Roaches are a popular feeder insect for a variety of reptiles and amphibians. They are high in protein and meatier than other insects like crickets. They can’t injure your pet if left uneaten, and they don’t have a super hard exoskeleton, so they’re easier for your reptile to digest.
Roaches are fed to lizards, turtles, and even some snakes!
Wait, snakes eat roaches?
Some snakes eat roaches. Green snakes, ringneck snakes, young garter snakes, and shovelnose snakes eat roaches and other insects. Most snakes do not see roaches as food because they are too small to provide adequate nutrition. Furthermore, most snakes cannot digest insect exoskeletons, which are made of a protein called chitin.
Before we dive into what kinds of snakes eat roaches, let’s review some of the kinds of roaches that are commercially available to reptile keepers. There are a ton of different kinds of roaches, but we’ll look at just a few!
What Kinds Of Roaches Are Fed To Reptiles?
Dubia roaches are the most common kind of roach fed to reptiles. They are naturally high in calcium, protein, and moisture. They only get about 2 inches (5 cm) long, but you can buy nymphs if you need to feed a tiny reptile.
Some other kinds of roaches fed to reptiles include discoid and red runner roaches, as well as American cockroaches and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Why Do Some Snakes Eat Roaches?
Snakes that eat roaches are all pretty tiny! Size is one major factor that determines whether or not a snake will see a roach as prey. Snakes that prey on roaches or other insects do so because there isn’t much else their little mouths can handle.
In addition to being itty-bitty, roach-eating snakes usually have very mild venom – or even no venom at all!
What Snakes Eat Roaches?
With that being said, here are some unusual little snakes that dine on roaches!
1. Green Snakes
Both rough and smooth green snakes are known to eat roaches. These two species look very similar to one another, but they’re a little different. Rough green snakes have scales with raised keels that give their bodies a rougher texture, while smooth green snakes do not.
Both species are a beautiful, bright shade of green. While these snakes can be 2-3 feet (0.6-1.0 meters) long, they are slender and must stick to small prey!
Primarily insectivorous, wild green snakes eat roaches, grasshoppers, fly larvae, and other insects. They will also occasionally eat spiders, snails, small frogs, and baby mice.
In captivity, green snakes can be fed mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets, and roaches. However, insects with hard exoskeletons shouldn’t be fed too often. Too many crunchy bugs can cause your little green noodle serious health problems like impaction.
Green snakes can eat roaches, but they should be fed sparingly. Your green snake’s diet should consist primarily of soft worms, like waxworms or hornworms.
While green snakes are adorable and seem like an ideal choice for someone who feels a bit squeamish about handling frozen rodents, they are not for inexperienced snake keepers due to their sensitivity to their environment, occasional refusal to eat, and intolerance for handling.
2. Ringneck Snake
The ringneck snake is another fun-sized snake that eats roaches. This snake reaches a length of 8-14 inches (31-36 centimeters), and it gets its name from the yellowish ring across its neck.
The ringneck snake’s venom is very mild, and their bite does not cause harm to humans. Their weak venom and small, slender bodies limit these snakes to tiny prey.
In the wild, ringneck snakes eat roaches and other insects, as well as salamanders, worms, and slugs – delicious! They also occasionally consume small lizards, frogs, and young snakes of other species.
In captivity, ringneck snakes can be offered earthworms, but will also eat roaches, small salamanders or lizards, slugs, crickets, and mealworms. Watch the ringneck snake in the video below take down a roach nymph!
Ringneck snakes require very specific care and are very shy and sensitive, so they should only be owned by experienced snake keepers.
3. Garter Snake
Another snake that can eat roaches is the garter snake. Adult garter snakes typically reach lengths of 18-26 inches (46-66 cm). These slender snakes come in lots of different colors, and typically have gorgeous light-colored stripes spanning the length of their bodies.
While they are mildly venomous, they pose no danger to humans.
Garter snakes have a varied diet in the wild. These snakes eat roaches, grasshoppers, and other insects. They also eat earthworms, snails, leeches, small fish, crayfish, and occasionally small birds and rodents!
Unlike other snakes on this list, captive-bred garter snakes aren’t too difficult to care for. With proper husbandry, they can be quite friendly! In addition, these snakes are active during the day, so they are fun to watch.
