The truth about cockroaches

The following is a light-hearted post for the beginning of the year. The post is adapted from a feature in PCT Online called “Cockroaches, Fact or Fiction?” I have rewritten the story to list just the facts and some of my interpretations. – RH

  1. Cockroaches do not run faster than humans. Even though it often seems like they can outrun us when we’re slapping a fly swatter at them as they’re scurrying away, they can run only about three miles per hour, which is about walking pace for us. They can run faster than other insects, however, which may account for the fact that they’re so darned hard to catch when we’re trying to kill them.
  2. A cockroach can live without its head. They can live without the head for at least a week or so because their circulatory system forms a clot at the site of the wound, preventing them from bleeding too much. In addition, cockroaches have multiple “brains” that control motor functions, and they can breathe through holes in their bodies. However, without a head, they can’t eat or drink, so they eventually die of starvation.
  3. Cockroaches can swim, almost four inches a second. This is why they can enter a house through the plumbing system.
  4. If you get bitten by a cockroach, it will hurt a lot. Cambridge researchers found that an American cockroach can bite with five times the force of a human bite, and 50 times its body weight. Fortunately, most cockroaches are not aggressive and will run rather than attack.
  5. Cockroach milk is one of the most nutritious substances known. I’m sure I know what you’re thinking: No way, even if it is true. However, according to research done in India, it’s a complete food, rich in proteins, fats and sugars, and peptides. In fact it’s four times more nutritionally concentrated than cow’s milk. If the world’s population continues to expand, it might be something to consider supplementing the insect meals recommended by the World Health Organization.
  6. Those potatoes you bought at the store are probably NOT the reason for your cockroach infestation. Some pest management professionals state that they often hear customers blame bags of potatoes for a cockroach problem. Cockroaches can be brought in with any food or other item from an infested store, but they’re not any more likely to come in via a potato bag than with anything else. More typically, cockroaches come in from outside the home, through an unsealed crack or through a drain or toilet, because they’re looking for nourishment. If you keep your food sealed, if they do run in at some point, they won’t stay for long.
  7. Cockroaches might be able to survive a nuclear explosion. Although this one seems like more of a myth than an actual scientific fact, there is some research behind this claim. Discovery Channel’s MythBusters conducted an experiment to see if this claim, started in 1945 after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was indeed true. So they exposed three groups of German cockroaches to different levels of radioactive metal cobalt 60 for a month: 1000 rads, 10,000 rads (similar to the Hiroshima bomb), and 100,000 rads. At the end of the month, 50% of the cockroaches exposed to 1,000 rads and 10% of those exposed to 10,000 rads were still alive. All of the cockroaches exposed to 100,000 rads died. So depending on the intensity of the explosion, cockroaches may be able to outlive us in a nuclear explosion.

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