Cockroaches inspire mixed feelings in homeowners. Some scream when they spot the insect crawling around their pantry. Others feel disgusted when they have to squash the bug under foot. And a few people feel a sense of admiration for a cockroach that manages to live in seemingly impossible conditions.
Because many people associate cockroaches with strong emotions, they often generate myths and rumors regarding the bug. Those who fear them might amplify that fear with tales of cockroaches burrowing into skin. Those who despise them may tell others that the insects lead to disease. And those who respect them might exaggerate the bug’s abilities.
Well it’s time to squash these rumors once and for all.
Before you buy into another myth about cockroaches, take a look at these debunked tales and stories below.
Myth 1. Cockroaches Fear Light
Many cartoons comically portray cockroaches running from the light. Although some species do prefer to live in dark, quiet areas, some cockroaches love the light as much as we do. They’ll gather near windows or on television screens at night.
Most of the time, cockroaches don’t run because they fear the light; they do so because they fear you. They hurl themselves toward gaps and cracks because you are a much larger predator. Other animals, such as lizards and geckos, behave much the same way.
According to Robert Full (https://www.baycitizen.org/news/science/researchers-investigate-cockroaches/), biology professor at UC Berkeley, “this behavior is probably pretty widespread, because it is an effective way to move out of sight for small animals.”
Myth 2. All Cockroaches Are Pests
Scientists have discovered approximately 4,000 different cockroach species in the world. Some can fly, while others cannot. Some have light brown, reddish coloring, while others look dark brown, or even black.
However, only a small fraction of that number invades homes or buildings and can presents a danger to humans. In some areas of the world, people keep cockroaches as pets rather than killing them as pests.
Myth 3. When You Step on a Cockroach, You Release Their Eggs
If you keep up with your YouTube videos, you may have seen a clip or two of unfortunate people squashing spiders, only to release hundreds of baby spiders in their wake.
And since some species of cockroach carry their eggs in a capsule on their back or on their abdomen until they hatch, you might assume that this nightmarish scenario could repeat itself with baby roaches.
However, Robert Pereira (http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/09/19/bugs-insects-animals-science-myths-spiderscockroaches/), entomologist at University of Florida explains, “you’ll likely kill everything.” This includes the eggs and young ones.
Myth 4. Cockroaches Can Survive a Nuclear Explosion
Cockroaches are extremely hardy insects. And plenty of researchers have explored the roach’s ability to withstand radiation.
Cockroaches exposed to 1,000 rads (radon units) lived, though they experience a decreased ability to reproduce. And a surprising 10% of cockroaches exposed to 10,000 rads still managed to survive. (Humans, in contrast, can only survive about 400 to 1,000 rads before death.)
Researchers suspect that the roach’s ability to survive results from their slower cell cycles. Since they only molt about once a week at most, the radiation has a much narrower window of opportunity to attack the cells. (Humans, on the other hand, constantly divide cells, which leave them vulnerable to nuclear fallout.)
However, this slower cycle doesn’t mean cockroaches can withstand the explosion itself. The average cockroach dies within an hour if continuously exposed to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. But energy from a nuclear explosion can reach tens of millions of degrees.
Myth 5. Cockroaches Can Live for Months Without a Head
Cockroaches do not have the same blood pressure systems that humans do. They lack a network of blood vessels and capillaries that humans need to push blood through the body. Instead, they have an open circulatory system which puts far less pressure on the injured area. This means that when you cut off their head, their necks would seal via clotting rather than uncontrolled bleeding.
Furthermore, roaches breathe through spiracles, or little holes in each body segment. The brain does not control breathing and the blood does not carry the oxygen throughout the body. With this system, a cockroach could potentially live for a time without its head.
But don’t give the cockroach too much credit.
Without sensory input from the brain, the remaining body won’t have the ability to find or eat food and water. In this state, the average cockroach will die within a few weeks, rather than several months.
Myth 6. Cockroaches Only Infest Dirty Homes
Cockroaches are scavengers, so you might often see them crawling around the garbage bin or skittering around the crumbs in a dirty pantry. They will gladly eat the food you leave out on your counter and they’ll nibble away at the leftovers if you let them.
In dirty homes, cockroaches have easier access to food than in clean homes, but this doesn’t mean they infest only dirty homes. They’ll live anywhere they can if given the chance.
If you spot a few cockroaches in your home, call pest control services to remove them.