Secret Lives of Cockroaches
When most people interact with cockroaches they’re either shrieking, running away, or searching for the nearest whacking implement. When a cockroach sees you, it reacts in ways that are based on 300 million years of evolutionary experience. During that long period, cockroaches developed secret lives which ensure they’re going to be skittering across the planet long after humans have left the (evolutionary) building.
One of the main cockroach survival traits is called thigmotropism. Thig is Greek for “touch” and in roaches it means they love to feel something in close contact with their wriggly little bodies. Cockroaches are happiest when squeezed into cracks and crevices and spend their days sleeping in slots no thicker than a quarter. When you flip the light switch, they scurry back to their hidey holes not so much because their afraid of you but because they hate the light. And boy can they scurry.
Cockroaches are fantastically fast. They sense approaching threats by changes in air current, detected by fine hairs on their cerci, appendages attached to their rear ends. Once a roach feels a puff of air on its butt, it will take off within 8 milliseconds, or .008 seconds. They achieve speeds of around 30 inches per second and can turn on dime without slowing down. And a day-old baby cockroach can run almost as fast as its mother.
Cockroaches have survived for so long because they can eat anything including glue, grease, leather, paste, hair, rotting food, dead animals, and feces. This disgusting diet works because cockroaches don’t need food for nutritional value. The fatty tissue in their bodies hosts a type of bacteria which is passed down through generations. The bacteria manufacture all the vitamins and amino acids the insect needs to live, which means roaches can eat stuff with zero nutritional value, like cardboard.
You can cut off a roach’s head and the thing will remain alive for about a week until it finally dies from dehydration. They can hold their breath and survive underwater for more than 30 minutes. But the critters do have one weakness. Cockroaches love alcoholic beverages, especially beer. If you want to capture cockroaches, fill a large jar lid with beer and add a little sugar. If you get them drunk enough, maybe you’ll learn even more about the secrets lives of cockroaches.