there is a broken pipe in the basement that water is leaking through the walls and mold is showing through the drywall and this has been a problem for a long time and they refuse to take time from their drinking and partying to fix it. I just want a second opinion because now my parents are attacking me, basically saying it’s all my fault that there was one or more in the house.

    1. Hi, Car! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you and your parents are both right and both wrong. You’re right in stating that the leaky pipe can be a cause for the cockroach being attracted to the house. But your parents are also right that it could be the pile of dirty clothes. But all of you should be aware of the fact that seeing one roach means there’s probably an infestation already in the home or soon will be. A roach infestation presents a health risk to anyone who resides or visits the home, so should be dealt with as soon as possible.

      This site, Alliance for Healthy Homes (http://www.afhh.org/hps/hps_insects.htm), gives more information about exterminating roaches and what to do to prevent an infestation. It sounds like you and your parents may need to change some of your lifestyle habits in order to get rid of roaches.

    2. I had a similar argument with my mother! She eats and leaves crumbs in her room and in the living room, but I rarely bring food into my room ever. Every once in a while I leave clothes on the floor (but never longer than a day after I wear them) and she’s convinced THAT’S what brought them, not her dirty crumb habit. To quote, when I mentioned that the crumbs are probably what attracted them she said “Roaches don’t really eat that stuff” mostly referring to sunflower seeds. Being that they eat pretty much everything under the sun, that was an incredibly stupid thing to say, I think.

  3. I seen one in my room but it waz a baby the a min later I see one on my mom’s door then I saw one in my sisters room this one waz huge but I spray it with disafected spray the I walk pass my sisters room I waz laying dead on the floor I’m siting here wondering how did it die cuz nobody stumpt on it sooo yea that’s my story

    1. Young flow, it sounds like your home is becoming infested with roaches. You didn’t say where you lived or what type of roaches you were seeing, so I can’t give you more specific advice or answers. But most likely the one you found dead on the floor had died from the disinfectant spray you had sprayed in your sister’s room. Even if it’s not the same roach that you sprayed directly with the spray, it could have been poisoned if it was in the area or if it had tried to eat or carry off the body of it’s dead comrade.

      I think I remember reading once that it’s best not to squash cockroaches because they will put out a scent that lets other roaches know where their body is. Then the live roaches use the dead one for food. But it’s been an extremely long time ago that I read that, and I don’t know how true that is. But I do hope your family is able to get rid of all of the roaches before they become a real big problem.

  4. i just moved into my new house in Missouri and so far i have seen one german roach alive that i killed but 5 dead, 2 in the living room, one semi dead on my bathroom which i killed right away and the rest around my kitchen(behind my trash and under the sink which had a leak but is now fixed) we have been doing some remodeling and still unpacking.. i have two kids so we aren’t taking any chances and bombing the house right away! hopefully that will kill them i have never had any roach problem before so i’m new to this..

  5. Dear Penny,

    It is so revealing to know that someone knows how to get rid of some roaches. I have been seeing one coming and going in my bedroom. Although, I do not have any clothes on the floor. I like to keep it tidy. However, my nieces tend to spill some water on the floor everywhere in the house. Do you have an idea about their sensations and how far could they smell or sense a source of food and water is available. I live in a house that consists up of 2 floors.

    Your help is highly appreciated.

  6. So almost a year ago my good friend cleaned out his cabinets and gave me a ton of food he has since past away sadly. . I new he had roaches in the past and thought they were gone . about 4 or 6 weeks later I noticed a roach on a pan in the cabinet.i new what it was,i’m not clean fanatic so big cringed inside and new it was a roach. Now it’s another 6 months later and 1 on the counter then just happened to spill soda under the fridge. While cleaning I found an empty cloth cooler and inside was another roach. The problem is I don’t want to tell anyone in the house my boyfriend will blame me on account the dirty dishes and toaster crumbs and my mother will be so upset.i know it’s from the box food my late friend gave me. I’ve heard if u put oil like cooking oil on a dish they will crawl in an die. I have dogs and snakes 2 teens and a 3 yr old what are the best cost effective ways to kill these filthy gross insects. Thank you Jennifer

  7. Hey penny ,ummmm I just moved into an apartment building in Wilkes barre Pennsylvania I seen a roach one day and I bleached everything down about a month and a week later I seen another one in totally flipping out I bleach my apartment everyday and this building isn’t connected with anything I’m afraid that they might be migrated please help !!!!!!

  8. My husband, 2 young children & I are in the middle of moving. We’ve accumulated an excess amount of clothes over the years & have an entire room scattered with sorted clothing. I’ve found 1 dead one that was in a bag brought over to the new house. Until tonight, I wasn’t sure if it had come from a bin that had been in the storage shed. I just threw it out. That was a few days ago. Tonight as I was filling a bag of clothing to move to the new house, 1 had literally flew into me! Please tell me that I don’t have an infestation at the old house, which my parents now reside in. Any advice is much appreciated!

  9. im losing my mind, ive never had the misfortune of havin cockroaches for 50yrs, and in past have cringed at any person mentioning they had them, in fact diistanced myself from them in personal relationships. Within the past year i found a gorgeous studio apartment (without going in to detail its the bomb, mancave ohh yea) 6mnths ago i had my first encounter. Since, the place has been fumigated, but again they have returned. Unknown to me the apt above resides a horder that the pest people cannot effectively spray. I have sticky strips that hold at least 10 roaches each on a 2wk basis, i personally kill 3per morning and at least 3 more after work before going to bed. the stress is has been causing difficulties in my normal daily functions. landlord, superintendant, city, all notified frequently with no results. using recommended sprays, but im also breathing these toxins in. without having to abandon this great place, any suggestions. desperate for a solution. ps i take pride in my surroundings and cleanliness is a must with me

  10. I just moved into a new student apartment and my father found a nest in the supplied stove. We cleaned it out and I thought everything was fine but I found a bunch today. One even crawled out from under my toilet seat. I’d love to try these methods but I am so terrified of them I can’t even get close to them, often using aerosol poisons like Doom to kill them from a distance. I have just gotten overwhelmed with the amount and am at a loss on how to improve the situation. I am extremely clean, I clean daily ( as in sweep. mop, take care of my cupboards) 😥

  11. I seem to be having issues with roaches, I am going to assume they are the palmetto ones, because they are hug and fly. I seem to always find them in my master bathroom which is over my garage , I have a roommate and he has loaded a lot of boxes in my garage and I have to assume they are feeding on all those boxes. I have never had issues before. What do you suggest to get rid of these wonderful visitors .

  12. This is a great site for taking care of ROACHES! I also noticed that roaches love to make their nest under your refrigerator. Go buy a can of Raid, and spray under the refrigerator with a generous amount. One day years ago, we don’t know where they were coming from. We thought we had the place in tip top shape as far as being clean. But then I saw a roach come out from under the fridge. I took a can of Raid and sprayed a good long generous amount under the front of the fridge. 20 to 30 roaches came limping and dieing out from under the fridge. Not counting the ones that died under there. After you do that, buy some fogger because the roaches that were out on the town when killed the nest, will come back to a nest that is destroyed. So they will hang around on the walls with no place to go. So fogged them out.

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