Cockroaches are one of the most hated creatures on the planet, and disgust and horrify us despite being a vital part of the overall ecological cycle. Regardless, most people would not want their houses infested with them, and like to spend as little time around them or their filth as possible. Unfortunately, since they are an important part of the food chain and here to stay, we have to know about them, and over the years much myth has built up about them, and many new facts have been discovered. In today’s article, we will go over 10 shocking and disgusting facts you never wanted to know about cockroaches.
10. Roaches Can Survive For About A Week Without Their Heads In Place
Most people are creeped out by cockroaches, but they can get far worse than you can even imagine. In most fantasy novels, even some of the nastiest monsters are over and done with as soon as you get a good, clean decapitation. However, if you take the head off a cockroach, it can keep running around and grossing you out for quite some time — although it cannot do much else. The reason for this is the unique way a cockroach’s body works, which allows it to not need a head for silly things like breathing.
The cockroach can actually breathe though the segments in its body, so it can survive pretty much indefinitely on the air front. It also doesn’t have to worry about bleeding out because it has an open circulatory system. However, this does not mean the cockroach can survive forever. It cannot eat or drink without a head, and thus will only last for about a week or so before it runs out of water stores. During this time, all it can really do is hide in a dark corner and wait to die, unable to eat, drink or even scream in its tiny cockroach voice.
9. A Girl From Oklahoma Collects And Breeds Giant Cockroaches… For Fun
A young girl from Oklahoma was on TV a few years back on a show that showcased people’s most bizarre obsessions, hobbies, or habits. In this case, the girl was seriously into collecting cockroaches and keeping them as pets. She started off with just a few males, so they couldn’t breed, but eventually did get some females and started breeding them. Now, in the videos these cockroaches look absolutely gigantic, and that is because they are, but these are not normal cockroaches. Apparently the cockroaches she collects are Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which can get up to three inches long, and like to be petted.
She sometimes keeps them in egg cartons, or glass cages lined with vaseline. Her parents are held hostage by these horrible creatures, and seem to put up with it because their daughter loves the things, but only just barely put up with it. They keep a bearded dragon to get any who may escape, but that is probably not that much comfort to the parents, or of those who fear the thought of all of those cockroaches escaping, breeding out of control, and creating a three inch cockroach-fest all over the country.
8. Cockroaches Are Resistant To Radiation, But Probably Not As Much As You Think
One of the most persistent beliefs about nuclear apocalypses is that the only things that would survive would be cockroaches and Twinkies. However, both of these beliefs are quite mistaken. For starters, Twinkies really only have a shelf life of a few weeks at best, as they actually do use mostly fresh, real ingredients even if they might seem artificial in taste and texture, and cockroaches are not nearly as resistant to radiation as you might think.
The Mythbusters once tested out the idea about cockroaches surviving radiation, and found that while the cockroach did do about 10 times better than humans, its resistance was still not strong enough to protect it if it was relatively close to a blast. In actuality, a lot of insects do better than us at dealing with radiation, but cockroaches are not really that close to the best at it. Some relatively common beetles, as well as some of the nastiest and most dangerous wasp species, can resist radiation notably better than the cockroach. Of course what this means is that in general, there probably would be a decent amount of insects surviving after an apocalypse, and you might even see a huge surge in wasp populations worldwide.
7. Some Cockroach Species, Even In America, Can Actually Fly, Or At Least Glide
Most people hate cockroaches enough just scurrying quickly across the ground, but a lot of people hate them even more when they can fly. Now, some of you are probably taken aback and horrified at the thought of flying cockroaches, and that’s because you are lucky enough to have not had to deal with them. The truth, however, is that many cockroach species can fly, even in the United States.
On top of that, some species of cockroaches that are not particularly strong flyers still actually glide a decent amount of the time to get down from high places, and could accidentally land on your head or shoulders. Now, while this may be cold comfort to some, most cockroaches never bother to fly even if they are capable, because they find their incredible speed on the ground to be more than fast enough to get away, and it also attracts less unwanted attention from flying predators. The truth is that in flight they are kind of ungainly, but on the ground they have been clocked as fast as 59 inches per second, and the children can be almost as fast as the full grown parents.
6. Cockroaches Can Hold Their Breath For 5 to 7 Minutes
Many wild sources on the internet claim that cockroaches can hold their breath for an incredible, and horrifying, 40 minutes. Now, this is actually absolute codswallop. A cockroach can only hold their breath for about five to seven minutes long, although this is actually still quite horrifying for a creature of its size, now that we come to think of it. As you are probably now imagining, any time you tried to flush a cockroach down a pipe with water and thought you had the problem solved, that was really just a temporary sendoff — that cockroach will almost certainly survive and be right back.
