Roach Facts: Why Do Cockroaches Die on Their Backs and More
You might consider cockroaches to be the most disgusting creatures ever, but there might also be lot of fascinating facts you don't know about them, such as their significance in the ecosystem, the reason why they flip over when they die, and whether or not they can drown.
This article provides an insightful look at numerous fabulous facts about cockroaches.
Why Do Cockroaches Die on Their Backs?
Because cockroaches have bulky bodies that are composed of three heavy segments supported by only six long, thin legs, they often involuntarily roll onto their backs when they die. This happens because at the time of death they lose muscle control, causing their leg muscles to contract and tuck underneath their bodies. Without anything to hold them to the ground, their top-heavy bodies topple over and they die belly up, on their backs.
Usually, only cockroaches that have been killed with insecticide die on their backs. This is because insecticide affects the nervous system, causing different enzymes to build up in the cockroach. These enzymes often cause muscle spasms, and with their already top-heavy body, they almost always end up lying on their backs at their time of death.
In nature, cockroaches mostly die as a result of being eaten. If a cockroach accidentally rolls over in nature, there is usually some debris (sticks, leaves, dirt) they can grab onto to right themselves. But cockroaches living in homes often find themselves in a tough situation if they roll over on a linoleum, or otherwise smooth, surface. After futile efforts to right themselves, they become exhausted and die.
It is important to remember that cockroaches do not always die on their backs, but with such top-heavy bodies, this is usually the case, especially when it comes to cockroaches that are living in homes or that have been sprayed with insecticide.
Why Do Cockroaches Come Out to Die?
It is not entirely clear why most roaches seem to expose themselves before dying. Unlike many animals that prefer to find secluded crevices when they feel they are close to death, cockroaches have been reported on many occasions to migrate to the center of a room before dying.
In one account, dying cockroaches would gravitate toward the center of a homeowner's living room after being doused with insecticide days earlier. In order to avoid stepping on them, the homeowner would kick them aside. When the homeowner came back hours later to collect the dead bodies, he found that the half-alive cockroaches had made their way to the center of the room again before dying.
One theory that attempts to explain why cockroaches behave this way is that the cockroaches are disoriented and plagued with muscle spasms after being sprayed with insecticide. This might cause them to confusedly make their way out of their hiding places and into the open.
Can Cockroaches Play Dead?
Cockroaches can, indeed, play dead. Many have reported seeing cockroaches stay completely still (sometimes even roll onto their backs) until a human presence or threat has gone away. Once they detect the coast is clear, the cockroach will flip back onto its feet and scuttle away to safety.
Cockroaches are also known to be able to hold their breath for up to 40 minutes. This skill makes them extremely good actors when it comes to playing dead. In a Mythbusters experiment testing if a cockroach could drown, the sample cockroaches appeared dead after being submerged in water for 30 minutes. However, the next day, all of the supposedly "dead" cockroaches were alive.
Mythbusters' Drowning Cockroaches Experiment (Video)
Do Cockroaches Die If You Step on Them?
Yes, you can kill a cockroach by stepping on it.
A myth exists that says if you step on a cockroach, you may break its egg case and release a hoard of baby cockroaches. While this is certainly possible, most of the time the force of a foot coming down on a cockroach will kill it and all of its babies too, assuming it is carrying any.
In any case, stepping on a cockroach will kill it, but you should keep in mind that if you see a cockroach, stepping on it does not mean your cockroach problem is over and done with. Cockroaches are social creatures, which means that if you see one, there are most likely many more nearby.
The best way to eliminate cockroaches is using aerosols and insecticides that take care of cockroach infestations in one fell swoop.
How Long Does It Take for a Cockroach to Die After Being Sprayed With Insecticide?
The length of time a cockroach, or cockroach infestation, can survive after being treated with an insecticide varies based on the extermination method and the scale of the cockroach infestation.
Usually, cockroaches die within minutes of being sprayed. At first, they move about in panic. Shortly after, the poison begins to affect their nervous systems. Once the poison has entered their bodies, the cockroaches will simply writhe about until they die.
Why Are They Called "Cockroaches?"
The term cockroach comes from the Spanish word "cucaracha."
The evolution of the term is summarized in a work by Captain John Smith, published in 1624. He describes ...
"a certain India Bug, called by the Spaniards a cacarootch, which, creeping into chests, eat and defile with their ill-scented dung."
This term "caca" was replaced by the English term associated with the rooster, "cock," resulting in the term "cockrootch." Finally, this led to the name we know them by today: the cockroach.
