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Is It True That Cockroaches Are Disgusted by Humans?

Most people are so disgusted by cockroaches they have physical reactions to just seeing them in their homes.

But could it be true that we are just as grossed-out cockroaches as they are us?

When a person touches a cockroach, the cockroach reacts in a way that can be perceived as disgust. But, more likely, the cockroach’s simpler nervous system can’t understand disgust, and their actions are just survival instincts and impulses. 

Why Cockroaches Gross People Out

A man is surprised at the cockroach on his shoulder.

Roaches are one of the last things you want to see in your home. Most of the time, they’re associated with dirty things and disease. 

Roaches look slimy, are stereotypical creepy-crawlies, and their erratic movement makes our skin crawl.

One of the reasons people develop fears or phobias towards cockroaches is our experiences during childhood. Seeing adults having adverse or fearful reactions to roaches and other insects can lead to growing fears of the creatures later in life. 

Roaches may also carry diseases that spread to people, and infestations tend to occur where diseases can quickly proliferate. 

Our natural aversion toward cockroaches can mainly be attributed to a biological development that makes us want to avoid situations where we can get sick. This biological development, combined with conditioned experiences of others being fearful of the creatures, makes us want to avoid cockroaches at all costs. 

Are Roaches Disgusted By Us?

People have the idea that roaches are disgusted by humans because cockroaches have been observed to react in strange ways when people touch them. 

After being touched by a person, it isn’t uncommon for roaches to run away and clean themselves. But, to us, it looks like our touch grossed them out. 

Despite this behavior, it’s improbable that cockroaches are disgusted by people, at least in how we feel disgusted towards them.

The brain and nervous system of cockroaches are much simpler than ours. This means they can’t feel things the way most vertebrates do. 

Cockroaches, and most insects in general, don’t appear to be able to process emotions like disgust and aren’t even able to feel pain. Instead, their bodies react to external stimuli. 

While insects like cockroaches may know they have been damaged and have a reaction to it, their nervous system doesn’t allow them to feel pain. 

In this same vein, roaches may react to being touched or seen by people in a way that looks disgusted, but it’s much more likely that their reactions are simply survival behaviors.

For example, roaches tend to scurry away when you turn on the light. This behavior helps keep them alive since they hide in dark places where it’s harder for predators to spot them. 

Roaches will also run away when a shadow passes over them for the same reasons. A giant shadow means another big creature that could harm them, so they run. 

The oils on a person’s skin can irritate a roach, smell like a threat, and dampen their senses. That’s why they run off to clean themselves after someone touches them, not because they think it’s gross. 

Can Cockroaches Hurt You?

A man wearing a yellow t-shirt is scared of the cockroach on his chest.

While many people are terrified of cockroaches, do they pose any real threat to a human being?

The answer to this varies, but just like it is improbable that roaches are disgusted by you, it is also unlikely that they will hurt you.

The most dangerous thing about roaches is their potential to make you sick.

Cockroaches can carry bacteria that can cause illness if ingested, so never eat any food a cockroach has been around.

They can also cause allergic reactions in some people or be an asthmatic threat. 

Roaches do have the ability to bite you, but it only happens in sporadic cases. Their mouths can’t puncture through human skin.

The only time a roach may bite you is in a severe infestation, if they’re trying to pick at dead skin, food on your skin, or desperately starving. 

A bite generally would feel itchy and be like a small scratch on the skin, but you’re more likely to be scratched by the heavy spines on their legs than bitten by a roach.

It is possible to have an allergic reaction to their bite or the bacteria on their skin, but bacterial infection is the most likely danger of being bitten or scratched. 

Roaches themselves can’t physically hurt people, but the environments that cockroaches prefer are dangerous. 

Dirty, moist, and unhygienic spaces are their preferred habitats. Unfortunately, these places can lead to serious illness in humans and pose a much more significant risk to people than the roaches themselves. 

Does Killing a Cockroach Attract More?

Usually, when you kill a cockroach in your home, you see more roaches in the same spot later on. 

This observation has led many people to think that cockroaches are attracted to the smell of other dead roaches. While partly true, this isn’t the whole story, and it certainly isn’t because roaches have disgust towards humans. 

When a roach dies, it releases oleic acid, which has a strong smell. Other roaches can smell this from a long way off and aren’t shy about feeding on other roaches.

They may be attracted to the dead cockroach or the scent it leaves behind, thinking they have an easy meal. 

You may also end up smashing a cockroach that’s carrying eggs.

Once these eggs hatch, more roaches will be in the area, growing fast and making it look like Dead cockroaches attracted more roaches because of their dead comrade. 

The smell of a dead roach can attract more roaches, but if you find a cockroach and kill it, there are likely more in the area. Seeing even a single roach in a room signifies an infestation.

While it may not be massive, you don’t see a single cockroach often because of how quickly they breed. 


Cockroaches can’t feel emotions like disgust, but they do display some behaviors that make it seem like people gross them out.

It’s likelier that roaches have developed these strange behaviors to help them survive rather than find humans icky. 

While it is possible for cockroaches to scratch or bite you, it is doubtful and certainly not done to a dislike of humans.

And even though it may seem like more roaches show up once you kill one, you can be pretty sure that the sight of one cockroach is the sign of an unknown infestation.