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Why I Love Cockroaches

June 23, 2010

Brit Trogen

Science in Seconds blog Brit Trogen

 

Humans never seem to appreciate the creatures that thrive in our presence. We call crows, rats, magpies, and cockroaches “pests,” and do our very best to exterminate them, while simultaneously struggling against all odds to save the panda and giant rhino.

But there’s another label for these ubiquitous critters that’s equally accurate: synanthropes. The ones who have evolved to live with us specifically. They’re survivors, and pretty awesome ones at that. And I for one am glad that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be able to rid ourselves of what I consider to be one of the coolest species on the planet: the cockroach.

Cockroaches are really freaking cool, and almost perfect when it comes to survival skills. They can survive for three months without food, one month without water, and several days after being decapitated. They can also make do indefinitely by eating the glue from postage stamps, or—worst case scenario—each other, making them a perpetually self-sustaining population.

And while the whole “surviving nuclear war” thing might be partially myth (they will die if directly nuked), they do have much higher tolerance to radiation than humans, and would certainly stand a pretty good shot of recovery. We design robots after them, marvel at their million brain cells (compared to 250,000 in fruit flies), and study them for years to understand exactly how they’ve become so Houdini-like. They even have the power to win over the cold hearts of the researchers who study them, who state: “We like cockroaches, and would recommend no squashing”—a sentiment with which I agree.

And admit it, they’re even kind of cute. Look at those sleek, oval thoraces, burnt caramel exoskeletons, vestigial wings, and long antennal flagella! Precious.

But ultimately, if we really can’t come to accept the types of creatures that co-evolve with us, maybe we should reexamine the lifestyles of wastefulness we encourage that allow them to flourish. And in the meantime, I’ll be continuing to live and let live when it comes to roaches.

YOUR COMMENTS

Chris Buzon on June 23, 2010
In addition, there are several species that are absolutely beautiful - even to people who don't like 'bugs'.

I like almost all insects (I'm including things like spiders and other 'creepy crawlies'...but not mosquitoes!). They really are nearly perfect.

We could (and have) learned a thing or two from them. There is more to learn, undoubtedly.
Amy on June 23, 2010
Brit,

I am really enjoying perusing through all of your articles! You are a fabulous writer and have a real knack for spreading your infectious enthusiasm and knowledge for the "science of things" that most of us would rather not consider unless presented as you do with "science in seconds." Brilliant my friend...and very cool:) xoxo
cathy bodmer on June 25, 2010
The only experience I have had with cockroaches is when 3 of them came into my apartment on some bananas I had purchased at Safeway. Like how safe is that? I was totally freaked out as all I have ever heard about cockroaches is negative stuff.

I called an exterminator who sprayed the whole apartment which was in a brand new building.

Thanks for taking the side of the cockroach but I prefer to keep them at arms length.
mike on August 16, 2010
i was woundering if u can send pics and ways to get rid of cockroaches and the most comment spot where they hide out and how they get into the house. and how offen do they shead because i think i found a shell of one and i want to make sure it is not cockroaches thanks
Gio on February 20, 2011
I grew up in New Orleans which means roaches are no strangers to me. Quite often as a child, I would be awakened by a clumsy roach falling on me as they all seem to be clumsy flyers. I got used to it. These days, they don't gross me out (they never did) nor do they bother me. I also do my best not to kill them. However, I do pick them up with my fingertips and toss them outside. Really freaks out my wife :D

I think roaches are swell!
Brit Trogen on February 21, 2011
Way to go, Glo! I have to admit, even though I live in NY I've never experienced roaches falling on me from the sky (except one time in Thailand, but that's a different story.) But they certainly don't freak me out either. Glad to meet another fan!
AnimalLover77 on March 17, 2012
After reading this and watching a documentary on roaches, I cried a little when I realized what a harsh life they endure...now I understand them :)
Nicole on July 27, 2012
own, cute! I wish roaches didn´t freak me out, but they do. I don´t kill them (anymore), I gently take them outside, but they still gross me out. Wish I could start liking them as I like other creatures...
Brit Trogen on July 27, 2012
I have to admit... Having recently found myself in a rather intimate encounter with a cockroach (in my apartment... *shudder*) I have slightly revised my opinion on the little guys.

Cockroaches outside: fine and dandy. Cockroaches inside: pretty freaking gross.
alex on August 11, 2013
Where there is one, there are thousands. Squashing one is not a bad tradition. I think I'm fine keeping the gross critters away from me. When you wake up to find one on your pillow, it doesn't leave a great vibe.
Vicky on October 03, 2013
I like roaches-they mean no harm and they are way more afraid of us than we are of them! I scare them on purpose and they run like hell. I don't kill them anymore- I scoop them up into a large plastic cup and dump them outside! I'm doing them a favor because if my cat gets one she will annihilate it like an assissin. I'm an accomplice to murder if I let that happen lol

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