Do Cockroaches Play Dead? 10 Shocking Facts

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Have you ever come across a cockroach lying motionless on the ground, only to see it scurry away when you try to remove it?

If so, you may be wondering, “Do cockroaches play dead?” The short answer is yes! But why and how do they do it?

Keep reading to find out more about this fascinating behavior and how to tell if a cockroach is really dead or just playing possum.

In this article, we’ll explore the different reasons why cockroaches play dead, how they do it, and how to tell the difference between a dead cockroach and one that’s just pretending. So, let’s dive in!

Where Can You Find a Cockroach Playing Dead?

Do Cockroaches Play Dead?  Where Can You Find a Cockroach Playing Dead?

If you’ve ever encountered a cockroach playing dead, you might be wondering where these sneaky creatures tend to hang out when they’re pretending to be lifeless. While cockroaches can be found pretty much anywhere, there are certain locations where they are more likely to play dead.

One common place to find cockroaches playing dead is in dark, damp areas like basements, crawl spaces, and bathrooms. These areas provide the perfect environment for cockroaches to thrive and also offer plenty of hiding spots for them to play dead when threatened.

Another location where you might find cockroaches playing dead is in kitchens and other areas where there is a ready supply of food and water. Cockroaches are attracted to these areas, and will often play dead if they feel threatened while scavenging for a meal.

Cockroaches may also play dead in areas where they have been exposed to insecticides or other pest control measures. Since these chemicals can be harmful to cockroaches, they may play dead as a defense mechanism to avoid further exposure.

In addition to these locations, cockroaches may also play dead in areas where they are disturbed by humans or other predators. This includes areas where there is a lot of foot traffic or where there are pets that may be inclined to chase or attack them.

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Why Do Cockroaches Play Dead?

There are several reasons why cockroaches play dead, and understanding these reasons can help you better deal with these pesky insects.

Do Cockroaches Play Dead? Why Do Cockroaches Play Dead?

Defense mechanism

One reason why cockroaches play dead is for defense purposes. When threatened, a cockroach may play dead to avoid being attacked or eaten by a predator.

This behavior allows them to avoid danger and continue their activities once the threat has passed. Playing dead is a way for cockroaches to protect themselves without having to actively engage with the threat.

Mating purposes

Another reason why cockroaches play dead is for mating purposes. During mating, the male cockroach may play dead to avoid being rejected by the female.

This behavior is known as thanatosis, and it involves the male lying motionless on his back. This makes the female think that the male is already dead, and it can increase the chances of successful mating.


Cockroaches are cold-blooded insects, which means they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

When the temperature is too hot or cold, cockroaches may play dead to conserve energy and avoid further exposure to extreme temperatures. This behavior allows them to survive in harsh environments and ensures their long-term survival.

Physical trauma

Cockroaches are hardy insects that can withstand many forms of harm, but there are a few things that can cause them to play dead.

One of the most common reasons is physical trauma. When a cockroach sustains damage to its body, whether it’s from a fall or a direct hit, it may go into a state of shock and play dead. This allows the insect to conserve energy and possibly recover from the injury.

Exposure to Insecticides

Cockroaches may play dead when they are exposed to insecticides. These chemicals can be harmful to their nervous system and can cause them to become paralyzed.

Playing dead is a way for them to avoid further exposure to the chemicals and protect themselves until the insecticide wears off.

Getting Squished

Cockroaches may play dead when they are squished. This behavior can be a last-ditch effort to survive, as playing dead can sometimes cause the predator to lose interest and move on to other prey. However, once a cockroach has been squished, it is unlikely to survive for long.

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How Do Cockroaches Play Dead?

Cockroaches have a unique way of playing dead as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened. The physical changes that occur in their body allow them to stay motionless for an extended period, making it difficult for predators or humans to detect them.

Cockroach playing Dead (Dreamer)

When a cockroach is playing dead, it goes into a state of immobility, and its legs and antennae will fold against its body. The cockroach will also slow down its breathing and heartbeat to conserve energy. This position helps to protect its vital organs and makes it less vulnerable to attack.

In addition, it secretes a liquid that makes it appear as if it is not alive. These physical changes allow the cockroach to stay still and undetected, even when prodded or touched.

During this state of playing dead, the cockroach is still aware of its surroundings and ready to spring into action if it detects danger. When the threat has passed, the cockroach will slowly start to move its legs and antennae and eventually get up and continue with its daily activities.

