Bitten by a Cockroach
October 12, 2017 2:56 PM   Subscribe

My cat woke me up last night around 4:00 a.m. for a feeding. I was laying on my side and felt a bug bite on left side. I swiped at it and it was big! I turned on a light and saw a medium-sized cockroach. It had bit me so I killed it. I had no idea cockroaches will bite you like that. Does this happen frequently?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about frequently but I have vivid memories of being bitten by cockroaches at least twice when I was a kid, once at home and once at boarding school. So yes it happens and no it isn't very nice. Just thinking about it gives me the heebies and also the jeebies.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:01 PM on October 12 [6 favorites]

I didn't know roaches bite,
but apparently they do!
It's more likely if they get desperate for food, but maybe it felt cornered by your body.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:43 PM on October 12

"In some ships infested with these insects, sailors frequently complain of having their toe and finger nails, and other hard parts of the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, nibbled by [the roaches]."

The same scholarly review article mentions that roaches have been reported eating skin in people's ears and noses.

I searched for a good bit on scientific work on roach bites, and found no reports on frequency of roach bites on humans, despite an otherwise rich corpus of literature on roaches and roach-human interactions.

Perhaps an opportunity for further research!
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:30 PM on October 12

This is one of the most horrifying things I know so read on only if you dare....I read an article with photographs once about how Scientologists had a woman killed by leaving her in a room with nothing but millions of cockroaches for days. Her body was covered in bites. I won't link to it as I don't want to see it again but google it if you want to.
posted by hazyjane at 9:40 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

I have no objective evidence re: frequency, but when it happened to me (on a visit to my grandma in a zone with big tropical cockroaches), none of my local relatives seemed terribly surprised.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 10:36 PM on October 12

A college roommate of mine grew up in tough housing situations, and she was phobic about cockroaches because they used to bite her in her sleep.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:55 AM on October 13

I have never been bitten by the large tropical cockroaches, but I did find it disturbing on several occassions to wake up finding them drinking my tears.
posted by fairmettle at 4:26 AM on October 13

I think a lot of you are talking about water bugs. I won't look it up or link to it, because I'm trying to have a decent day, but it was recently a topic w/r/t New York apartments on Roz Chast's Fresh Air interview. Terry "Gross" Gross apparently did some background research on roaches vs. water bugs, and water bugs are like, slightly larger than cockroaches and have nicknames like "the toe biter." They have beaks, apparently.

So again, sorry to just put this out there without citing any sources other than Terry Gross trying to trigger Roz Chast. But she makes a compelling case that water bugs are often mistaken for cockroaches and that they will happily bite a person.
posted by witchen at 9:04 AM on October 13

I do not think this is true, witchen. Water bugs live, well, in the water. They don't tend to venture into homes to the extent that roaches do.

If a big brown bug bit you in your bed, it wasn't a water bug.
posted by uberchet at 1:41 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Water bugs also don't have running legs; they're more curved inwards for swimming, they just have a casual resemblance to roaches, and are unlikely to be found inside. Also, a water bug bite isn't a bite: it's an injection, like a spider, and (although I haven't experienced it) supposed to be extremely painful to humans.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:13 PM on October 13

A friend of mine had this issue with German cockroaches. She noticed bites on her arms and assumed bed bugs.
Turns out it was roaches living in the automatic cat feeder. She also found out she's allergic to cockroach bites. She freaked out a little, disposed of the cat feeder, sealed every crack in her apartment and is now living there, roach free. This is the only case of it happening, but it's also the only case I know of them not being just in the kitchen.

As to the water bug thing, there are water bugs that are a nice name for cockroaches (just like palmeto bugs) and there are water bugs that live in the water. The two are different. If someone has water bugs in their house, they have cockroaches.
posted by Hactar at 2:14 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]

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