Can You Kill a Cockroach By Stepping on It? (and Should You?)

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When dealing with bugs in the home, your first instinct is to either run or kill them. Squashing tends to be the preferred method for killing a wide range of pests, such as the housefly or (if you’re skilled enough) fleas.

But you may have heard it’s not possible to kill cockroaches this way due to their speed and toughness. But is this really true?

Stepping on a cockroach can indeed be fatal to the bug, as the force of your foot can squash its body and kill it instantly. However, it’s important to make sure that you completely crush it, as cockroaches are known for their ability to withstand significant pressure.

There’s also a question of whether or not you should squash a roach. Let’s dive deeper into the topic, examining the factors that contribute to the effectiveness of this method and why it might not be a good idea.

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Anatomy of a Cockroach

We should begin with a brief refresher on the common physiology between many types of roaches. We won’t get into termites, which are actually roaches similar to palmetto bugs but have a slightly different evolutionary path.


Your common cockroach has a rigid exoskeleton that helps protect its body. Their exoskeletons are made from a strong material called chitin, which provides support and protection. They need to get rid of, or molt, these exoskeletons several times during their lives to grow.
After molting, most roaches are white and vulnerable, but a hormone called bursicon causes the exoskeleton to darken and harden, making them more robust again. How Stuff Works gives a great, detailed explanation of how cockroach exoskeletons work.

Do Roaches Have Red Blood?

Unlike mammals, roaches do not have blood similar to ours. Instead, they have a clear substance called hemolymph, which is the equivalent of insect blood. It is responsible for circulating nutrients and waste while also providing some immune function.

Although it does not contain any red blood cells, it does contain various other cells, or hemocytes, that help with clotting and fighting infections. When the exoskeleton is compromised, the roach will “bleed” much like we do if our skin is cut.

Stepping on a Cockroach

stepping on roach
So what exactly happens when you try to step on a roach? Well, hopefully you’re wearing shoes and not doing so in your bare feet, not only because that’s gross, but because studies have found a cockroach can survive pressures of up to 900 times its body weight.
Here’s everything you need to know about how they react when your foot comes down.

What Happens When You Squish a Cockroach?

When you step on a cockroach with enough force, you can kill it by crushing its exoskeleton and body. However, if you don’t apply enough pressure or if your shoe has a soft sole, the cockroach may survive and escape.

You may also need to get just the right angle if your shoe has tread patterns, especially for smaller roaches.

Do Roaches Poop When You Step on Them?

roach poop

Roaches can excrete waste when you step on them due to the sudden pressure applied to their bodies. This can be a natural response to being squished, but it’s not always a guaranteed occurrence.

However, if it happens, this can increase the risk of contamination to that area.

Do Cockroaches Release Pheromones When Killed?

Yes, when you kill a cockroach by crushing it, the insect CAN release pheromones that attract other roaches. These chemical signals may bring more cockroaches to the area, making it less ideal as a method of pest control.

What Happens if You Step on a Cockroach Barefoot?

Stepping on a cockroach barefoot probably won’t kill the insect, as the lack of protection and pressure provided by shoes makes it difficult to crush the bug completely.

Additionally, it could be an unpleasant and unsanitary experience for your feet as the cockroach’s fluids may come into contact with your skin.

Read Also: What Color of Light Do Roaches Hate?

Potential Issues With Stepping on Roaches

how to get rid of roaches

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The effectiveness of killing a cockroach with your feet goes beyond whether or not you effectively squash it. There are also some additional risks that need to be considered.

Hygiene Concerns

When you step on a cockroach, it’s not just about getting rid of the unwanted pest. There are also hygiene concerns to consider.

Crushing a cockroach can cause its internal body parts to spill out and contaminate your floor. This mess could pose a risk to your family members, especially children, and pets if they come into contact with it.

Another potential issue is that if you don’t properly disinfect the area after stepping on the cockroach, harmful bacteria may spread. Cockroaches have been known to carry various pathogens that can pose potentially serious health risks, such as Salmonella and staphylococci. Studies have also linked cockroaches to hay fever and asthma attacks.

See Also: What Happens if a Cat Eats a Cockroach?

Spreading of Ootheca

Stepping on a roach also raises the possibility of spreading its ootheca, or egg case. When a cockroach is crushed, its ootheca can potentially break open and disperse the eggs elsewhere.

If these eggs are viable and end up in a suitable environment, such as a nearby crack or crevice, they can hatch and lead to a new population of cockroaches in your home. To avoid this issue, it’s important to dispose of the ootheca carefully if you happen to squish a cockroach carrying one.

One possible method is placing the eggs in a sealable plastic bag before throwing them away, to prevent any possibility of the eggs hatching and crawling back into your home. Just try not to break the ootheca open when collecting it.

Can Cockroach Eggs Stick To Your Shoe?

There is a possibility that cockroach eggs can stick to your shoes when you step on them if the ootheca breaks open. However, this would depend on the specific situation, the type of shoe, and the location of the eggs.

You could then end up tracking the eggs into other rooms where they’ll be able to hatch. To avoid spreading cockroach eggs, it’s always best to use alternative roach control methods as noted below.

Does Killing a Roach Attract More Cockroaches?

As mentioned earlier, killing a roach by stepping on it can release pheromones that attract more cockroaches. So, rather than reducing their numbers, this method might lead to a larger cockroach infestation.

Why this happens isn’t completely understood, but similar responses can be seen in other insects, such as many species of ants.

Better Methods of Killing Cockroaches

As you can see, simply stepping on a cockroach might not be enough to kill it, and may even be counterproductive. Here are some alternatives you may wish to consider instead.

Physical Methods

There are many other physical methods to eliminate cockroaches beyond stepping on one. One method involves using a mixture of fabric softener and water in a spray bottle to suffocate the roaches. Of course, this solution works only if it comes into direct contact with the insects.

Another natural option that’s far more effective is to use food-grade diatomaceous earth (or DE), which is a fine powder that can damage the exoskeleton of pretty much any bug, ultimately dehydrating and killing them while being generally safe and non-toxic for humans and pets.

Borax can be used instead of DE but must be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

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Chemical Methods

If physical methods aren’t giving you the desired results, various chemical methods can be considered. Some effective chemical treatments include:

  • Bait: These can be bait stations or gel that’s applied using a syringe. Both types attract and kills roaches.

  • Roach-killing sprays: Sprays such as Raid Ant and Roach Killer are used to directly target and kill cockroaches on contact.

  • Insect growth regulators (IGRs): These products, such as Gentrol, are used where spraying isn’t acceptable and prevent roaches from developing or reproducing.
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