Do Large Cockroaches Flip Over to Play Dead?

When it comes to playing dead, cockroaches may or may not flip over onto their backs. This behavior can vary depending on the species and size of the cockroach.

In general, smaller cockroaches are more likely to flip over onto their backs when playing dead. This is because their small size makes it easier for them to curl up and assume a protective posture in this position.

Larger cockroaches, on the other hand, may not need to flip over to play dead. Instead, they may simply remain motionless and rigid in their current position. This is because their larger size and thicker exoskeletons provide them with more protection against predators.

It's important to note that while playing dead is a common defense mechanism for many species of cockroaches, not all cockroaches will exhibit this behavior. Some may choose to flee or fight when faced with danger, rather than playing dead.

How to Know if a Cockroach is Playing Dead

If you want to make sure that the cockroach you found is actually dead or just playing dead, there are some steps you can take to confirm its status.

Do Cockroaches Play Dead ? How to Know if a Cockroach is Playing Dead

Touch it with a long stick

One method is to make sure if the cockroach is dead touch it with a long stick. You can also poke it with a pen, a gloved hand, or a shoe. If the cockroach is playing dead, it will typically start to move or run away instantly.

However, there are cases where the cockroach is playing dead but is in shock, so it may not move at all. It’s important to note that if the cockroach is alive, it may also feel threatened and become aggressive if you poke it, so it’s best to exercise caution and keep a safe distance.

Touch it with a feather

Another way to check if the cockroach is dead is by gently touching it with a feather or pencil. If there is no movement, the cockroach is likely dead.

However, it’s essential to wear gloves when touching a dead cockroach or using a tool, never with your bare hands. Cockroaches carry harmful diseases and bacteria, which can spread to humans through contact with their bodies.

Spray the cockroach with a mist of water

If you’re not sure if a cockroach is playing dead or actually dead, try spraying it with a mist of water. A playing dead cockroach may react to the water and start moving. It’s a quick and easy way to confirm its status.

Shine a bright light on the cockroach

One more way to check if a cockroach is playing dead is to shine a bright light on it. If the cockroach is playing dead, it may react to the light and move. This is because cockroaches are nocturnal creatures, and they are naturally attracted to light.

So, shining a bright light on a playing dead cockroach can stimulate it and cause it to move. If the cockroach does not react to the light, it may be dead.

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Wait for a few minutes to see if the cockroach moves on its own

If you want to be extra sure that the cockroach is actually dead, another method is to wait and see if it moves on its own. This may take a few minutes, but if the cockroach remains still and doesn’t show any signs of movement, it’s likely that it’s dead.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that cockroaches can play dead for extended periods, sometimes up to several hours. So, if you’re not sure whether the cockroach is dead or just playing dead, you may want to wait a bit longer before disposing of it.

Place the cockroach in a plastic bag and seal it

If you are still unsure whether the cockroach is playing dead or not, another way to confirm its status is by placing it in a plastic bag and sealing it. If it’s playing dead, it may try to escape by moving around inside the bag.

However, be careful when handling the bag and wear gloves to avoid any potential health risks. If the cockroach remains motionless even after being in the bag for a few minutes, it’s likely dead.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Dead Cockroach and a Playing One

It can be hard to tell if a cockroach is really dead or just pretending to be dead. But there are some things you can look for that will help you know for sure.

IndicatorDead CockroachPlaying Dead Cockroach
Antennae MovementsNot movingMoving
Leg PositionSplayed outCurled up or tucked under body
OdorNo odorFoul odor
NumbersAloneIn a group
  • Antennae Movements: One of the key indicators of whether a cockroach is alive or dead is the movement of its antennae. If the antennae are still moving, there is a good chance that the cockroach is still alive and playing dead.
  • Leg Position: Another factor to pay attention to is the position of the cockroach’s legs. If the legs are splayed out and not tucked under its body, the cockroach is likely dead. However, if the legs are curled up or tucked under the body, it may be playing dead.
  • Odor: Some species of cockroaches emit a foul odor when they are disturbed or threatened. If you notice a strong smell coming from the cockroach, it may be a sign that it is alive and playing dead.
  • Numbers: If you have found multiple cockroaches in the same location, it is unlikely that they are all dead. Cockroaches are social creatures and tend to congregate in groups. If you see a group of cockroaches, it is more likely that they are playing dead rather than all being deceased.
It is important to be cautious when trying to determine if a cockroach is dead or alive. If you are unsure, it is best to assume that it is alive and take appropriate measures to remove it from your living space.

