Roaches have one of the longest life cycles of any household pest. And they lay hundreds of eggs. How long do cockroaches live? And what is their typical lifespan? Here’s the breakdown of their lifespan and life cycle.
Cockroaches live from 7 months to almost 3 years, depending on the species and the absence of external causes of death. American cockroaches live the longest, at more than 1000 days (almost 3 years). And while roaches can live many months, even years, most will die or be eaten much sooner than this.
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What is the Lifespan of a Cockroach?
So, how long do roaches live? Most cockroach species live on average for about two years – about the same lifespan as a mouse. The German cockroach has a shorter lifespan of about 210 days, while the American cockroach lives for up to three years.
They are so resilient that some species can live for a week without a head. Since roaches breathe through their bodies, they only need their mouths to eat and drink.
Lifespan vs Life Expectancy for Roaches
Before we get into all the specifics, it’s good to clarify one detail: Lifespan isn’t the same thing as life expectancy.
- Lifespan doesn’t mean how long a roach will live, but how long it could live.
- Life expectancy of a roach is much shorter than its conceptual lifespan.
There are lots of things working against a roach living a long life. Lots of animals eat roaches, humans kill and repel them, and extreme temperatures, lack of food and water, and essential oils take their toll.
And some humans even enjoy eating roaches in special dishes or drinks.
With so many factors against them, not many roaches are hitting old age and dying of natural causes.
Lifespan refers to how long it could live, not how long anyone actually expects it to survive.
Lifespan of 4 Common Cockroach Species
All cockroaches follow the same life cycle of egg, nymph, and adult. What differs is the time frame.
Here is a summary of four common types of cockroaches.
1. American Cockroach Lifespan
The American cockroach or palmetto bug can live up to 3 years. It is the largest species that infest homes in the southern United States, Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands.
This species can be up to three inches long in the adult stage. The male adult species lives about a year, while the female can live more than two years.
The female American cockroach can produce between 6 and 14 egg capsules with up to 16 eggs in each. The nymphs need 10 to 13 instars (developmental stages) before reaching the adult stage, which can take up to 600 days. Its adult stage can last another 400 days.
Overall, the American cockroach can live for about three years.
American cockroaches live throughout the United States, primarily outdoors or in drains and sewers. In the southern states, they prefer shady areas under mulch or in gardens.
2. German Cockroach Lifespan
German cockroaches can live up to seven months. Once the female German cockroach lays its egg capsule, the lifespan starts. Between 30 to 50 eggs can be in one egg capsule.
One German cockroach can lay up to egg capsules, resulting in 400 additional roaches in an infestation. The egg capsule or ootheca contains eggs for four to eight weeks. The female roach carries it during this time.
The nymphs are smaller than adult roaches. Depending on the species, they can go through several instars where they lose their exoskeletons as they grow.
When hatched, one-day-old cockroaches look like a speck of dust, but they can run fast, making them quick to spread diseases and allergens. Their speed helps them survive predators and eradication attempts.
The nymphs do not have wings but run as quickly as adults. Nymphs cannot make eggs. German cockroaches are in the nymph stage for about six weeks.
Finally, cockroaches reach the adult stage. German cockroaches become darker in color, and the two lines on their backs appear. They can lay eggs and live for an additional three to five months.
3. Brown-banded Cockroach Lifespan
The brown-banded cockroach can live about 204 days.
These domestic (indoor only) cockroaches’ lifespan depends heavily on external air temperature.
Its lifespan varies greatly based on food, water, and shelter conditions. The adult female produces about 14 egg capsules with up to 18 eggs. Unlike other species, the female carries the egg capsule for about a day before attaching it to a hiding place under a safe surface.
Eggs remain in the capsule for up to 100 days. After hatching the nymphs need between 80 and 124 days to reach the adult stage, moving through several instars to grow.
If conditions are harsh, brown-banded cockroaches need more time to develop in the egg and nymph stages. At the adult stage, the roaches live for another 60 days.
4. Oriental Cockroach Lifespan
Oriental cockroaches live from 76 to 261 days.
These roaches are smaller than their American and German counterparts. They can only produce egg cases when the temperatures are above 59 degrees Fahrenheit, but they have adapted to moderate climates where temperatures do not exceed the mid-80s.
Female Oriental roaches lay about eight egg capsules with about 16 eggs in each. They incubate for about 60 days, then they need about two years to reach adulthood. The nymphs move through up to ten instars before reaching the adult stage.
Once they reach adulthood, female Oriental cockroaches live about six months. Males have a slightly shorter lifespan of about five months. From egg to adult, the Oriental cockroach has a lifespan of less than one year.
Cockroach Lifecycle: 3 Stages
The lifespan of a cockroach includes three stages.
Cockroaches go through three stages during their lifespan: egg, nymph, and adult.
1. Cockroach Egg
The egg case is usually placed near a food source and glued into place. Incubation periods can range from 20 to 60 days.
The egg case contains enough water and nutrition for the eggs, that they don’t need to receive anything from their surroundings until they hatch.
2. Cockroach Nymph
Once hatched, the baby cockroach is called a nymph. They molt from 6 to 14 times as they develop into adult cockroaches.
Each stage is called an instar. Developmental instars reveal size and color changes, and the appearance of wings.
Nymphs are capable foragers and move quickly within their environment.
3. Cockroach Adult
Once reaching maturity, the adult cockroach can now reproduce.
The most common household cockroach is the German cockroach, which lives for about 20 to 30 weeks depending on its access to food and water.
What Do Adult Cockroaches Do?
During the adult stage, cockroaches have three tasks: eat, breed, and survive. They have long lifespans because they excel at hiding in small spaces. Most adult roaches only leave their hiding places at night to eat, and they will eat anything.
Roaches have mastered survival because they do not need much food or water to survive.
Since one German cockroach can lay between 300 and 400 eggs during its lifespan, the species continues to thrive.
How Long Can Cockroaches Live Without Food and Water?
Roaches are incredibly resilient and can survive up to a month without food. They need water at least once per week which is why they tend to nest in humid areas.
Roaches will hold their breath to slow dehydration.
Can Cockroaches Survive in the Cold?
Roaches prefer warm and humid climates. They cannot survive freezing temperatures, but they can survive through winters in homes with central heating.
Roaches struggle to lay eggs when the temperatures drop.
How Long Have Cockroaches Been Alive?
Researchers found that roaches have been around since the Carboniferous period, about 350 million years ago. The modern cockroach dates to the Mesozoic era and is about 200 million years old.
The Carboniferous roaches had a feature called an external ovipositor – a tubular egg-laying organ, but the Mesozoic cousins did not have that trait.
Cockroaches have one of the longest life cycles of any household pest. Unfortunately, they also lay a plethora of eggs. Their long lifespans and robust egg-laying make it challenging to get rid of roaches after they’ve moved into your home.
Keep learning about roaches in our huge Roach Guide.
Most roaches do not actually live in human buildings. Scientists have recorded over 4,000 cockroach species, and only about 30 make their way into human homes.
The most common pests are German cockroaches and American cockroaches. Most roaches live in forests, caves, and brush.
So what is the lifespan of a cockroach? Depending on the species, about two years. But no matter the species, cockroaches are among the hardiest and most resilient insects on the planet.
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and writer at The Buginator. And is working to make it the best resource for taking back the outdoors from biting, stinging pests.
He also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Storyteller Tech. Bryan is a partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company he runs with his wife, Dena.