For many people, the mere mention of cockroaches is enough to make their skin crawl and their hair stand on end (I'm one of those people). These crawling insects are synonymous with filth, and to make matters worse, they can also assist in the spread of disease! Add to that their tendency to scuttle and you have a recipe for katsaridaphobia (yes, you guessed it - the fear of cockroaches)! Regardless of how you feel about them, here are some facts about cockroaches the experts in pest control think you should know.
Facts about cockroaches:
Let’s face it, cockroaches aren’t exactly the Bradley Cooper of the insect world. However, despite their disgusting habits, cockroaches are actually quite fascinating.
Don’t believe me? Here are 10 facts about cockroaches you need to know!
1. Cockroaches are cannibals!
Cockroaches aren’t fussy eaters at all, they'll eat pretty much anything: fruit, glue, faeces, you name it! They have even taken to eating other cockroaches to settle their rumbling stomachs. Cockroaches cannibalistic tendencies are attributed to two reasons: food and regulation. When cockroach infestations reach large numbers and food is scarce, these crawling insects will often turn to cannibalism as both a source of food and to help reduce population size.
2. Cockroaches are old
Well, cockroaches individually aren’t old - the average lifespan of an American cockroach is approximately a 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, which means that even 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 in 1945 after Hiroshima and Nagasaki - cockroaches were the only survivors of the atomic bomb. However, the guys over at MythBusters put an end to this myth by testing the effect 3 levels of radiation would have on German cockroaches.
They discovered that cockroaches can’t actually survive a nuclear explosion. None of the crawling insects survived radiation levels of 100,000 rads (1) but they can endure far greater levels of radiation than us humans.
4. Cockroaches can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps!
Yip, just like rats and mice, cockroaches can squeeze through the smallest of cracks! This is down to their amazing exoskeletons. Cockroaches are able to fit through a gap as small as a quarter of their body height. They do this by flattening their flexible exoskeletons and splaying their legs to the side(2). Don’t believe me? 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! (In fact, we wrote a whole artcile on the facts and fiction on cockroaches).
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology explains 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 points 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 their heads
Yes, you read that correctly: cockroaches can live for approximately a week without a head!
The reason behind this is that unlike humans, cockroaches don’t need their mouths to breathe. Instead, they use spiracles (tiny holes) 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 up to a week!
7. Cockroaches are super fast!
I mean, really fast! Picture the Flash but in cockroach form! Cockroaches are insanely quick. Being prey for a large number of predators, it’s their only defence 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 actually fly
Yes yes, I know they seem to fly AT you, but even though many species of cockroaches have wings, they can’t fly. Well, not really…
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!
Like a student at a university during freshers week, cockroaches love beer!
Studies have shown that cockroaches are quite fond of a nice cold pint of beer, so if you have an infestation on your hands, that 6 pack in your fridge might disappear soon. However, it's not because they like to party, they are simply attracted to the sugars and hops found in beer.
10. Cockroaches can hold their breath for 40 minutes
Impressive right? 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 its breath for long periods of time is believed to be a result of regulating water loss. Unlike us, cockroaches don’t use their mouths to breath but rather use small tubes in their body called spiracles. These are also used to transport water vapour out of their body, so if they need to conserve water they will simply keep the tubes shut.