Cockroach infestations are a big problem in any home. But when a house is left empty, it can become a much trickier issue to navigate. This is because a roach infestation can rapidly expand if it’s left untreated, and when there’s no-one at home to control it, your property is likely to be overrun by pests.
Cockroaches are versatile and adaptable creatures. They will eat all types of organic matter, including sugary, starchy foods, and meat. However, cockroaches will also eat starch-based paint, paper, cardboard, and wallpaper paste. Roaches won’t leave a vacant home unless the food supply runs out. But because roaches will feast on nymphs or dead and dying kin, that’s not likely to happen.
If you’re leaving your home vacant for a while, you must take the appropriate steps to prevent a cockroach intrusion from forming. This includes deep cleaning the house, stopping all leaks, and safely storing all paper-based items or throwing them away.
How Long Can Cockroaches Live in A Vacant House?
Cockroaches don’t require much food to survive and can live for a month without it. As long as there is enough water to keep them hydrated, they will thrive.
Empty houses often suffer from unexpected water leaks and spillages. Even the condensation from windows can provide enough water for cockroaches to stay alive. When no-one is home to keep an eye on new leaks, cockroach infestations can form without homeowners suspecting one.
Also, the food supply is unlikely to dry up as long as the intrusion keeps growing. This is because adult roaches feast upon eggs and young nymphs to control the population’s size when no other food source is available.
Female roaches produce eggs without fertilization, so cannibalism keeps the colony sustained. However, these cannibalistic traits are purely a survival technique. Cockroaches will consume other organic foods if they can find them first.
Therefore, cockroaches will live in a vacant house indefinitely unless action is taken to physically remove them from the environment. This is what makes them such tough and hardy creatures, and is why empty homes should be checked on regularly.
Will Cockroaches Leave If There’s No Food?
It’s rare that a cockroach would ever run out of food. There’s too much organic matter inside a home for them to eat, even if the property is empty. Also, because cockroaches are cold-blooded insects, they can survive a month without food, sometimes even longer.
Cold-blooded creatures take on the temperature of their surroundings. When it’s cold, they become sluggish and go into hibernation. When it’s warm, the climate allows them to become more active without the need for food.
Without food, cockroaches keep their body temperature as low as possible to conserve energy. Doing so allows them to go for extended periods without eating.
However, because cockroaches can only survive a week without water, they prefer to dwell in humid or moisture-rich homes. They also commonly set up home in bathrooms and kitchens where water is abundant.
What’s more likely than a roach colony leaving a home is that they will widen their food search, using the vacant house as a base for warmth and shelter. As they can easily enter through holes and gaps, they will forage in the garden and in outdoor trash cans to find food.
Therefore, removing any infestation is crucial using a tried and tested pest control method; otherwise, the roach population will keep growing and become difficult to eradicate.
What Do Cockroaches Feed On?
Cockroaches are omnivores. This means they eat both animals and plants. When it comes to food, cockroaches aren’t picky about what they’ll eat and will consume anything that’s digestible.
Roaches prefer to eat sweets, starches, and animal proteins, as well as greasy foods, cheese, and moldy or fermented foods. Cockroaches spend most of their time in the kitchen, where these foods are in abundance.
However, in an empty home, it’s harder for cockroaches to find organic food sources. A report by the International Journal of Scientific Research describes how cockroaches will eat anything when hungry, such as starch-based paints, wallpaper paste, envelope glue, and soaps – all of which contain carbohydrates.
It might surprise you to find out what else cockroaches will eat:
Cockroaches will eat paint, as long as it is starch-based. As described by Science Daily, starch-based paints are becoming more widely used as a sustainable and cost-effective product for pocket conscious homeowners.
Because cockroaches can digest cellulose, they will even eat books, discarded pizza boxes, wallpaper paste, glue on the back of stamps, and paper bags. All contain starch, which is a nutritious food source that provides carbohydrates that fuel roaches and aids with their survival.
Decaying food is a favorite with cockroaches as it contains all the essential nutrients they need to survive, including protein, sugar, and starch.
Decaying food can also be found down the back of kitchen cupboards and the fridge. It doesn’t need to be solid, either. Roaches will happily feast on liquids that have dripped down the back of a drawer or door. While strong-smelling rotten foods repel humans, they attract roaches and lets them know food is nearby. Roaches can even bite through tinfoil to get to it.
Decaying plants and leaves also make a good food source for cockroaches, meaning roaches have access to plenty of food if the empty house comes with an abandoned garden.
Food waste makes up a large part of a cockroach’s diet. Cockroaches love human food and will feast on anything greasy or fermented. But realistically, roaches will eat any waste they can find, especially if they have easy access to it.
