Roaches are one of those things that can send a shiver of panic through many people. Just hearing the word can elicit a range of negative emotions. Sure, there are tons of products that can help you eliminate them, but did you know that there are TONS of natural predators that will eat roaches?
Yes, roaches provide nutrients for plenty of other insects and bugs! While you may not want to see more bugs inside your house, praying mantises, beetles, ants, centipedes, spiders, and even certain wasps will eat roaches.
There are even some parasitic worms that will feed on roaches, yikes!
While these insects and bugs aren’t necessarily practical to eliminate roaches inside your house, it’s interesting to know what bugs will eat roaches.
When you think of how prolific roaches can be, you’d think they didn’t have anything to worry about except for pest companies. Let’s check out what other bugs make a meal of roaches.
Roaches Aren’t An Easy Meal For Most Predators
Are you wondering what kind of defenses a roach could have? Believe it or not, they actually have quite a few. We all know about the staying power of roaches.
Most of us have heard that some roaches can still survive for weeks after losing their head. That’s very true, but they can also employ other methods to stay alive, let’s check them out.
Roaches Are Speed Running Champs
Aside from a few species, most roaches are very fast. Their main way of not becoming a meal for hungry bugs is to run away. Ants, for instance, can’t chase a roach down and win.
Some of these bugs can run up to 3 miles per hour! To put that into perspective, that speed is the average walking speed of humans.
If that doesn’t wow you, check this fact out. If we could run as fast as roaches in relation to size, we wouldn’t need automobiles because we could run at 100 mph!
Roaches Can Jump And They Can Fly
If they weren’t creepy enough, knowing that many species of roaches—including German cockroaches, the kind found infesting most houses—can jump and fly is enough to fuel nightmares.
You expect a cricket or grasshopper to jump, and you expect a housefly to well…fly, but you don’t expect either of these actions out of roaches. While they tend to rely mostly on locomotion, roaches can take long leaps if running isn’t enough, and they might fly.
Roaches are not graceful as butterflies or hummingbirds when in the air. They are quite clumsy which is why they don’t take to the air often. Like jumping, they only tend to try and fly when truly threatened.
Roaches Have Senses Like Spiderman
For those who are not familiar with the web-slinging superhero, Spiderman has nearly telepathic senses that notify him of impending danger. Roaches have something very similar.
Have you tried to step on a roach only to have it hurriedly scoot out of the way before you brought the other foot down? It seems to have read your mind and disappeared before you could turn it into “roach puree.”
They don’t have ESP, instead, they have microscopic hairs and super-sensitive antennae that can detect the slightest movements. They can feel the change in air pressure as soon as you move, and roaches are able to react before you can squish them.
Roaches Play Possum!
You’ve heard how possums will roll onto their backs and pretend to be past tense to keep from being eaten by bigger animals. Roaches can and sometimes do the same thing. Who knows, maybe the lowly roach taught the American marsupial how to “play possum.”
Trying to figure out if the roach or the possum started it first would be similar to solving whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first. Before we dive down a deep rabbit hole, let’s just leave it alone for now.
Just know that roaches will lay on their backs and pretend to be deceased to keep some predators from eating them. They don’t employ this method of survival often because some bugs just don’t care if their meal is fresh or beyond the expiration date.
There are animals such as reptiles and birds that rely on movement to hunt. When the roach suddenly halts and pretends to have lost the game of life, some predators lose sight of their lunch and have to find something else to eat.
Roaches Can Hide In The Dirt
There are thousands of species of cockroaches, not just the prolific pests that invade our houses. Some of these roaches can burrow in the dirt to escape predators.
Unless the predator has an exceptional sense of smell or another way to find the roach underground, they’ll have to find an easier meal.
Roaches Can Employ Chemical Defenses
Some species of roaches can release a stink to scare off predators, or even spray an irritating combination of chemicals directly at predators.
When a big predator is about to pounce on a roach, some can release a foul stink. The smell can be very pungent and can cause the predator to recoil and think twice about eating such awful-smelling food.
Other species can actually spray an irritating and bad-smelling substance at their enemies. This spray can cause the animal pain, discomfort, an allergic reaction, or another symptom that allows the roach to get away and live another day.
These chemical defenses can make most predators wary about eating such a “spicy meatball.” For those predators that like “spicy” foods, these chemical weapons may be just enough to cause hesitation or confusion. This is all a roach needs to get away and hide under a tiny crack or crevice.
Roaches Can Blend Into Their Environment
Camouflage is one of the earliest and most prolific defenses. Bugs and animals can’t be eaten if they aren’t seen by predators.
Roaches are mostly brown, black, or a mixture of neutral colors. This coloration helps them blend into dark places and their environment. By blending into the background and being very hard to see, they can escape predation.
