Cockroaches are invasive pests that are really good at hiding. Because of this, it’s no surprise that you’ll find roaches scuttling through your cardboard boxes. Whether they’re in your basement, attic, crawl space, or laundry room, cockroaches appear to like cardboard.
Cardboard boxes serve as an ideal shelter, allowing roaches to hide, live, and breed safely. The boxes are placed in areas that are secluded, with little human activity. These spots usually have access to water sources and food, such as your kitchen or washing machine. Roaches can even use the cardboard and its glue as a food source.
A roach’s mandibles are not usually powerful enough to chew through cardboard. However, cardboard that is old, torn, or wet is an easy target for roaches. As a paper product with animal derivatives in the glue, roaches can use it to gain nutrients.
Do Cockroaches Like Cardboard?
Cockroaches do like cardboard. Most of all, they will seek out cardboard as a form of shelter. Once instead, they will:
- Breed without being disturbed
- Lay eggs on the bottom, walls, and flaps of the cardboard
- Molt, shedding their exoskeleton and regenerating with little danger
- Go about their lifecycle, eventually developing a full colony
That makes cardboard a popular hiding place for roaches. That’s especially true if they’re already in a place full of cardboard, like a storage area.
Why Do Cockroaches Like Cardboard Boxes?
Cardboard has all the traits a cockroach needs to thrive. If provided with even one cardboard box, a roach can have access to:
Cardboard boxes are usually closed up and set aside, ignored by humans. Roaches don’t have to worry about being disturbed in a box.
Cardboard is a paper product, which is a plant derivative. This means cockroaches may eat the material itself when they need food. Additionally, cardboard glues often use animal products, such as fat or derivatives of bone. This provides the nutrients that cockroaches need.
As a bonus, you may also store items inside the box that roaches can eat. This includes:
Your cardboard box may fall victim to water damage or leaking from items within. Roaches can then use this as a water source. The moisture will even soften cardboard, making it easier for them to eat.
Roaches prefer shelter that’s secluded and dark. Since cockroaches are nocturnal, the inside of a closed-up cardboard box will be ideal.
Can Cockroaches Live In Cardboard Boxes?
Roaches are able to live in cardboard boxes long-term. This won’t be a temporary hide-out as they seek out better havens. If a roach is provided with a cardboard box, it will be very motivated to set up shop.
That’s because cardboard boxes are placed in storage areas. These areas are dark, secluded, and have close access to other parts of the house. Even the spaces themselves will have advantages, such as the:
- Attic: You may store extra food.
- Basement: You may experience leaking or flooding. This creates moisture and mold, which roaches love.
- Closet: You will store paper or fabric that roaches can eat.
- Laundry room: You have moisture, humidity, and detergent that roaches might nibble on.
- Crawl space: You have an area that provides access to most points of the home.
Even smaller cardboard boxes, used for holding packaged food in your pantry, can be appealing to roaches. Since it provides them with cover that’s out of immediate sight, they can nestle here unperturbed. They will then use it to explore the rest of the pantry at their leisure.
Roaches pick a location for their nest that is safe and stable. From this point, they will explore your home during the night in search of food. While they will not prefer to travel long distances, they may do so if they have no other options. For example, it’s possible that the roaches in your basement are still invading your kitchen.
Do Cockroaches Eat Cardboard?
Cardboard will not be a roach’s first choice of food. However, if it has no other options, a roach will eat cardboard. As mentioned, cardboard is a plant product with trace bits of animal fat. This can provide the carbs, calories, cellulose, protein, and trace vitamins a cockroach needs to survive.
They still prefer to eat leftover food, crumbs, and spills found throughout your home. If this cannot be found, it will also eat from your garbage cans and even your drains.
Organic waste like hair will be more nutritious and easier to chew through. It will then move to soft papers, like newspaper or pages from books or magazines. If you’ve managed to limit all other temptations, roaches will then turn to cardboard.
Can Cockroaches Chew Through Cardboard?
With that said, cardboard is also very thick. Roaches have powerful mandibles, but they are only able to eat through thin or soft materials. These include:
- Standard paper
- Thin plastic
- Soft foods
Because of this, cardboard is too thick for roaches to chew through. It’s created by pressing multiple layers of paper pulp together with industrial machinery. This gives it a thick, well-structured shape capable of holding weight and resisting damage. A roach’s mandibles cannot chew through this. If you see bite marks in your cardboard, it’s probably due to another pest, such as mice.