Empty homes with rotting food are particularly attractive to roaches. If a bin has been left with food inside, roaches are more likely to infest the house. And once they do, they’re difficult to get rid of.
Cockroaches are more than happy to eat animal droppings. As an organic substance, feces provides an ample source of nutrients and energy. And the truth is, cockroaches don’t see feces like we do and lack the brain capacity to determine that poop is disgusting.
Empty houses attract mice, birds, and other small animals. Cockroaches can live in harmony with these creatures by hiding from them in small cracks and gaps while feasting on their droppings to stay alive.
Female German cockroaches can lay up to 384 eggs in their lifetime, so overpopulation is common in German cockroach intrusions. This naturally limits the amount of food available, so younger nymph roaches and eggs are often the first to be eaten.
Cockroaches will also eat dead, dying, or wounded roaches when food is scarce. However, many homeowners use these cannibalistic tendencies as an effective way to destroy roach colonies. If a cockroach eats poisoned bait, those feasting on the roach will also fall victim, therefore eliminating the entire colony.
Cockroaches self-regulate and will eliminate weaker, younger members of the intrusion if there isn’t enough food to go around. Female roaches will even consume nymphs and eggs when food is scarce. This means there are fewer mouths to feed and a greater chance of survival as a result.
To avoid cannibalism, German cockroach nymphs have developed a pheromone that repels adult roaches. They also forage for food in the daytime to avoid adult roaches that forage at night.
Will Cockroaches Go Away on Their Own?
Cockroaches spend most of their time foraging and looking for food and will only go away on their own if the food supply dries up. However, this is unlikely, given the number of available foods for cockroaches to live on.
Cockroaches also breed and multiply fast. Female roaches can birth up to 60 offspring at a time, making an infestation challenging to eradicate. Females don’t even reproduce in the traditional way but can produce eggs without fertilization.
This means that roaches are likely to remain in a warm, humid home where they can sustain their population. Even if a few roaches disperse from the house, most will remain and survive on what they can find throughout the property.
How To Keep Roaches Out Of An Empty Home
If you know your house will be empty for an extended period, you must do everything you can to prevent cockroaches from coming in. It won’t be easy, given that cockroaches are small and agile, but it is possible using the following steps:
Keep Everything Clean
Sanitize all surfaces, including the kitchen sides, bathrooms, plugs, and floors, to remove any grains of food and water spillages. Cockroaches can find even the tiniest traces of foods – the smells will attract them.
Wipe down the backs of cupboards too. These hard to reach areas are where cockroaches are likely to hide, so don’t miss a single part of your home when you clean it.
Check for Leaks
Cockroaches need access to water to survive. Oriental cockroaches, in particular, thrive in wet environments and live in bathrooms where they have easy access to water.
Water leaks provide the ideal environment for most household cockroaches, so you’ll need to check under every sink and heating system to ensure everything is bone dry.
Also, check your washing machine, dishwasher, and any other appliance that requires water. If you do find a leak, don’t leave it; otherwise, you’re at risk of infestation.
Clear All Rubbish
Cockroaches will eat anything starchy, including paper and cardboard – common household trash. Therefore, bin all paper-based garbage and keep important documents safely stored away where cockroaches can’t get to them.
Similarly, clear out all garbage bins and give them a deep clean to remove any traces of food waste that cockroaches will feast on.
Seal All Cracks
To prevent cockroaches from getting into your home, seal all gaps, cracks, and holes. Silicone caulk is one of the most effective substances and lasts for up to 20 years.
Seal all doors, as this is the easiest way for cockroaches to get into the home. You can do this by applying a sturdy aluminum or steel threshold to the bottom. Combining one with a door sweep offers maximum cockroach protection and stops them from gaining access.
Cockroaches can use even the tiniest cracks. As a rule of thumb, if a thin pencil can fit through, cockroaches can too. Check for cracks and gaps during the day when you can see them clearly.
Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a powdery white substance that doubles up as an effective cockroach repellent. It damages the digestive system and the outer skeleton of pests that consume the substance, killing them quickly.
While you’re away from your home, squirt borax powder down the back of your cabinets and underneath if you have access. Mixing it with sugar encourages roaches to eat the powder.
It’s important to remember that even the cleanest homes attack roaches. An infestation is not a reflection on how clean you’ve left your empty house but is because of how easy it is for roaches to enter.
You can take many steps to prevent cockroaches from using your house as a base, but don’t be disheartened if an intrusion appears. Instead, focus on eradicating the colony and future-proofing the home so that it doesn’t happen again.