Roaches Have Hard Outer Shells
Most insects have what’s called an exoskeleton. It’s exactly what it sounds like; an external skeleton. The exoskeleton is a hard outer covering that protects the soft insides of insects.
That crunch you hear when you step on a bug is the exoskeleton getting crushed. While it doesn’t do much to protect them from humans, the hard outer shell can prevent some other insects from eating them.
Some insects aren’t able to penetrate the hard shell, so they have to search out softer, easier-to-eat insects.
9 Bugs & Insects That Eat Roaches
There are certainly more animals and bugs that feed on roaches, but these are some of the most common insects and bugs that eat roaches. Roaches also make satisfying meals for several larger animals such as lizards, frogs and toads, birds, and many small mammals such as mice and shrews.
In this article, though, we are concentrating on invertebrates that feed on roaches.
1. Praying Mantises ‘Prey’ On Roaches
The praying mantis has long, grasping claws that can pierce and hold onto squirming prey. They also have swift reflexes that enable them to snatch up the quickest of insects before they have a chance to get away.
Praying mantises often blend into their environment, and can stand very still for a long time. While hanging out, they survey the territory with very sharp vision that locks onto any movement. Once prey is within range, the mantis strikes out with super-swift modified front legs and catches their meal.
There aren’t many bugs that can escape the grasp of a praying mantis. Once the meal is captured, the mantis then devours the bug, or in this case a roach.
There isn’t much a roach can do to escape a mantis except to be a step ahead of the predator, or to stay absolutely motionless until it finds something else to eat.
2. Centipedes Eat Roaches
These segmented, many-legged critters are voracious insectivores (feeding mainly on insects). They are active hunters too. They root around in the dirt, under leaves, and in rotting logs in search of food.
Centipedes seek food by using their sensitive antennae. They can detect vibrations that insects make and follow these signals. Once a bug is found, the centipede uses its speed, power, many legs, and venom to incapacitate their prey!
Centipedes have modified front legs that look like bug jaws.
These shortened legs are venom-filled and the centipede uses these to pierce through the exoskeleton of bugs. They then inject a paralyzing venom and consume their food before searching for another snack.
3. Beetles Occasionally Eat Roaches
According to the Smithsonian, there are over 350,000 species of beetles, and many more are constantly being identified by taxonomists day after day.
With so many types of beetles around the world, it’s only reasonable to find a few that feed on other insects including roaches. There are beetles that feed on plants, decaying matter such as wood, and even beetles that feed on feces. I’m looking at you, dung beetle.
There are way too many to list out, but there are several groups of beetles that feed on roaches such as predatory ground beetles, rove beetles, and other larger predatory species.
Most beetles don’t have any special tactics for overtaking and consuming roaches or other insects. They just use brute force to take them down and eat them.
Like roaches, beetles have a hard exoskeleton, but the hard outer coating on beetles is much thicker, and stronger. When roaches come across a big beetle, it could seem to them like they are taking on a tank. Unless the roach is able to run, jump or fly away, it’s probably going to get eaten.
4. Parasitic Wasps Will Feed On Roaches
If you have ever seen a strange bug that resembles the mixture of a small winged wasp and grasshopper, you’ve probably seen an Ensign wasp. They are also known as Hatchet or Nightshade wasps.
Those are all some pretty ominous names if you ask me.
Though most experts say the Nightshade wasp is harmless to humans, there are a few reports of individuals that swear they do sting and it hurts. To be safe, if you see this bug inside your house, leave it alone—mostly because it’s beneficial—and start looking for roaches.
These wasps feed on roach egg clusters of the peskiest roaches such as American and German roaches. These are two species of the most common household pest roaches.
They Will Eat Some Roaches But…
But they won’t clear out an infestation for you. Seeing these wasps in your house is an indicator you have roaches in your house even if you haven’t seen any.
The Nightshade wasp as an adult only feeds on flower nectar and honeydew secretions from aphids, scale, and other common garden pests. The female searches out cockroaches and their egg sacs.
When they find these little capsules, females then lay an egg inside. When the baby wasp hatches, it eats the cockroach eggs from the inside. Once all of them are eaten, it chews a hole from the inside and escapes the egg sac as a fully formed adult.
5. Ants Go After Roaches
Ants are another pest you don’t want in your house, but they can take down some roaches. Both fire ants and Argentine ants (aka sugar ants) can reduce roach numbers.
Small, black, Argentine ants are too small to overpower a single roach on their own, but when they have the power of the entire colony with them, they can quickly overrun and incapacitate a roach.
The problem with ants getting to roaches is the roach is so much faster. All it has to do is run away from a line of ants and it’s safe. Unless the ants are able to surround the roach or surprise it somehow, the roach will simply escape.
Fire ants on the other hand are much faster, a little bigger, and pack a powerful sting. These super aggressive and hungry ants can quickly decimate roaches. If I had to have one of these pests in my house I think I’d rather face roaches.