How Long Do Cockroaches Play Dead?

If you come across a cockroach that appears to be dead, you may wonder how long it will stay in that state. The duration of a cockroach playing dead can vary depending on a few factors.

Cockroach Playing Dead

Firstly, the species of the cockroach can impact how long it stays in a playing dead state. Some species, such as the American cockroach, are known to play dead for longer periods of time than others.

Additionally, the temperature and humidity of the environment can affect how long a cockroach plays dead. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, or if the humidity is too high or too low, the cockroach may not be able to maintain its playing dead state for as long.

And the level of stress or trauma the cockroach has experienced can also impact how long it stays in a playing dead state. If the cockroach has been exposed to a predator or other danger, it may stay in a playing dead state for longer as a survival mechanism.

So in general, a cockroach will stay in a playing dead state for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Can Cockroaches Come Back to Life?

In short, while it is true that cockroaches are known for their resilience and ability to survive in harsh conditions, they cannot come back to life once they are dead.

Like all living organisms, cockroaches require oxygen and nutrients to function and survive. When a cockroach dies, its body systems shut down and it no longer has the ability to take in oxygen or nutrients. As a result, the cells in the cockroach’s body start to break down, leading to irreversible damage and ultimately, death.


However, It is worth noting that there have been some instances where seemingly dead cockroaches have come back to life, but in these cases, the cockroaches were likely in a state of torpor, which is a type of deep sleep that some insects enter as a way to conserve energy.

While in torpor, the cockroach’s metabolism slows down, and it may appear dead to the naked eye. However, once the conditions become more favorable, the cockroach can awaken from torpor and resume its normal activities.

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If you come across a cockroach that appears to be dead, it’s important to take precautions and assume that it may still be alive. Even if the cockroach is actually dead, it can still carry harmful bacteria and diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

So while cockroaches are known for their resilience and ability to survive in harsh conditions, they cannot come back to life once they are dead.

Do Cockroaches React to Dead Cockroaches?

When a cockroach dies, other cockroaches in the area can detect its presence through chemical signals known as pheromones. These signals can alert other cockroaches to the presence of a food source or a potential threat, depending on the circumstances.

In some cases, live cockroaches may consume dead cockroaches as a source of protein. This behavior is more commonly observed in overcrowded or resource-poor environments where food is scarce.

However, not all species of cockroaches exhibit this behavior, and it may depend on factors such as the age and size of the dead cockroach.

Dead cockroaches can also attract other types of insects such as ants, beetles, and flies. These insects are attracted to the decomposing flesh of the cockroach and may use it as a food source.

In some cases, these insects may even lay their eggs in or near the dead cockroach, leading to further infestation.

It is important to note that while dead cockroaches can attract other pests, this does not necessarily mean that they are the primary cause of an infestation.

Cockroaches are attracted to areas with easy access to food, water, and shelter, and may already be present in large numbers before a dead cockroach is even introduced to the environment.

What to Do If You Found a Dead Cockroach

If you come across a dead cockroach in your home, it can be unsettling. Before taking any action, make sure it’s not a cockroach playing dead, as they can stay in that state for a while. Once you’re sure it’s a dead cockroach, there are a few methods you can use to dispose of it.

Do Cockroaches Play Dead?  What to Do If You Found a Dead Cockroach

Clean up the area

If you have found a dead cockroach in your home, the first thing you should do is clean up the area.

Use gloves to pick up the dead cockroach and dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag. You can then use a disinfectant cleaner to wipe down the area where the cockroach was found. This will help eliminate any bacteria or germs that may have been left behind.

Sanitize the area

After cleaning up the dead cockroach, it’s important to sanitize the area to ensure that any potential germs or bacteria are eliminated.

You can use a disinfectant spray or wipe to thoroughly clean the surrounding area. This will help prevent any possible health risks and keep your home clean and hygienic.

Check for more cockroaches

After finding a dead cockroach, it’s important to check the area for any signs of more cockroaches.

This can help prevent a potential infestation. Look for any cracks or openings where cockroaches may have entered and seal them up. Also, make sure to keep the area clean and free of any food or water sources that may attract cockroaches.

If you do find more cockroaches, it’s best to contact a pest control professional to help with removal and prevention.