In captivity, garter snakes do well when fed a diet of mostly rodents. They can also be given fish and earthworms. While young garter snakes can eat roaches, it is recommended to feed them pieces of fish, earthworms, and pinky mice because they offer better nutrition.
4. Shovelnose Snake
Another snake that eats roaches is the shovelnose snake, which grows 10 to 17 inches (25 to 43 cm) long. In the wild, these snakes are found in habitats with loose, sandy soil that they can burrow through. Their long, shovel-like snout makes burrowing a breeze – and it’s what they’re named for.
In the wild, these snakes eat roaches and other insects, scorpions, centipedes, and insect larvae. Because they are nonvenomous and incredibly tiny, bugs are the only things these little snakes can overpower.
Due to their very specific care requirements, these snakes are rare in captivity. Even after a lifetime of handling, they do not enjoy being held.
Furthermore, they often refuse food. Captive snakes eat roaches, crickets, earthworms, or insect larvae like waxworms. Each snake has different preferences, and it can be challenging to figure out what your individual likes the best.
As you can see in the video below, this pet shovelnose likes roaches:
Why Don’t Other Snakes Eat Roaches?
Apart from the few snakes we have mentioned here, most snakes do not eat roaches – or any other insects. As you have seen, the snakes that eat roaches are all pretty tiny!
Larger snakes need more nutrition to sustain themselves. Most snakes don’t eat roaches because it is energetically inefficient. Think about how many roaches they would have to catch to get the same amount of energy as they would from a rodent! A lot of snakes don’t even recognize roaches as food.
While snakes can digest bone, most cannot digest chitin – the protein that insect exoskeletons are made of. In a study published in the Herpetologica, researchers found that chitin-rich insects (like beetles) were mostly untouched by snakes’ digestive juices.
Roaches are lower in chitin than some other feeder insects, but too much indigestible material in a snake’s digestive tract can cause problems!
Frequently Asked Questions
Wondering if a specific snake can eat roaches? Check out our frequently asked questions below!
Do Corn Snakes Eat Roaches?
Corn snakes, even babies, do not recognize roaches as prey. Adult corn snakes can be anywhere from 2-6 feet (0.6-1.8 meters) long. Roaches do not provide sufficient nutrients, and, in general, insects are ignored.
In the wild, corn snakes mostly eat rodents, but they may also occasionally consume birds and bats! Young snakes that are too tiny to eat these kinds of prey may eat frogs or salamanders.
In captivity, corn snakes should be fed appropriately sized, pre-killed rodents.
Do Ball Pythons Eat Roaches?
Ball pythons cannot eat roaches. As we discussed with corn snakes, roaches do not provide adequate nutrition for ball pythons and are not recognized as prey.
These constrictors get 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters) long in captivity and prefer larger prey. In the wild, ball pythons mostly eat small mammals and birds.
In captivity, bally pythons should be fed a diet of rodents like mice and rats.
Do Rat Snakes Eat Roaches?
As you might expect from their name, rat snakes eat mostly rodents and other small mammals, and occasionally birds and bird eggs!
These snakes are 3-6 feet (1-2 meters) long, so roaches are not an adequate food source for adult snakes! However, roaches and other insects may be eaten by young snakes. Young rat snakes also eat small frogs and lizards.
In captivity, regardless of their size, rat snakes should be fed primarily mice and rats.
Do Rattlesnakes Eat Roaches?
Yes! Well, the babies do. Young rattlesnakes eat roaches and other insects and small animals because they are too small to prey on much else.
Adult rattlesnakes eat rodents and small mammals, along with the occasional bird. They tend to go after warm-blooded prey. As pit vipers, rattlesnakes have heat-sensing organs in the facial pits that let them “see” the heat signature of their prey. Cold-blooded creatures aren’t as tempting!
From rodents and birds to eggs and insects, snakes eat a lot of different things! As you have learned, there aren’t many snakes that eat roaches. Those that do are very small, and most require a very specific standard of care in captivity. If you are new to the world of snake ownership but aren’t comfortable with feeding pre-killed rodents, you might want to consider another reptile.
It’s fun to vary your pet’s diet, but for most commonly kept snakes, roaches shouldn’t be on the menu! Consult your veterinarian before adding anything new to your snake’s selection of snacks.