I’ve been stung by fire ants before and it’s an awful experience. Even days after, the bites still itch and sting.
6. Scorpions Love To Eat Roaches
Again, this is another pest I definitely don’t want in my house, but they do a number on roaches. There aren’t many bugs that can go “toe to toe” with a scorpion and come out on top, and roaches are not in that category.
There isn’t much a roach can do to escape a hungry scorpion. These fearsome bugs have an arsenal at their disposal that makes them perfect roach-eating machines.
Scorpions have crab-like claws to clamp onto roaches. Once in their grip, a roach is done for. If they put up enough of a struggle, the scorpion can inject venom into the roach to finish it off.
Once a roach is on the scorpion’s radar, all it can do is hope it has enough of a head start to run away and hide in a tiny hole where the scorpion can’t follow. A roach may be able to fly away in order to get away, but a swift escape is its only option.
Scorpions can deliver powerful, and very painful stings to humans, so if you live in an area that has scorpions or you have seen them in your house, check out our article on how to get rid of scorpions.
7. Roaches Eat Other Roaches
Yes, even roaches eat their own kind. These insects feed on nearly anything organic, and that includes resorting to cannibalism. German and Oriental roaches are more likely to resort to eating their own family tree when resources diminish.
Most of the time roaches only feed on already expired roach carcasses. As I said, they will feed on nearly anything, even their own feces. Roaches are the epitome of “savage” when it comes to what they will eat.
When food sources are very rare, adult roaches won’t hesitate to feed on roach nymphs and eggs.
During times of plenty roaches won’t eat their own, but when the feast has ended and food becomes hard to find, the babies will need to escape home if they want to survive.
8. Horsehair Worms Eat Roaches
These are long roundworm parasites that infect insects such as crickets, roaches, and mantises. They get their name because they are thin and long like horsehairs.
They have to get inside a host to grow big enough to reproduce. The one thing that every living creature on this earth needs is water, and this is where they lay their eggs.
When they hatch in the water, the larvae attach to plants and are ingested by insects that feed on the plants or come for a drink.
Once inside the host, the worm bores into the body cavity and absorbs nutrients for up to 3 months before emerging when the insect returns to a body of water.
Infected roaches have no defense against this parasite. Household pests don’t have to worry about this parasite though. They won’t come across infected waters inside the safety of our homes, maybe that’s the real reason they decided to live with humans.
After learning about this parasite, I don’t really blame them. But I’m not inviting roaches in, they can stay away from my place forever.
These Parasites Take Control Of Cockroaches
While inside the roach’s body, the worm eventually takes control of it and causes the insect to wander aimlessly until it reaches a water source. It then goes into the water where the worm works its way out.
If you haven’t seen this happen, you probably don’t want to because it’s super disturbing. There are videos all over showing horsehair worms emerging from hosts. What makes it so freaky is the length, horsehair worms can reach lengths of over 14 inches long!
The worms don’t eat vital organs, instead, they absorb nutrients, which stunts growth and deforms the insect. When the parasite leaves, the roach will either drown in the water or expire because it was so weakened by feeding the parasite.
Horsehair worms are a terrifying thing to behold. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about these things turning us into water-loving zombies.
9. Spiders Snack On Roaches
Spiders will eat anything they can subdue in their webs or catch. Some spiders are active hunters like the wolf spider, jumping spiders, and the brown recluse.
These spiders don’t use webs to capture prey, they live for the thrill of taking down their food instead of ensnaring them. These spiders will eagerly eat roaches whenever they come across them.
Being master hunters, spiders use stealth, their 8 legs, and venom to subdue their prey. Roaches, even with their special senses, rarely are able to escape a hungry spider. Once the spider jumps onto the roach, it bites it and injects the venom.
We’re All Finished Here!
That does it for us, we just went over 9 insects and bugs that eat roaches. These bugs are:
- Praying mantises
- Nightshade or Ensign wasps
- Horsehair worms
Each type of bug listed here can help to keep roach numbers in check, but they won’t help you overcome an infestation in your house. Roaches just multiply too fast for these bugs to eat them all.
If you need help getting rid of or repelling roaches in your house, we have plenty of articles on how to control roaches in your home.
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Cameron, Ewen. “On the Parasites and Predators of the Cockroach. I.—Tetrastichus hagenowii (Ratz.).” Bulletin of Entomological Research 46.1 (1955): 137-147.
Chadha, M. S., T. Eisner, and J. Meinwald. “Defense mechanisms of arthropods. III. Secretion of 2-hexenal by adults of the cockroach Cutilia soror (Brunner).” Annals of the Entomological Society of America 54.5 (1961): 642-643.
Gonzaga, Luiza EA, et al. “Predation strategy of the brown widow spider Latrodectus geometricus Koch, 1841 against prey with different defensive mechanisms.” Journal of Ethology 40.2 (2022): 159-165.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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