Cockroach Facts, Myths, and Questions

As a result of their close association with us over the years, cockroaches have become an integral part of many people’s lives. They can infest homes and workplaces and can be difficult to control. As a result, many interesting facts and myths about cockroaches have arisen.

While some of these facts and myths are true, many others are just plain false. This article will separate fact from fiction and answer some frequently asked questions about cockroaches.

Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional

Cockroaches Only Come Out at Night

FALSE: Pest cockroaches are nocturnal, but when there is a large population of these pests in your home, they will come out during the daytime to look for food, water, and shelter. Forest roaches are active during the day.

Cockroaches Can Live Without Their Heads 

TRUE: A German cockroach can live without its head for up to a week. A decapitated roach’s death may occur in several ways, including infection, water loss from blood loss, or evaporation from where the head was.

Large blaberid species can live for over a month without their heads. 

A cockroach cannot regrow its head like it can some of its other body parts, such as the leg. 

Cockroaches Are Found All Over the World

FALSE: Although it seems like cockroaches are everywhere in the world and generally live wherever insects are found, they do not inhabit the continent of Antarctica.

All Cockroaches Can Fly

FALSE: The adult American, smokybrown, and male brown-banded roaches can fly. Most other pest roaches cannot fly but they are super-fast runners, especially German roaches. 

White Roaches Are Rare

FALSE: White cockroaches are not a different species but are a cockroach that has either just been born or has molted and shed their skin. After each molt, the roach is white and will develop its usual color over several hours; during this time, they hide away as they are vulnerable to predators. This is why you rarely see a white roach, but they are not rare at all.

Close up of white cockroach on its back
White roach on its back

Can Cockroaches Survive a Nuclear Bomb?

Cockroaches are hardy creatures that are adaptable and have managed to survive for millions of years. But can they really survive that much radiation? 

In a TV program, roaches were subjected to radiation exposure and found that they could survive doses of 10,000 rads, that’s ten times higher than the lethal dose that people can withstand. Even though roaches can withstand more radiation than we can, they won’t survive for long after a nuclear blast.  

Do Roaches Poop in the Same Place?

Cockroaches will poop anywhere, but you will find large numbers of droppings in their harborage areas as this is where they spend most of their time. Roach feces resemble specks of pepper or coffee grounds.

Can Cockroaches Go Inside Your Ear?

Yes, they can, and there are numerous reports of this happening. As roaches are nocturnal, they come out at night to find food when we are asleep. The roach will find two things enticing about your ear: the first is that the inside of your ear provides it with a warm, tight space that roaches love, and the other is that it wants to eat your earwax and is drawn in by the chemical odors the ear emits. 

Why Do Roaches Die on Their Backs?

An insecticide that targets the roach’s nervous system causes muscle spasms, which cause the cockroach to flip over.  The roach will die on its back because it no longer has control over the muscles in the legs. When a roach eats an insecticide that does not cause spasms but targets the respiratory system instead, it will simply run out of energy and die face-down.

Is a Palmetto Bug the Same Thing as a Cockroach?

Yes, a palmetto bug is a cockroach. It’s a term given to any large cockroach, such as the Florida woods roach, American, Australian, and smokybrown roaches. Palmetto bug is a commonly used term in Southeast U.S, mainly Florida, because roaches are often found near palms or scrub. 

Are All Cockroaches Bad?

Pest cockroaches such as German roaches and American roaches that infest our homes can be harmful to us in several ways. However, cockroaches are good for the outdoors environment because as well as recycling organic matter, they are also part of the food chain as roaches are eaten by lots of predators.