The evolution of cockroaches over more than 200 million years is a wonder of nature. From inhabiting warm and cosy cabinets to dirty corners, cockroaches can be found everywhere.
However, cockroaches are one of the most detested species of insects. In fact, many of us suffer from a fear of cockroaches. And, to describe this widespread cockroach phobia, linguists have even coined a term — 'katsaridaphobia'.
Although small in size, cockroaches pose several health hazards. Indeed, cockroach allergy is quite common, as the presence of cockroaches can trigger asthma attacks. Children are especially vulnerable to diseases spread by cockroaches. Some of the diseases caused by cockroaches include diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid and other viral infections.
Today, more than 4,500 species of cockroaches are found around the world. Scientists from various fields such as neurobiology, antibiotic research and locomotion are studying cockroaches for the benefit of humans.
Years of research have revealed several interesting facts about cockroaches. Here we share a few fun facts about cockroaches for you and your child:
Cockroach facts for kids
- Cockroaches are at least as old as the dinosaurs. According to scientists, the first ancestor of the modern-day cockroach appeared around 235 million years ago.
- More than 4,500 species of cockroaches are found. However, only a few types of cockroaches are known to inhabit human households. These include American cockroaches, brown-banded cockroaches, German cockroaches, Australian cockroaches and Oriental cockroaches.
- The American cockroach measures between 1.1 and 2 inches in length. It is found in warm climatic conditions, is reddish brown in colour and can fly.
- The most common species of cockroach found worldwide is the German cockroach. These cockroaches are usually 0.5 to 5/8 inches in length. They are light brown in colour with two dark brown strips running along their back.
- As their name suggests, the brown-banded cockroaches have brown bands on their back. This species requires less moisture than other types of cockroaches. So, they can inhabit even dry areas such as bedrooms and closets. Both male and female brown-banded cockroaches have wings but only the males have well developed wings to help them fly. They are small in size and measure 11 to 145 mm in length. Oriental cockroaches are distinguished by a greasy shine on their back. They emit an unpleasant odour and prefer staying in water. The females of these cockroach species are larger in size than the males.
- Australian cockroaches have two dark spots surrounded by a yellow circle on their pronotum. They have large wings and are good at flying. They are usually found outdoors in moist places such as under the barks of trees and greenhouses. Within the house, they inhabit areas such as water pipes, sinks and toilets.
- The Madagascar hissing cockroach is one of the largest among the different types of cockroaches, measuring close to 7.5 cm long. These insects have light and dark brown bands on their backs. However, they don't have wings. They are mostly found in the wild and can live up to 5 years. They produce a hissing sound by forcing air out from a pair of modified spiracles in the abdomen. Since the Madagascar hissing cockroaches are easy to rear, some individuals also keep them as pets.
- Cockroaches mostly hide in crevices and corners of kitchens and bathrooms as these places are warm and humid, and provide easy access to food and water. They also find these spots ideal for laying eggs.
- All species of cockroaches breed at a rapid pace. In its lifetime, one female cockroach can produce eight sacs of eggs, with each sac containing around 48 eggs.
- Female of certain cockroach species mate only once in their lifetime but can lay eggs throughout their life.
- A cockroach passes through three stages in its life-cycle, hatching from an egg to turn into a nymph and to finally become a full-grown adult. During the nymphal stage, a cockroach sheds its hard outer skin several times. This process is called molting. It helps a cockroach grow in size.
- A cockroach’s egg is covered by a shell-like case known as ootheca. The ootheca is bean-shaped and yellowish or leathery brown in colour. It measures between 8 and 10 mm in length and is coated with a sticky substance on the outer surface. This helps it stick to any surface.
- With access to food and water, the average lifespan of most cockroach species is one year. A cockroach can survive an entire month without food and for around two weeks without drinking water.
- Cockroaches consume everything that humans eat. They have a great affinity for meat and starchy food. They usually depend on leftovers for their nutrition. Apart from organic food they can also eat faeces, gum, leather, soap and hair. At times, they even bite our fingernails, toenails and eyelashes when we are asleep.
- Cockroaches run very fast at speeds of up to 3 miles per hour. This makes it difficult for us to catch or kill them.
- Cockroaches are shy of light. So, they tend to run helter-skelter in search of dark corners and crevices when you switch on the light.
- A beheaded cockroach can stay alive for close to a week! This is because instead of breathing from their mouth, they take in air through tiny holes in their body segments. A beheaded cockroach dies a week later because of thirst; for, without a mouth, it can't drink water.
- Ever wondered why you can’t get rid of these annoying pests even when you pour buckets of water to drown them? This is because a cockroach can hold its breath for close to 40 minutes to survive when submerged in water. Holding its breath also helps a cockroach conserve water in its body.
- Cockroaches are known to carry and spread nearly 33 different kinds of bacteria. These also include disease-causing ones like E. coli and Salmonella, which cause food poisoning.
- Distasteful as it may sound, cockroaches are edible. Research has shown that they can be a good source of protein and are safe to eat. In many cultures around the world, cockroaches are an accepted part of the diet.
Although they are hardy pests and difficult to exterminate, you can reduce the chances of cockroaches infesting your home. Ensure cleanliness of your surroundings and close any potential cockroach entry points. However, if your house is already infested with cockroaches, do consider hiring professional pest management services.
About the author:
The article was written by Parama Gupta and published on 22 August 2019.
Parama Gupta is a freelance writer and a higher education professional, with experience in teaching mass communication at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. As a writer, her areas of interest include education (primary, secondary and higher education), travel and children's literature and films.
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