In a recent poll, cockroaches were voted the world’s favorite insect. Did we say favorite? Whoops! We meant least favorite. Cockroaches are found almost everywhere in the world, able to survive high elevations, blistering and freezing temperatures, and what most animals would consider a scarcity of food. Roaches have gotten around that by eating almost anything. But how were they able to adapt that way? How long have they been around, and what can we do to prevent them? Read on to learn more about what may be the world’s most adaptable bug!
History of Cockroaches
Cockroaches have been around for longer than you may think. Their fossils were first discovered during the Carboniferous period 350-300 million years ago, named for the massive amounts of carbon produced at that time. But carbon production wasn’t the only thing that was massive. During this period and the Permian era afterwards, plants, animals, and insects grew to enormous sizes. The largest cockroach found during this period measured an unbelievable 20 inches long. Can you imagine stumbling across a cockroach the size of your forearm? Sometimes it’s better to let the past stay in the past!
Skipping forward a few hundred million years, writings have been discovered from both the first and ninth centuries A.D. suggesting medicinal uses for cockroaches by boiling them or grinding them up and using them in oil. It’s moments like these we are grateful for modern pharmacies, but we admire the ingenuity of healers in the past.
The word cockroach as we know it comes directly from the Spanish cucaracha, and it has been Anglicized into cockroach over the past 400 years. However you say it or spell it, cockroaches have been around longer than we have and from the looks of it they aren’t going anywhere.
Cockroach Life Cycle
The life cycle of a cockroach is similar to many insects and consists of three stages:
- Egg--Female cockroaches lay a sac of eggs called an ootheca, which can contain up to 50 eggs. The cockroach will carry them with her until they are almost ready to hatch.
- Nymph--Newly hatched and juvenile cockroaches are called nymphs. This stage lasts around one year as they molt multiple times, outgrowing their old exoskeleton and eventually developing wings, signifying they are now an adult. Immediately after molting, a nymph is bright white, which has led some people to wonder whether there are pure white or albino cockroaches. Fortunately this is nothing to worry about--just a natural part of the nymph’s development cycle.
- Adult--With the addition of wings on the final molt as a nymph, the cockroach is now fully grown and sexually mature. Different species of cockroach live between two months and two years as adults, and an adult female can produce hundreds of new cockroaches during her lifetime.
Just What Can A Cockroach Survive?
Unfortunately, the answer to this one is: a lot more than you’d think! Despite the pervasive myth that cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast, that is one thing they cannot live through. (They can stand about ten times more radiation than humans, but that is still nowhere near enough to survive.) And if you think you’re going to kill a cockroach by cutting off its head you’ve got another thing coming--roaches can survive up to a week with no head! This is because they breathe through spiracles on their body and their brain is not in charge of blood flow, so both can continue without the roach’s head before it eventually dies after a week. Cockroaches with their heads whose food and water supply is cut off will die after 1 week without food, or 1 month without water.
Another adaptation cockroaches have is an ability to withstand very cold, even Arctic, conditions. Due to the glycerol-based antifreeze cockroaches produce naturally, some species can survive temperatures down to -188 degrees Fahrenheit. And we complain when it goes below the freezing point! These insects really are built to withstand almost anything.
Helpful Or Harmful? It Depends
For most people, cockroaches bring to mind dirty rooms, filthy living conditions, and general unpleasantness. But did you know that out of 4,500 species of cockroaches around the world, fewer than 70 pose any real nuisance to humans? Talk about being the black sheep of the family! But these species give cockroaches a well-deserved bad reputation. They can carry diseases and are one of the worst triggers for asthma. Their rapid reproduction can leave feces everywhere. And on top of that, due to glands that secrete odors, they are smelly. It’s easy to see why cockroaches are far from the most well-loved insect.
However, when they are not in close proximity to humans, cockroaches play a vital role in the decomposition of forests that many other insects and animals cannot. They, along with their termite cousins, are one of the few insects that can digest cellulose (undoubtedly a trait that has helped them survive so long), and in doing so they can break down organic material and turn old wood into new soil, promoting forest growth.
In addition to helping decompose forests, cockroaches are also a prominent food source for many other animals. Birds, lizards, and mammals all eat cockroaches, and even some other insects, like parasitoid wasps, lay their eggs in them so that once the wasps hatch, their food source--the cockroach--is right there for them to dig in. Whether they are helping decompose forests or being eaten as food themselves, cockroaches play an important role in the food chain.
Cockroach Prevention Tips
Prevention is key when it comes to roaches, as it is easier than extermination. Cockroaches can be transmitted through infested items like couches, so take care when rescuing furniture from the curb. And since they are attracted to human food, keeping counters clear and food in airtight containers gives roaches a bigger hurdle to get over in order to get what they want. Eliminate excess paper and cardboard, which can give roaches a place to hide. And don’t forget to clean your floors! As roaches are most active at night, cleaning the kitchen before you go to bed not only puts you in a better mood the next morning, but it also reduces the amount of food for roaches to feed on.
Got Roaches? Get Spidexx!
Despite your best efforts, you’ve noticed a few roaches skittering under your fridge when you turn the lights on. But don’t get the flamethrower out just yet--here at Spidexx, we specialize in cockroach extermination! With years of experience and industry-leading products, our technicians target the areas where roaches live and breed and come back for an additional visit to make sure egg cycles have been broken up and there is no further activity. Due to their rapid rate of reproduction, a few roaches can quickly become an infestation, so at the first sign of activity call us at (844) 922-7732 or click here to get a free quote today. We do the hard work so you can get back to enjoying your pest-free home.