Interesting Facts and Myths About Cockroaches

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous insect in the world, but people don’t seem even to hate them as much as they do roaches. Many people see cockroaches as these disgusting 6-legged monsters that we just can’t seem to do away with. Years of study and myth build up have however made the cockroach so complicated that we can no longer seem to differentiate facts from myths. One thing, however, remains fact; roaches are one of the most adaptable creatures on earth that always seem to find a way of thriving in as many diverse environments as humans can. Here is the explanation for the ten most interesting stories you may have heard about roaches.

Edible Cockroaches

This is a very disgusting idea for most people considering that everyone wants to stay as far away from roaches as possible not put them anywhere close to their mouth. Cockroaches spread allergens, and they are themselves too filthy to make food, but when they are domesticated and bred in a safe environment, roaches can be quite safe for food. Some species of cockroaches like the Madagascar hissing cockroach can be kept as pets and some cockroach species are bred for food especially in China. Cockroach farming is prevalent in China, and the fried cockroach is served in the streets in some places. These insects are fried at least twice to make them crunchy before the diners can eat them.[1][2]

The Flying Cockroaches

Cockroaches are disgusting enough for most people when they crawl around into crevices and cracks, and no one really wants to have to fight off a flying one. There are over 3500 cockroach species in the world, and most of them have wings, but the flight is not a shared ability among all cockroaches. Only 30 percent of roaches infest human dwellings, and Brownbanded cockroaches are the only ones known to fly especially when temperatures are high. Male wood roaches and the most popular flying cockroach species mostly employing this ability in high temperatures when their metabolism it highest. They are however rare in homes, and you are not likely to encounter them. American and German cockroaches sometimes use their wings for balance when gliding from high resting points to the ground, but once they land, they prefer their quick feet over the wings.[3]

Surviving a Nuclear Holocaust

This claim is mostly a myth, but it has some truth to it because roaches have better odds of surviving radiation than us. This myth arose after the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II because insects seemed to thrive and pictures circulated of flies and cockroaches around human corpses. However, scientists agree that these insects were equally affected by the explosion; they just took longer to give in to the radiation. Scientists agree that these little guys can withstand up to 90,000 more radiation than human beings, but the sheer impact of a nuclear explosion will take them out just as it would us humans.[4][5]

The Talking Cockroaches

This is also largely myth except for the Madagascar cockroach which could well pass for the only “talking” insect on the planet. Roaches communicate through a foraging pheromone released through their guts. Research has proved that cockroaches tend to be more attracted to this chemical secretion by fellow roaches which explains their communal feeding habit. The Madagascar hissing roaches, however, have a way of blowing air through their breathing tracts to give the hissing sound that gives them their name. The hissing is used to express aggression especially among males when fighting for a mate and also to express affection when mating. Madagascar roaches are however a wild species, and you are not likely to hear them “talking” on your window.[6][7]

Cockroaches Crawling Into People’s Ears

This is a scary habit by cockroaches, but it is sadly very possible although not common. Roaches love being touched which is why they enjoy huddling together in narrow cracks some as thin as a dime. This habit helps them stay away from the light and protect them from predators. However, when they crawl into your ear, they cannot walk in reverse, and it becomes impossible for them to move out. The feeling can be horrible because their spiky legs make them extremely difficult to pull out with a cotton swab. A quick visit to the ER may be the only way to remove them, but you don’t have to be that scared because they are more afraid of you than you think. Roaches, however, tend to stick to scavenging and they are not likely to crawl into your ear because it has no food for them.[8][9]

Farting Cockroaches

Many insects have been identified to produce methane through their breathing tracts, and though you may not be close enough to smell their farts, cockroaches do it a lot. Cockroaches tend to fart more than any insect in the world. They seem to compete with cows and other domestic animals in contributing to global warming. This habit is associated with all animals that consume a lot of fiber foods, and roaches tend to take a lot of it. A 2012 research found the American cockroach to be the fartiest animal in Britain releasing up to 35g or methane a year, up to 45 times its actual body weight. This observation, however, disproved the myth that a roach farts every 15 minutes, their frequency of farting just depends on their diet just like herbivores.[10]

Headless Cockroaches

The most exciting feature about cockroaches is that they don’t need their heads as other animals do. Cockroaches will eventually die when their heads are cut off, but that takes a few weeks, a level of tenacity we humans cannot afford. When decapitated, the roach’s simple circulatory system simply clots off at the neck, and the rest of the body continues enjoying a constant circulation. Unlike humans, roaches do not breathe on their heads but spiracles which means they continue to receive oxygen to vital body parts even after being beheaded. The roach’s final anti-decapitation defense is the independent muscle control that doesn’t rely on brain coordination which allows its heart to continue pumping and the cockroach keeps moving weeks into its decapitation. Fate, however, catches up with them because they need a mouth to feed, so they finally starve to death.[11]

Cockroaches Being as Old as the Dinosaurs

Cockroaches are actually older than dinosaurs because the oldest roach roamed the earth millions of years before the dinosaur and still survived the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaur. This is another reason why many people say cockroaches are likely to survive the apocalypse. These little creatures seem to have existed long before the dinosaurs with the same body structure as we see today, a resilience that cannot be associated with most insects. Fossils of cockroach ancestors trace back to 300 million years ago around the Carboniferous period when life had just left the water onto the land. Scientists say that the ancient predatory cockroach measured about 3.5 inches and was more or less similar to the modern cockroach. Maybe they will survive the apocalypse after all![12][13]

Roaches Always Dye on Their Backs

This is a false assumption because only one percent of cockroaches are found in human dwellings and only a small percentage of these die on their backs. A cockroach can roll back into an upright position unless a poisonous substance interferes with its muscles the way insecticides do which makes it impossible for them to roll onto their feet. Insecticides block be neurotransmitters on the roach’s body leading to the total loss of muscle coordination that causes that sad state you see. Roaches are also not fans of polished tiles which tend to have nothing to grab onto when you land on your back! Most roaches in the wild end up in the mouth of a lizard of a bird if they do not die of old age which many do but not always on their backs.[14]

Cockroach Allergy

Human hatred for roaches is mostly justified because they spread germs and their very presence in your home is a health threat. They release a protein from their bodies that causes allergic reactions to many people. Cockroach allergy is real and a significant health problem because cockroaches inhabit more than 70% of homes. Human beings can develop an allergy to cockroach saliva, waste and bodies. The main problem is that they still cause allergic reactions even when they are dead. Asthmatic people are at the highest risk of suffering from cockroach allergy throughout the year. Symptoms include skin rashes, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing, stuffy and runny nose as well as watery and itchy eyes. Keeping your home clean and dry and food containers covered is the best way to keep roaches away.[15]

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