Use spray insecticides

When using spray insecticides to deal with dead cockroaches, it’s important to use the appropriate product and follow the instructions carefully. Look for an insecticide that is labeled specifically for use against cockroaches, and be sure to follow the instructions on the label regarding how to apply the product.

To use a spray insecticide, spray the product directly on the dead cockroach and the surrounding area. Be sure to wear gloves and avoid getting the spray on your skin or in your eyes. After spraying, leave the area for a few hours to allow the product to work.

Use traps, baits

To use traps and baits, you can set up baited glue traps in areas where cockroaches are commonly found. These traps contain a sticky adhesive that will trap cockroaches as they walk across them.

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Take preventive measures

After you have taken the necessary steps to clean and sanitize the area where the dead cockroach was found, there are still some simple and effective measures you can take to prevent future infestations.

These preventive measures can help keep your home free of cockroaches and reduce the likelihood of finding any more dead ones

  • Keep your home clean and free of food debris: Cockroaches are attracted to food and water sources, so it’s essential to keep your home clean and tidy. Don’t leave food out in the open, and make sure to clean up spills and crumbs immediately.
  • Seal any cracks or crevices: Cockroaches can enter your home through small cracks and gaps. Seal any openings around pipes, vents, and doors to prevent them from entering.
  • Store food in airtight containers: Cockroaches can easily get into open food containers. Store your food in airtight containers to prevent them from getting inside.
  • Regularly dispose of garbage: Make sure to take out your garbage regularly and keep your trash cans clean.

Final Thoughts

Finding a dead cockroach in your home can be unsettling, but it’s important to understand that it’s a natural occurrence. Cockroaches do play dead as a defense mechanism, and it’s not uncommon to find dead ones in your home.

However, it’s crucial to take proper steps to clean up and sanitize the area to prevent any potential health risks or attract other pests. Using spray insecticides, traps, and baits can be effective in controlling and preventing cockroach infestations.

Additionally, taking preventive measures such as sealing cracks and gaps and keeping your home clean can greatly reduce the chances of future cockroach sightings. By following these steps and understanding the behavior of cockroaches, you can ensure a clean and pest-free home.


Why do cockroaches play dead?

Cockroaches play dead as a survival strategy to protect themselves from predators or danger. When a cockroach feels threatened, it will fall on its back and remain still, making it appear as if it is dead.

How do I know if a roach is playing dead?

If you see a cockroach lying on its back and not moving, it is likely playing dead. You can gently nudge the cockroach to see if it reacts. If it doesn’t move, it may be dead. However, if it suddenly springs to life, it was likely just playing dead.

Why do I keep finding cockroaches on their back?

Cockroaches may end up on their back due to various reasons, such as trying to escape from predators, getting stuck in traps, or being affected by insecticides. If you consistently find cockroaches on their back, it may indicate that there is an infestation in your home and it’s time to take action.

Do German cockroaches play dead?

Yes, German cockroaches can play dead. Like other species of cockroaches, they use this tactic as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened

Do all species of cockroaches play dead?

Most species of cockroaches will play dead when they feel threatened. However, some species may not use this tactic as often or as effectively as others.

Is playing dead a conscious decision for cockroaches?

No, playing dead is not a conscious decision for cockroaches. It is a reflexive behavior triggered by a threat response in the cockroach’s nervous system.

Can cockroaches come back to life after being frozen?

No, cockroaches cannot come back to life after being frozen. Freezing temperatures will kill cockroaches and other insects.

How long does it take for a cockroach to die after being sprayed with Raid?

The time it takes for a cockroach to die after being sprayed with Raid or other insecticides will vary depending on the product used, the size of the cockroach, and other factors. However, most insecticides will kill a cockroach within a few minutes to a few hours.

Can humans trigger thanatosis in cockroaches?

While it’s possible for humans to trigger thanatosis in cockroaches, it’s not recommended. Handling cockroaches can be dangerous and may cause significant stress to the insect.

Resources – (for further reading)

National Library of Medicine – A review of thanatosis (death feigning) as an anti-predator behaviour

North Carolina State University – Insect Defenses – ENT 42

Wikibooks – Wikijunior:Bugs/Cockroach

Current Science – Torpor in insects

I'm Ernest M Noah, the founder of I have years of experience as an exterminator in Texas and Idaho, and I'm passionate about educating people on how to deal with pest problems effectively and safely.