St. George & Southern Utah Pest Control Experts

Cockroaches: Top 10 Myths About Cockroaches

By Eric Palmer February 24, 2022
Cockroaches rank as the most unpopular pest in the US. This pest is certainly among the most despised here in Southern Utah, so it’s no surprise that stories about them abound.

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While some roach myths can be entertaining, most can also be misleading. Incorrect information can cause a homeowner to ignore or misunderstand the serious problems and risks roaches pose to their property and family.

We’ll review the top ten myths about cockroaches and untangle truth from fiction.

1. Roaches only invade dirty homes

One of the top myths – and potentially the most damaging – is that cockroaches only invade dirty homes.

Roaches don’t care if a home is clean or dirty. They just want food, water, and shelter. Since they will eat almost anything – including leather, wallpaper, even soap - it doesn’t take much for your house to become an appealing ‘roach restaurant’.

Some species will travel long distances to find food, so no matter how clean your home, at some point a wandering roach is likely to enter it. Whether it lingers depends on what it finds. Water leaks, crumbs of food, or dark, damp hiding places may encourage it to stay.

Roaches broadcast good locations using chemical signals, so one roach can quickly become many.

2. Roaches are dirty creatures.

Another misleading myth is cockroaches are dirty creatures.

Throughout the day roaches secrete small amounts of a protective waxy substance. This builds up and blocks receptors on their antennae. Like house cats, roaches spend hours a day cleaning themselves. They do this by pulling their antennae and legs through their mouths.

Studies have shown that their constant grooming enables roaches to improve their senses, including smell.

You might ask: “If they spend so long grooming, how do they transmit disease?” While the roach may be clean, where it lives may not.

Harmful bacteria and other contaminated detritus can get stuck to the roach on its travels through drains or get digested when it eats rotten food. These microorganisms can then be transferred from the roach’s legs or feces as it wanders around inside your clean house.

The simple fact is, despite its self-cleaning, roaches can carry over 30 harmful bacteria and viruses, as well as microscopic worms.

3. Cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast.

A myth that started during the Cold War, was that roaches could survive a nuclear war and outlive mankind. Fortunately, we have yet to test the truth of this popular myth!

In reality, we don’t need to. While it is true that roaches can withstand radiation levels up to 10 times higher than a human, above that level roaches die. Long before that fatal dose, a cockroach's ability to breed is badly affected.

4. Cockroaches can survive without their heads.

Another myth about roaches is that they can live for months without their heads.

Oddly, this myth is based on an element of truth. Without a head, a roach can survive for a time. They don’t breathe through their mouths but through small openings along their body. Their ‘brains’ are housed in their body and not their heads.

If a roach loses its head, it is only losing its ability to see, feed and drink. A roach with a head may live for many weeks without food but a headless roach cannot drink and will die in about a week.

5. Albino cockroaches are more dangerous

This myth may have arisen because white cockroaches are rarely seen.

A white cockroach is simply a growing roach that has recently molted. Once its old skin has been shed, the soft new skin looks white until it hardens. During the hardening process, the roach is vulnerable to predators and physical damage, so it remains out of sight in a quiet and safe place. This is why white cockroaches are rarely seen.

If you do see one, it means it’s growing in your house and there are likely more lurking out of sight.

6. The bigger the cockroach, the bigger the problem

A popular misconception is that big cockroaches pose more of a problem than small ones.

That is untrue. Some pest species, such as the Brown Banded Cockroach, are only ½ inch in length. Yet they can carry as many harmful bacteria and diseases as larger pest species, like the American Cockroach, which can be 1½ inches in length.

The largest roach in the world, at 3¾ inches in length and with a wingspan of 8 inches, is Megaloblatta longipennis, from Central and South America. It is not even a pest.

7. Cockroaches can’t fly

This myth is confusing because another version says all roaches can fly!

The truth: adults of only some species fly. Oriental roaches can’t fly. German roaches can but don’t. And, of the species that do fly, such as the American Cockroach, most normally prefer to run. However, they will fly when disturbed or threatened.

8. All Cockroaches are bad.

When a pest is detested as much as the cockroach, it’s no surprise that all its relatives are viewed with the same disdain.

There are more than 4,500 species of cockroach found around the world, but only 30 are viewed as pests. Of these, four are classified as pests in the Utah area.

The non-pest species include many that are beneficial to the environment. What makes roaches such a pest in our homes – their ability to eat almost anything – is what makes them perfect recycling machines in the wild.

And roaches are food for a vast array of birds, reptiles, and mammals. In China, there are even roach farms that produce large numbers cheaply to be used as domestic animal food!

9. Cockroaches Fear Light

You may have turned on a light in the kitchen and seen roaches scurry to safety under furniture. That has led some to believe roaches fear light.

The truth is roaches are afraid of you, not the light. Part of their success as a pest is their ability to remain hidden. Most of the pest species in the US have become nocturnal out of necessity to avoid notice.

Some roach species are actually attracted to light.

10. Cockroaches Don’t Bite

Again, this myth is both right and wrong.

In normal circumstances, it is very unusual for anyone to be bitten by a roach. Their fear of humans and their ability to eat almost anything else makes it extremely unlikely they would risk biting someone.

However, roaches do eat meat and, if there’s no other food available, they’ll eat human skin. In the past, there have been reports of sailors being bitten when severe roach infestations at sea occurred and other food was hard to get. Even on land, if an infestation is bad enough and no other food is available, a roach may risk nibbling an exposed finger or toe. However, such occurrences are rare.

Now you know…

It’s important to know the real facts about roaches, as incorrect information can leave you open to an infestation. As we’ve seen, there are enough misleading stories about these potentially harmful pests that it’s easy to be confused.

To get the facts you need, consult your pest assassin expert. With over 35 years of practical experience, Southwest Exterminators can provide the expertise you need to keep your home or business free of roaches. Give us a ring today if you are concerned about these pests on your property.

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