The Weirdest Facts About Roaches

weirdest roach facts

You wake up craving a midnight snack in the middle of the night. You turn on the kitchen light and see a roach scurrying across the floor. Pretty gross, right? While roaches are a nuisance, they also play an essential role in our ecosystem and are fascinating insects. Explore some of the weirdest facts about roaches.

Roaches Are Survivors


Image via Flickr by Muffet

You’ve probably heard that roaches are nuclear-proof. While that’s an exaggeration, roaches can withstand up to 10 times the amount of radiation than we humans can. They can also go for an entire week without water and a month without eating. 

If you think that’s impressive, consider that a roach can survive for a week without a head. Roaches have an open circulatory system, which means they can breathe through tiny holes all over their bodies. Eventually, a roach without a head will die, but only because it can’t drink water. And speaking of water, they withstand being submerged in it for long periods. Roaches need a lot of water, which explains why they hang out in bathrooms, basements, and other rooms with excess water.

Roaches Are Prehistoric

You’re not the first human to deal with cockroaches, and you won’t be the last. These pests were here before the dinosaurs, dating back to 350 million years ago, and are one of the few species that survived the events that caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. Perhaps their unique biology and ability to reproduce in large numbers have kept them alive as a species for so long. Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt that these insects can adapt to all types of conditions, which is why some say that roaches will outlive us all.

Roaches Are Garbage Disposals

While roaches enjoy feasting on human food, they’re willing and able to settle for less. Paper, cloth, and wood are a few of the many materials that roaches can digest. Their ability to eat just about anything is thanks to bacteria that pass down from one generation of roaches to the next. The bacteria provide them with vitamins and nutrients, so roaches don’t have to eat food for nutritious purposes. 

While roaches’ digestive capabilities are critical to their survival, it’s also another reason why they’re such a nuisance. If they can’t get to your food, they’ll snack on something else in your home.

Roaches Are Drinkers

Roaches like to belly up to the bar as much as humans. That’s because alcohol has sugar, which is one of their favorite things to eat. Roaches especially like beer and find the combination of hops and sugar irresistible. One way to capture and kill roaches is to fill a jar with beer and leave it sitting where roaches can get to it. They’ll climb into the jar and drown in the beer. 

In addition to sugar, roaches seem to be attracted to alcoholic beverages because of the pungent odor. Grease, cheese, meat, and rotting vegetation are other items that roaches flock to because they give off a strong smell.        

Roaches Are (Almost) Everywhere

It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that roaches are everywhere. Approximately 4,600 species of roaches exist, and you can find these insects on every continent except Antarctica. Out of those 4,600 species, only 30 or so are household pests. Most roaches live in the forest, burrowing underground, crawling on the forest floor, or inhabiting trees. Some roaches have adapted to living in caves, fields, or swamps, while others can live in the desert, surviving on water vapor.

Roaches Are Fast

When you see a roach scurrying across your bathroom floor, you can tell it’s running fast. Thanks to having six legs, roaches can travel up to 3.4 mph. We’ll admit that might not seem so quick compared to other animals. However, it’s pretty impressive when you consider how small roaches are. If a roach was the same size as a human, it would have a length-to-speed ratio of 220 mph. 

Even walls and slippery surfaces can’t slow them down because roaches have spines on their legs for extra grip. Plus, researchers have observed some roaches in the wild jumping from one blade of grass to another. Fortunately, domestic roaches don’t have this ability.  

Roaches Are Social

While you might only see one roach when you turn on the kitchen light in the middle of the night, remember that they like to live in groups. They don’t have structured colonies like termites, but they do enjoy hanging out with each other. 

Roach waste sends a chemical signal that attracts other roaches. After they find each other, they’ll hunt for food as a group. They’ll signal even more roaches to join the dinner party if they find a desirable food source. Remember, when you spot one roach, there could be dozens hiding in your home.

Roaches Are Edible

Mammals, birds, and other insects all enjoy feasting on roaches. Roaches are an essential part of the food chain as a food source for many different species of predators. However, it isn’t just wildlife that eats roaches. In China, you’ll find vendors selling fried roaches for human consumption. Like most insects, roaches contain protein, and they are also a common ingredient in Chinese medicine.

Roaches Are Helpful

In addition to serving as a food source, roaches that live in the wild are nature’s recyclers. In forests, roaches feed on decaying plant materials, clearing the forest floors of debris and composting it into nutrients that go back into the soil. Several cockroach farms in China feed roaches food scraps that would otherwise end up in landfills that are already overcrowded. When the roaches die, the farms grind them into food for pigs and other livestock.

Roaches Are Pets

Yes, it’s one of the weirdest facts about roaches you’ll encounter, but it’s true. Some people keep roaches as pets, especially Madagascar hissing roaches. As its name indicates, this species makes a hissing noise, and males have large horns. These characteristics set the Madagascar hissing roach apart from other roach species, which is why people keep them as pets. If you’re wondering why anyone would keep a roach as a pet, consider that they are odorless, don’t require much care, and aren’t picky eaters. A pet roach will be content with plenty of water to drink and a vivarium with plenty of places for them to hide.

Roaches Are Touchy-Feely

Roaches are thigmotropic, which means they enjoy touch. If you’ve ever seen a roach squeeze into a crack or crevice, rest assured that it’s having a good time. That’s because they like the sensation of squeezing into tight spaces, making them pretty much the opposite of claustrophobic. Fortunately, roaches’ love of tight spots is one reason traps work so well. They can’t resist the tiny openings. 

Not only do roaches like coming into contact with objects, but they also like touching each other. Roaches who don’t come in contact with other roaches can get sick or become infertile. 

Roaches Are Big

While American cockroaches can measure more than 2 inches in length, most measure between 1.4 and 1.6 inches. If you think that’s creepy, consider that in Mexico, cave-dwelling roaches can grow to 4 inches in length. In Peru, you might encounter roaches with 7-inch wingspans. Then there’s Australia, home to the giant burrowing cockroach, which typically weighs more than an ounce. Not only is the giant burrowing cockroach hefty, but it can also live for up to 10 years.

Roaches Are Famous

Dealing with roaches is a common human experience, so it shouldn’t be surprising that roaches are part of pop culture. You might be familiar with “Joe’s Apartment,” which was initially a short film that aired on MTV during commercial breaks. The short was so popular with viewers that MTV turned it into a feature-length movie. Horror movie fans know that roaches play a pivotal role in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.” In “Wall•E,” the character — a robot — keeps a pet roach, a testament to the roach’s ability to survive in conditions that other creatures can’t. 

Then there’s “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka. This 1915 novella tells the story of a man who discovers he’s suddenly turned into a bug. While Kafka doesn’t specify that the bug is a roach, his description makes readers assume from context that it’s a roach. Generations of literature students have analyzed this story, and many authors have paid tribute to the novella while others have parodied it. As you can see from these weirdest facts about roaches, these insects are fascinating. However, roaches are also a nuisance and can sometimes pose a health hazard to humans. At Bulwark Exterminating, we offer several solutions if you find roaches in your home. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation price quote so that we can help you combat roaches in the home.


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