The first mention of cockroaches can often make your skin crawl and your hairs stand on edge. These crawling insects are synonymous with dirt and filth, and to make matters worse, like a giant bacteria magnet, they can also assist in the spread of disease!
Facts about cockroaches
Amongst all the disgusting habits and connotations around cockroaches, they are actually quite fascinating!
Here are 10 facts about cockroaches you need to know!
1. Cockroaches are cannibals!
Yes, you read that right!
Cockroaches aren’t fussy eaters at all, they will eat pretty much anything, fruit, glue, faeces, you name it! They have even taken to eating other cockroaches to settle their rumbling stomachs, gross right?!
Cockroaches cannibalistic tendency is believed to be down to two reasons: food and regulation. When cockroach infestations reach large numbers and food is scarce, these crawling insects will often turn cannibal as both a source of food and to help reduce population size.
2. Cockroaches are old!
Well, cockroaches themselves aren’t exactly old, the average lifespan of an American cockroach is approximately one year, but evidence suggests that these insects have been around for a very, very long time.
PennState College of Agricultural Science explains that fossil evidence shows that cockroaches have existed for over 300 million years!
Even dinosaurs and cavemen had to endure cockroach infestations in their homes!
3. Cockroaches can’t survive a nuclear explosion
Fortunately, the theory of cockroaches being able to survive a nuclear explosion is just a myth. Well, to some extent.
The myth first appeared after the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 where cockroaches were the only survivors. However, the guys over at MythBusters put an end to this myth by testing the effect 3 levels of radiation have on German cockroaches.
They discovered that cockroaches can’t actually survive a nuclear explosion as none of the crawling insects survived radiation levels of 100,000 rads (1). To sum up, cockroaches can’t survive a nuclear explosion but they can endure far greater levels of radiation than us humans.
4. Cockroaches can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps!
Yep, just like rats and mice, cockroaches can squeeze through the smallest of cracks!
This is all down to their amazing exoskeletons. Cockroaches are able to fit through a gap as small as a quarter of their body height by flattening their flexible exoskeletons and splaying their legs to the side(2).
Watch this video from National Geographic:
5. Cockroaches can trigger asthma
Studies have shown that cockroaches have been linked to triggering asthma as well as other allergies!
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology explain that the saliva, faeces, and shed body parts of cockroaches can trigger asthma when they are kicked up in the air (3). The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America point out that cockroaches contain a protein that is an allergen for many people (4), it is said protein which triggers an asthma attack.
6. Cockroaches can survive a week without a head
Yes, you did read that right. Cockroaches can live for approximately one week without a head!
The reason behind this is, that unlike us, cockroaches don’t need their mouths to breathe. Instead, they use spiracles (tiny hole) in their body to inhale and transport oxygen. Combine this with the ability to survive without food for a month and you have an insect that can last without its head for a week!
7. Cockroaches are super fast!
I mean, really fast! Picture the Flash but in cockroach form!
Cockroaches are insanely quick. Being the prey of many predators, it’s they only defense mechanism. These crawling insects can run up to speeds of 1.5 meters per second (2). To put things into perspective, the human equivalent is around 200 miles per hour!
8. Cockroaches can’t fly
Even though many species of cockroaches have wings, they can’t fly. Well, sort of…
To quote Buzz Lightyear, cockroaches can’t fly but rather “fall with style”. Their wings only allow them to glide and flutter for short distances. It is much quicker for a cockroach to scurry around the place than it is for them to try and fly.
9. Cockroaches love beer!
Studies have shown that cockroaches are quite fond of a nice cold schooner of beer, so if you have an infestation on your hands that 6 pack in your fridge might disappear soon. However, it is not because they like to party, they are actually attracted to the sugars and hops found in beer.
10. Cockroaches can hold their breath for 40 minutes
Although it might sound impossible, studies have shown that cockroaches can hold their breath for 40 minutes, and can survive underwater for 30 minutes!
A cockroach’s ability to hold their breath for long periods of time is believed to be a result of regulating water loss. Unlike us, cockroaches do not use their mouths to breathe but rather use small tubes in their body called spiracles. These are also used to transport water vapour out of their body if they need to conserve water they will simply keep the tubes shut.