Believe it or not, there are well over 4,000 different types of cockroaches—that we know about. Some estimates suggest we've discovered only about half the total number of species. Though most live in the wild, at least a few tenacious species have become uncomfortably common, extremely unwelcome guests in our houses and apartments. Curious about these creepy-crawly critters? Click through for seven astonishing facts you won't want to believe!
You may have heard the myth that a cockroach can live without its head. Well—it's true! According to the National Pest Management Association, a headless cockroach can live for weeks, moving about, reacting to touch, and exhibiting other basic behaviors. That's because the insect breathes not through the nose and mouth like we do, but through openings along the body. Not only would the decapitated body of the cockroach survive, but, at least for several hours, so would the separated head.
The German cockroach, which is brown with two stripes behind its head, ranks among the most abundant in the United States. That may be because, at any given time, a female of the species can be carrying 40 eggs. With an incubation period that lasts only three weeks, one German lady roach can hatch up to 700 baby roaches in the course of a year. Even more alarming: Some more recent generations of German roaches have shown resistance to a number of treatment options.
If you thought the roach you spotted last night was oversize, wait until you get a load of this: The wonderfully named rhinoceros cockroach is the heaviest in the world, typically weighing more than one full ounce. It's also one of the longest-living of all insects, with an average lifespan greater than 10 years. The good news? Also known as the giant burrowing cockroach, this Australian species inhabits networks of tunnels underground and out of sight.
Cockroaches will eat just about anything. In sewers, cockroaches feed on waste; in forests, they consume dead trees. In houses and apartments, cockroaches first pursue things like cheese, meat, baked goods, and sweets, but they also eat cardboard and book bindings, dead and crippled cockroaches, and even human fingernails and toenails. Being nocturnal, cockroaches search for food at night, starting out close to their dark, dank hiding spots.
Have you ever turned on the light in the kitchen only to notice, in your peripheral vision, a swiftly disappearing blur? You're not imagining things; cockroaches are indeed that fast. In fact, they are considered one of the fastest-running insects on the planet. In response to light or movement, American cockroaches move at a rate of 50 body lengths per second. That's the equivalent of a person running at 210 miles per hour!
Cockroaches don't merely make you squirm in disgust—they can also make you sick. After picking up germs and bacteria in places like bathrooms, garbage dumps, and sewers, cockroaches then carry those contaminants to food storage and prep areas in the home, spreading such undesirable things as E. coli, salmonella, and parasitic worms. Meanwhile, a host of studies indicate that cockroaches trigger asthma symptoms, especially in children.
Though cockroaches can grow quite large, they remain able to fit through virtually razor-thin crevices. A large American cockroach can get through slots as thick as a quarter, while a small German cockroach can squeeze past cracks as narrow as a dime. In other words, keeping cockroaches out of your home is no easy proposition. To protect your family against cockroaches and countless other pests, visit PestWorld.org to find out how the pros can help.
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