Many wonder hopefully the question, will cockroaches ever become extinct? Maybe this was prompted by the site of one too many of these creatures or the discovery of one after you just worked to remove them.
No, cockroaches will never become extinct. They were able to survive the mass extinction of dinosaurs millions of years ago because of their ability to adapt to changes, and they continuously resist any eradication efforts from humans.
Why Can’t Cockroaches Become Extinct?
It has been proven that cockroaches are one of the oldest groups of insects in the world due to fossil evidence dating over 300 million years. They even predated the existence of dinosaurs by almost 70 million years. Because of their longevity, they are considered as one of the most resilient living organisms. This will make it hard for anyone or any circumstance to eliminate them entirely on Earth. Some of the reasons why it is easy for cockroaches to survive includes:
- Adaptability – Cockroaches are highly adaptive species. They’ve managed to adjust to any changes happening on the planet. In fact, a team from the Discovery Channel proved that they could withstand up to 100,000 radon units (rads) of cobalt-60 radioactive gamma rays exposure. That is 1,000 times stronger than the radiation released by the atomic bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima, Japan that killed as much as 355,000 people. They were able to survive that amount of extreme radiation exposure because they have slower cell cycles and simpler genetic makeup.
- Size – The majority of cockroach species are small, particularly the Blattella germanica or more commonly known as German cockroaches that you can normally see at home. They can hide within the smallest cracks in the wall where they can multiply and build a colony. They can also live under the kitchen cabinets, stoves, refrigerators, and the spaces between the floors, baseboards, and cupboards. They love spots with moisture. Because of this, they can easily hide whenever humans try any means to eradicate them.
- Variety – The number of cockroach species all over the world is somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000, but only about 1% of them are considered household pests. Aside from the German cockroach, other pesky cockroach species include the Periplanet americana or the American cockroach, the Supella longipalpa or the brown-banded cockroach, and the Blatta orientalis or the Oriental cockroach. You can try getting rid of them at home, but it does not mean you can eliminate the entire colony completely. Some of them can be found in all sorts of environments like the forests, matted vegetation, and near the shores of water bodies.
- Reproduction – Some species of female cockroaches can produce as much as 400 offsprings in a span of one year. They usually carry their capsule-like egg cases called ootheca at the end of their abdomens. These may contain around 40 eggs at a time. Once the eggs hatch, the cockroach nymphs only need a short amount of time before they become adult cockroaches and have the ability to reproduce.
- Diet – Cockroaches are omnivores, which means they can eat whatever is available. Most of the time, they prefer to eat sweets, starches, and meat. They can also consume other items like human hair, toothpaste, books, and any rotting organism. Even without a food source, they can still survive for a month without consuming anything.
Because of these factors, it is less likely that cockroaches will become extinct. They may just be the sole survivors if anything catastrophic happens to the world we live in.
What Will Happen If Cockroaches Become Extinct?
Even if you despise these creatures, the ecosystem will be disrupted if there are no cockroaches left in the world. According to a study by Srini Kambhampati, a professor and chairman of the University of Texas at Tyler’s Biology Department, there will be repercussions in case cockroaches suddenly disappeared in the world. One of them is its effects on the diet of other creatures.
Kambhampati explained that there are animals that feed on cockroaches, including rats, cats, reptiles, and big birds like eagles. While these animals do not rely entirely on cockroaches for their diets, and other insects like parasitic wasps need cockroach eggs to survive. Without cockroaches, these wasps will also become extinct.
Also, Kambhampati revealed that most cockroach species help the forests by eating the decaying organic matters like wood and leaves that trap the atmospheric nitrogen. Once the cockroach excretes its wastes, the nitrogen released will be mixed with the soil. Since nitrogen is an important gas that contributes to the growth of trees, cockroach wastes are very essential to the health of forests.
Humans also benefit from the existence of cockroaches. In Havana, people are keeping the local bright green Cuban cockroach as pets. Others use these insects as inspiration for further studies. For example, Professor Robert Full from the University of California, Berkley was able to come up with a six-legged robot based on the movements of a cockroach. It moves faster with more fluid motions compared to the other robots made at that time.
Medical research was also done based on the characteristics of the cockroach. The experts from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science found out that these insects can produce very potent antibiotics on their own, that is why they can survive living in filthy environments without getting sick. This may pave the way for researchers to finally develop the cures for some of the most dangerous illnesses caused by bacteria.
There are also other countries that use cockroaches as medicine. In some parts of China, hospitals treat burns using a cream made with powdered cockroaches, while those suffering from gastroenteritis were sometimes asked to drink cockroach syrup. These practices will have to stop if cockroaches become extinct.
How Long Do Cockroaches Live?
The average life cycle of cockroaches differs depending on the species. But basically, all cockroaches start out as an egg stored inside the ootheca. The moment the egg hatches, the baby cockroaches will go through a variety of developmental stages known as instars, then they mature into adults.
In most cockroach species, the female cockroaches live longer than males. Some can even live for at least two years. To further understand a cockroach’s life cycle, here are the average life cycles of some of the most common cockroach species:
- German Cockroach: The typical female German cockroach can lay about 20 to 40 eggs at a time. She is also expected to produce as many as five oothecae during her lifespan. The eggs that come out from a female roach will have an average incubation rate of 28 days. Also, German cockroaches pass through six or seven instars before becoming an adult. This happens within 103 days, but the usual adult lifespan for both male and female German cockroaches is less than 200 days.
- Oriental Cockroach: The female members of this species can only lay at least 16 eggs at a time and produce eight oothecae during their entire lifespan. That means a female cockroach can only have at least 128 offsprings. Also, the Oriental cockroaches can go through seven to 10 instars in approximately 589 days. The average lifespan of the females can last up to 180 days, while the males can only last for 160 days.
American Cockroach: Aside from the biggest house-infesting cockroach species in the world, the American cockroach also has the longest lifespan among all the pests that invade your property. The females can lay at least 16 eggs at a time and release about six to 14 oothecae during her 700 days of existence. On the other hand, males can exist for as long as 362 days.
How Do Cockroaches Survive Different Weather Conditions?
Because they know how to adjust to different environments, cockroaches have their own ways of surviving any season and weather. Since they are cold-blooded microorganisms, they cannot regulate their internal temperatures. That is why it will be hard for them to survive when the weather becomes too cold. However, they can easily find a place with the right temperature and adequate source of water. Most of the time, their preferred temperature is somewhere between 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. If the weather drops below 25 degrees, they would rather move out to find a warmer place.
During the winter, most cockroaches go through a hibernation state referred to as the diapause. At this time, they would stop doing their usual activities like growing or breeding. But, you may notice that you have an infestation in your home during this time, too. It is possible that the cockroaches are looking for a warm place to stay in with a stable food source.
On the other hand, they are more active in the summer. This is the time when they grow more and perform other activities that they do not normally do like flying. This is also the perfect time for them to go hunting for food, so you can expect to see more of them around your home in the warmer months.
Since it was proven that it is impossible to wipe them off the face of the planet, you need to learn to co-exist with them. As long as they serve an important purpose of keeping the balance of the ecosystem as a food source to other animals and maintaining the health of the forest, you have to accept the fact that these pesky insects will be part of this world for a very long time.