You may find cockroaches hiding in cardboard boxes. Whether boxes are stored in your basement, attic, crawl space, or laundry room, roaches like cardboard.
Cardboard boxes serve as a shelter, enabling roaches to hide, live, and breed. That’s because boxes are stored in secluded areas with little human activity. These spots may also have access to water sources and food, such as your kitchen or washing machine. Even the glue used in cardboard production is a food source.
A roach’s mandibles are not usually strong enough to chew through cardboard. However, cardboard that’s old, torn, or wet is a target for roaches. As a paper product with animal derivatives in the glue, roaches can glean nutrients.
Do Cockroaches Like Cardboard?
Cockroaches will seek out cardboard as a form of shelter. Once inside, they’ll:
- Breed without being disturbed
- Lay eggs on the bottom, walls, and flaps of cardboard
- Molt, shedding their exoskeleton, and regenerating
That makes cardboard a popular hiding place for roaches.
Why Do Cockroaches Like Cardboard Boxes?
Cardboard has everything a cockroach needs to thrive, including:
Cardboard boxes are usually closed up and set aside, largely ignored by humans. Roaches don’t have to worry about being disturbed once they’re inside 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 the by-products of bone, providing nutrients. As a bonus, people store items inside the box that roaches can eat. This includes:
Your cardboard box may be damaged by water or leaking items within. Roaches can then use this as a water source, and the moisture will soften cardboard, making it easier for them to consume if nothing better is available.
Roaches prefer a shelter that’s secluded and dark. Since cockroaches are nocturnal, the inside of a closed-up cardboard box is the perfect hiding place.
Can Cockroaches Live In Cardboard Boxes?
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 benefits, such as the:
- Attic: Warmth, darkness, and seclusion
- Basement: You may experience leaking or flooding, leading to moisture and mold
- Closet: Paper or fabric storage that roaches can eat
- Laundry room: Moisture, humidity, and clothing fabrics
- Crawl space: Access to most points of the home
Even smaller cardboard boxes that are used to hold packaged foods in your pantry can appeal to roaches. Since cardboard provides cockroaches with cover, they can remain undisturbed.
Roaches will pick a location for their nest that is safe and stable. From this point, they’ll explore your home during the night in search of food. While they prefer not to travel long distances, they may do so if they have no other choice. For example, roaches in your basement may still be entering your kitchen.
Do Cockroaches Eat Cardboard?
Cardboard isn’t a roach’s first choice of food. However, if there are no other options, a cockroach will eat cardboard. As mentioned, cardboard is a plant-based product that contains small amounts of animal fat. This can provide the carbs, calories, cellulose, protein, and trace vitamins that cockroaches need to thrive and multiply.
Roaches still prefer to eat leftover food, crumbs, and spills found throughout your home. If these cannot be found, they’ll eat from your garbage cans and drains.
Organic waste like hair and skin will be more nutritious and easier to chew through. They will then move to soft papers, like newspapers, books, and magazines. If these are unavailable, roaches will move on to cardboard.
Can Cockroaches Chew Through Cardboard?
Cardboard is made 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 material. If you see bite marks in cardboard, it’s probably due to another pest, such as mice. However, if the cardboard has been compromised by age or water damage, this makes it far more susceptible to a roach’s bite.
If a cardboard box has been used many times over several years, it will lose its structural integrity. It may become:
- Ripped and torn
- Brittle and softened
- Thinned out
- Begin parting at the 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 keeps it strong but light. Once that outer layer is ripped, cockroaches will have access to the softer insides.
If you store cardboard in a shed, basement, or garage, it may become water damaged. 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. It also serves as a water source.
If roaches can’t eat cardboard, they’ll eat the glue. The glue will provide a roach with fats, protein, and carbs. The adhesive will also be more exposed on boxes that are torn or worn down.
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 weeks.
Can You Reuse Cardboard Roaches Have Been In?
When you find roaches in your boxes, your first instinct is to throw them away. According to the World Health Organization, cockroaches spread disease and sickness. By scurrying around 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 exposed to them long-term. If you have an existing condition, this could be exacerbated if you use items that have been in an infected box. You should never reuse the box if there’s been:
- A colony living inside the box. The leftover waste, egg sacs, exoskeletons, and bacteria will be hard to clean
- Water damage to the box. This damages its structural integrity and allows the bacteria to infiltrate the inner lining
- Chewed through the box. The bacteria will have entered the inner lining of the box
If the above issues aren’t an issue, you can reuse the box, but you’ll need to sanitize it first.
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. To clean the box:
- 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
- Only apply a light layer as wetting down the cardboard will deteriorate it
- Scrub the lid flaps and the outside of the box, as the roaches will have scaled this to get inside
- Scrub away any traces of egg sacs, skins, or smeared poop
- Leave the box outside in the sun to dry and air it out
Spraying disinfectant across the box won’t be sufficient. You will need to hand-scrub the box to ensure that all traces are 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. According to the Science of The Total Environment, there’s a connection between roaches and the spread of mold.
Roaches like cardboard and are attracted to it. Check your storage boxes and remove any signs of cockroaches.