To some people, even the mention of cockroach sends shiver down their spines. Often, people are reminded of filthiness when it comes to cockroaches as they are known to spread diseases such as salmonellosis and its droppings are also found to trigger skin allergies and asthma. On top of these scary facts, scientists have recently found another shocking characteristic in cockroaches; cannibalism!
6 species of cockroaches, including German and American cockroaches that are commonly found in Malaysia, have been found to show cannibalistic tendencies. And there’s a strong chance for it to occur in the other 4,494 species as well.
What do cockroaches normally eat?
Cockroaches are known to consume most things they come in contact with. However, did you know that there are some foods that cockroaches particularly love? These include: sweets, meats and starches. Though small in size, these crawling creatures do have some great appetite. Not to mention that they are great scavengers that find even paper and clothing appetising! Hence, you may want to consider storing these items well if you don’t plan on sharing any of these with them!
However, do take note that German and American cockroaches have preference over some of these things:
German cockroaches are attracted to:
- Dead/ wounded cockroaches
- Fatty food
- Starchy food
American cockroaches are attracted to:
- Tea and Beer
- Fermenting Foods
- Baked Goods
- Dead animals
- Dead/ wounded cockroaches
But why are cockroaches cannibals?
Well, population density plays a huge part in it. The reasons behind cockroaches developing cannibalistic tendencies can be divided into two sections:
Overpopulation leads to food scarcity. Female german cockroaches can lay up to 384 eggs in her lifetime. As you can imagine during an infestation the population can get quite high, which limits the amount of food available.
When there are limited food supplies, cockroaches turn to cannibalism to feed their hunger. Usually, it’s the older, stronger cockroaches preying on the young and weak.
However, in terms of pest control this survival instinct sometimes doesn’t work out for them. If one cockroach has consumed some bait, and then falls victim to being cannibalised, those feeding upon it will also become infected with the effects of the bait.
Large populations mean less food to go around. Eliminating members of the intrusion means fewer mouths to feed, resulting in more food for everyone else. Usually, this occurs with the females consuming eggs and nymphs when food is scarce.
Adult German cockroaches usually operate during the night. While the nymphs sometimes avoid being cannibalised by foraging for food during the day.These nymphs have also developed a pheromone that repels adult cockroaches.
It has also been reported that female American cockroaches turn to cannibalism when mating. Just like black widow spiders, female American cockroaches can consume their male partner during copulation.
It is important to note that their cannibalistic traits are purely a survival mechanism. It allows cockroaches to continue existing when there is little to no food available.
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For more information on cockroaches, click here or download our infographic on cockroaches facts or ways to get rid of cockroaches.