What Role Do Cockroaches Play in the Ecosystem?
Cockroaches play a vital role in the process of decomposition, an essential part of any ecosystem. Through their decomposing bodies water, nutrients, and energy is recycled back into the ecosystem from decaying plants, animals, and organic matter. Through this process, cockroaches fortify the soil with nutrients that plants rely on. Without them, this cycle might be impaired. Their eradication could end up damaging the entire ecosystem we live in. Cockroaches also play an important part in the food chain, and might also participate in pollination.
Have Cockroaches Contributed to the Medical Field?
Cockroaches were historically ground up, boiled, and used as medicines that treated asthma, strokes, bronchitis, and problems with urinary retention. Some homeopathic doctors even make and drank boiled cockroach tea to treat various ailments.
There is no evidence that cockroaches can successfully treat these complaints, but there is no proof that they don't, either. No significant studies have been performed, although one study discovered that cockroach brains might have antibiotic properties, which might lead to new treatments for bacterial infections. There are also a few books on the market that question whether cockroaches might someday play a part in the field of dermatology.
Although their use as medicine has yet to be fully explored, they are used for medical experiments and provide benefits in the field of medical research, especially in identifying the effects of chemicals and radiation on nerves.
What Is the Best Way To Kill Cockroaches?
Cockroaches are known to be great survivors. One of the greatest myths about cockroaches is that they can survive a nuclear explosions. While untrue, this myth hints at the reputation cockroaches have gained for themselves as hard-to-kill insects, Still, this creature is 100% killable if you choose the right plan of attack.
The cockroach's weak spot is its appetite. The trick is to get them to eat pesticide or insecticide. There are many "cockroach baits" on the market, but one of the best ways to naturally treat a cockroach infestation is with boric acid (or borax). This mineral is just as fatal to cockroaches as insecticides. Simply mix it with flour and spread it across your home for a natural solution to your cockroach problem.
More Facts About Cockroaches
- Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria.
- There are about 4,000 to 5,000 species of cockroaches, 30 of which are considered pests by humans.
- Cockroaches can run up to 3 km/hr or 0.8 m/s.
- They recognize their family and relatives by their distinctive odors.
- They are nocturnal and omnivorous.
- They don't easily drown and may last up to 30 minutes (or more) underwater.
- Most species live in the tropics (like the Philippines).
- They love glue. It might be their favorite food.
- They like alcoholic beverages, including beer.
- They can survive decapitation. Even after separation, both the body and the head will still respond to stimulus and both the antenna and the legs might wiggle. However, the head's movement will only last for a few hours while a body may last up to several weeks.
- Cockroaches can survive without food for a month, but will only last a week without water.
- Cockroaches have six hairy legs. The hairs provide them with a sense of touch.
- Some female cockroaches mate only once and become pregnant for the rest of their lives.
- Cockroaches can basically eat anything due to the presence of various bacteria and protozoa in their digestive system.
Questions & Answers
Why is it that when I try to kill a cockroach, and miss, a couple minutes later it comes after me?
Based on recent findings as featured in BBC Nature, cockroaches are turning out to be more sophisticated than we thought. They also tend to have emotions. Also, when insects, just like most animals, feel that they are being threatened, they tend to protect themselves. Thus, they seem like they are trying to take revenge on you.Helpful 51
How can you save a cockroach from death?
Interesting question. It depends on what is causing the roach to die. If it has ingested/inhaled insecticide, you may wash it with water. It can be too late, though, but it's worth trying. Normally, cockroaches die of thirst, so giving water also helps.
Now, if you accidentally stepped on it, there might be no way of saving the roach, except leaving it alone to recover, hopefully (or not).Helpful 14
Do roaches gather dead roaches?
Cockroaches seem to have a sense of companionship which may explain why they might come back to dead comrades.Helpful 26
Why wouldn't the bathroom sink soap not kill cockroaches?
The contents of the soap are not toxic for cockroaches. There are a lot of chemicals which cockroaches can survive when doused. Only specific chemical such as boric acid can get them down.Helpful 12
How long can cockroaches be on their backs until they die?
That depends on what made them fall on their backs. Usually, they die right before they flip. If you use a bug spray, the time it wiggles on its back would depend on the strength and amount of spray.
On the other hand, when it just lands on its back perhaps upon force or by "accident," they'll crawl again as soon as it regains balance. So beware.Helpful 10
© 2012 Renz Kristofer Cheng