Let's look at the top 10 crazy facts about cockroaches you probably didn’t know. You’ll most likely still dislike roaches – and for good reason. But you may never look at them the same way.
1. Roaches Cause a Special Phobia
For many of us, the sight of a cockroach sitting on our toothbrush would fill us with revulsion. For some unfortunate people, that revulsion goes deeper. Much deeper. There is even a word for it - katsaridaphobia.
Katsaridaphobia is an overwhelming fear of roaches so profound it has life-altering impacts on sufferers. It may lead to obsessive-compulsive disorders, with constant spraying of insecticides and extreme cleaning of their homes. Some sufferers have even had to leave their jobs or move house to cope.
2. Hard To Hit With A Shoe
If you’ve turned on the lights in your kitchen and seen a roach scoot under cover, you’ll know they can move fast. They are not just fast – but among the fastest of all insects!
The actual speed depends on the species but some have been clocked at over 3.5 mph. That may not sound much but if the roach had the same length to speed ratio as us, that would be equal to over 200 mph.
Their speed and ability to turn on a dime are why your chances of whacking one with a shoe are unlikely to succeed! Hint, hint, that is why you should call your friendly neighborhood pest assassin at Southwest Exterminators.
3. Pet Roaches?
It may come as a surprise to learn that keeping cockroaches as pets is a large and growing industry. Many of these ‘pets’ have delightfully descriptive names, for example, Madagascan Hissing roach, Death’s Head roach, and Indian Domino roach.
If you want a larger cockroach, consider the Australian Rhinoceros roach, Macropanesthia rhinoceros. An adult could set you back as much as $500! (You might want to wait a while. Prices are dropping…)
4. The Biggest Roach
If you are shocked to see a 1½ inch American Cockroach in St. George, be glad you don’t live in either South America or Australia.
With a wingspan of nearly 8 inches, a length of 3 ¾ inches, and lacking a common name, the largest roach in the world is Megaloblatta longipennis, from South America. The heaviest roach is the Australian Rhinoceros roach, mentioned above, at 3 inches in length but weighing 1.25 ounces.
5. Nursing Mothers
Understandably, we think of roaches as nasty pests. We never think of them as nursing mothers. But one species (Diplotera punctata) does exactly that. The mother produces milk to feed its young. This species is also unusual in that the young are born live and not laid as eggs.
The milk is protein-rich and several times more nutritious than cow’s milk. However, the roach produces the milk as crystals and, despite occasional humorous news reports, is never likely to find its way to supermarket shelves.
6. Bad Bacteria / Good Bacteria
Roaches are notorious for carrying a range of bacteria that are harmful to humans. But the relationship between roaches and bacteria is more complicated than you may think.
Roaches are born with bacteria in their gut. Their mothers pass it on to them and they need it to survive. These are not the harmful bacteria that give us so much trouble. These bacteria live comfortably and safely inside the roach gut, feeding off the roach’s fatty tissue. In return, the bacteria provide various amino acids and vitamins the roach needs.
It’s this symbiotic relationship that allows roaches to survive almost anywhere and eat almost anything. Scientists are researching how we might use these bacteria to our advantage for recycling in various industries.
7. Roach Farming
Roach farms are a growing revenue source in China. Roaches are bred in huge numbers as food for domestic animals, traditional medicines, and even for use in the cosmetic industry.
There are hundreds of roach factories in China, ranging from small to large claiming to breed over 6 billion roaches a year. (The true number is hard to establish due to the negative view of these farms especially after one was damaged, allowing over a million roaches to escape!)
Before the pandemic, one large Chinese pharmaceutical company professed earnings of $684 million (U.S.) in one year from selling healing potions made from cockroaches.
Ailments allegedly treated with roach extract include baldness, cancer, respiratory, and gastric issues. (There is limited scientific evidence of the effectiveness of any of these treatments.)
8. Roach Robots
Scientists have hard-wired roaches using minute electronics to make them radio-controlled. Roaches are known to be experts at getting into seemingly inaccessible places. By attaching a small camera to the back of a radio-controlled roach, it was hoped that roaches might assist in rescue or exploratory work.
Unfortunately, the ‘robot roaches’ only responded to commands about 70% of the time, which made them too unreliable for serious work. However, that research led to roach-inspired robots that may yet fulfill the scientists’ initial dreams of a go-anywhere miniature robot.
9. Males Unnecessary
It is a disturbing thought that an American cockroach female and her offspring can produce over 800 offspring in a year. That’s bad enough. Research now shows that the American cockroach and some other species can produce young without mating at all!
In environments where males are absent or very few, some roaches can produce eggs parthenogenetically – that is without mating. The offspring from such eggs are always females. And large numbers of virgin roaches together in such situations typically produce eggs in sync and more quickly than mated females.
Cockroaches may look small but they are surprisingly strong. Their body is protected by a hard exoskeleton – effectively an external suit of armor. Made of chitin, it is both strong and flexible. Tests involving putting weights on top of a roach showed it could withstand a force up to 900 times its body weight. That’s why they are hard to squish!
Fascinating … But Still Pests
Hopefully you have gained a new appreciation for the roach and see roaches as more complex bugs than you thought before. But they are still pests capable of spreading diseases or agitating allergies whether you’re in southern Utah or elsewhere. And as we’ve seen, roaches can be hard to kill.
For more information about roaches be sure to ask your residential pest assassins at Southwest Exterminators upon their next visit. They know the facts and have the experience to remove these pests, interesting or not!