There are exceptions, however. If the cardboard has been mistreated, this makes it far more susceptible to a roach’s bite.
If cardboard is used multiple times, over multiple years, it will start to lose its structural integrity. It may become:
- Ripped and torn
- Brittle and softened
- Thinned out or begin parting from its seams
When this happens, roaches will have a better chance of chewing through it. Cardboard usually has a thick outer layer, with pockets or ribbing inside. This helps keep it strong but light. Once that outer layer is ripped, cockroaches will have access to the softer insides. If given enough time, they can eventually eat through this.
If you store cardboard outside, in a shed, in your basement, or in your garage, it may suffer from water damage. When this happens, the fibers of the cardboard start to weaken and separate from each other. This softens the thick shell considerably, and makes the ribbed inside even thinner.
Roaches can easily chew through this material. As a bonus, it can serve as a water source too.
If roaches can’t eat the cardboard, they’ll settle for the glue. Even nibbling on a thin layer can provide the roach with fats, protein, and carbs.
According to the Journal of Economic Entomology, roaches can survive more than 50 days without food or water. If they can gain access to even a small amount of cardboard glue, this can sustain them for several weeks.
The glue will also be more exposed on boxes that are torn or worn down. That makes older boxes even more vulnerable.
Can You Reuse Cardboard Roaches Have Been In?
When you find roaches in your boxes, your first instinct may be to toss out the entire thing. According to the World Health Organization, cockroaches play a huge role in the spread of diseases and sickness. By scurrying around your cardboard boxes, they may infect the box itself, as well as the items contained within, with bacteria that can lead to:
Likewise, according to Allergy, roaches have been known to trigger asthma and harmful skin reactions in people who are exposed to them long-term. If you have an existing condition, this could be made worse if you use items that have been in an infected box. You should never reuse the box if:
- A colony living inside the box. The leftover waste, egg sacs, exoskeletons, and bacteria will be hard to properly cleaned out.
- Water damage to the box. This damages its structural integrity and allows the bacteria to infiltrate the inner lining.
- Chewed through the box. Likewise, the bacteria will have entered the inner lining of the box. You can’t get that out without destroying the box.
If the above issues aren’t present, however, you can use the box again. You will just need to thoroughly sanitize it before use.
Treating Cardboard Boxes After Roaches
Start by removing all the items from the box and cleaning them individually. Any fabrics should be machine-washed with detergent or (if the fabric allows it) bleach. To clean the box itself:
- Shake out any leftover droppings or skins outside
- Mix together a water-bleach solution, with a 3:1 ratio.
- Dip a cloth in the mixture and then wring it out
- Rub this thoroughly across the full interior of the box
- Be sure to only apply a light layer, as wetting down the cardboard will deteriorate it
- Carefully scrub the lid flaps and the outside of the box, as the roaches will have scaled this to get inside
- Be sure to scrub away any traces of egg sacs, skins, or smeared poop
- Set the box outside, in the sun, to dry and air out
Keep in mind that spraying disinfectant across the box will not be enough. You will need to hand-scrub the box to ensure that all traces are properly removed. The bleach will kill the bacteria, and the cloth will remove any tangible waste the roach left behind.
The sun will then be an added measure to kill off mold spores, which roaches are known to carry on them. That’s according to the Science of The Total Environment, which describes a clear connection between roaches and the spread of mold.
How To Kill Roach Eggs On Cardboard
If you don’t have access to direct sunlight, you can also place the cardboard in your oven. This is very effective against roach eggs, should they survive exposure to the bleach and your scrubbing.
Be sure to only do this once the box has aired out, and only with smaller boxes that can neatly fit inside. Here’s how:
- Preheat an oven to 160 degrees Fahrenheit
- Place the cardboard inside
- Let it bake for increments of 10 minutes, under your supervision.
- Do not leave it in for more than 30 minutes.
- Remove the cardboard and allow it to cool.
Roaches like cardboard and are easily attracted to it. As such, make sure to frequently check your storage boxes, and clear out any signs of the bugs. This will keep your cardboard safe.