And of course this is the biggest use cockroaches seem to have for their breath-holding capabilities, which is to come into your house using water sources as a channel to get from one place to another. However, cockroaches have also been observed holding their breath when it is not necessary at all — or in other words, when they are not surrounded by water. It was also observed that roaches tended to hold their breath more in drier environments, which led to the conclusion that they were likely holding their breath in order to conserve water. As far as we can tell, the theory holds up, as roaches seem to use less of their water stores while holding their breath.
5. Roaches Are Attracted To Your Alcoholic Drinks, Including Your Beer, Not Just Cocktails
Of course roaches are attracted to sugar, just like ants and many other insects, and will come out and take a look at your food — although they are also attracted to pretty much any food in general. However, it seems for some reason that they are actually more attracted to beer than they are your cocktails. Exterminators are not exactly sure why this is, they believe it must be some combination of the sugar, the hops and the fermentation that particularly attracts them — or maybe like many creatures they like to get drunk.
Regardless, many people have used this to their advantage, as they have found beer is an incredibly reliable way to get the attention of cockroaches. For this reason, people will trap them with glass jars with some beer in the bottom, usually lined with something like vaseline so they cannot get back out again, and drown in the beer they are guzzling. Of course, for some hard drinkers out there, that doesn’t sound like such a bad way to die.
4. Cockroaches Can Be A Major Trigger For People With Allergies Or Asthma
One thing many wonder while Googling about these nasty creatures is whether cockroaches being a huge problem for allergy sufferers is a myth, or a fact. And, unfortunately, it is indeed a fact that cockroaches can be a huge trigger for anyone with allergies or asthma. Cockroaches spread disease, but they also leave droppings and a lot of molted casings and other such bits in their wake. These can get in the air, or over time help create more and worse dust, and be a big contributor to people who suffer from respiratory issues.
If you live in a house your best bet is just to keep things really clean, and get roaches out fast if you have any enter. If you live in an apartment, sometimes they will come by your house because the neighbors have a problem, but again, being clean and tidy is your best defense. If you have people in your home who suffer from allergies or asthma, regularly vacuuming and dusting, and proper cleaning in general, will keep them safe not just from cockroaches, but from any other allergen triggers that might make their lives miserable.
Photo by Jared Belson
3. Adult Cockroaches Can Survive For About A Month Without Any Food
As we mentioned earlier, a cockroach can survive without a head for about a week. And the reason it can only survive for about a week is because it can only survive for so long without food and water. Most scientists put a cockroach’s best bet at surviving without water to be about seven or maybe 10 days if they hold their breath, start out well-hydrated, are in a moist environment, and really conserve air and water. However, what if our hypothetical headless cockroach could somehow remain hydrated? How long would he have to survive just sitting, waiting to die without food?
Well, according to entomologists who have extensively studied roaches, under ideal conditions, a cockroach could probably survive for about a month without any food at all. Now, cockroach egg laying cycles are about 30 days, so a group of cockroaches that was really starved for food, but was already inside your walls, could potentially last long enough to lay yet another brood, even if you leave out nothing for them that they can use as an easy and ready source of food.
2. Sometimes Cockroaches Decide That Your Ear Is a Really Good Place To Hunker Down
One of the most horrifying things that can happen to anyone is getting a bug stuck inside your ear. Unfortunately, this is actually a relatively common occurrence, with another story seeming to pop up in the news every month or so. In some cases, the cockroach gets stuck and dies, and in other cases it manages to actually lay eggs in the ear before dying and being extracted from the poor person who has to deal with this nightmare. Now, some may be wondering why cockroaches like our ears so much. Are they just dumb? In reality, the truth is a lot more scientific.
For starters, roaches like warm, damp, humid places that they can crawl into for a safe place to hide, and the ear of a quietly sleeping, unmoving human actually fits all of that criteria quite nicely. On top of that, the cockroaches are attracted to volatile fatty acids, which appear in some fermented foods, but can also be released by the waxy buildup in your ears. In other words, the cockroach may not just be going into your ear because it thinks it will be a good place to hide for a time, but because it is looking to make a delicious banquet of the golden waxy substance inside your ears.
1. Cockroaches Will Eat Literally Anything — Cleanliness Will Not Necessarily Save You
While many people fear bedbugs because they know the things just want to eat human and other mammal blood, they tend to be a little less afraid of cockroaches. They believe that if they keep everything properly clean and spotless, there will be no reason for the beastly creatures to ever come anywhere near them, and certainly no way for them to truly infest the place. However, the truth is that cockroaches will feed on almost anything you can imagine, as long as it had once been organic matter in some form. To make matters worse, any decay can attract them, and what they consider food could be many different random things that you wouldn’t imagine any creature would want to eat.
Which brings us to our final point. There is a good reason to hate and fear roaches much more now, as they can add a hideous new member to their awful, awful, family. It turns out that after recent discovery and much deliberation, the Entomological Association of America has come out with a statement explaining that termites — those eaters of the wood that makes up much of your house — are actually relatives of our disgusting friend the cockroach.