Separating Fact from Fiction: Cockroach Myths and Misconceptions

Separating Fact from Fiction: Cockroach Myths and Misconceptions

By Bill Willis

February 1, 2017

Cockroach pictured slightly larger than actual size.
Photo courtesy of Bill Willis

With the weather changing, you may have seen one or two cockroaches scurrying into your home. When it comes to cockroaches, there are plenty of myths and misconceptions, and some of the facts may also surprise you. While some of the following myths are just that, other ‟myths” have some truth to them. It's time to set to set the records straight.

Myth: All cockroaches are bad cockroaches

The Facts: This is false. Of thousands of species of cockroaches worldwide, only about 30 types are considered pests. In the US, pests are the American, German, Oriental and Smokey-Brown cockroaches.

Myth: Cockroaches walked the earth at the same time as the dinosaurs

The Facts: It’s true, the cockroach is estimated to be at least 200 million years old. There are roach fossils dating back as far as 350 million years, so they actually pre-date some dinosaurs.

Myth: Cockroaches cause allergies and make people sick

The Facts: This is no myth, but rather, a severe problem for people with asthma. Cockroaches produce protein fecal matter and decaying molted skeletons. Roaches also carry bacteria, which can lead to the spread of disease.

Myth: Roaches only invade dirty homes

The Facts: This is a myth. Roaches enter buildings depending on ease of access to water and food sources in the home. Dirtier homes just provide easier access to crumbs. It is important to not only keep your home clean, but also to ensure that cracks and points of entry for roaches and other insects are properly sealed.

Myth: Roaches will eat anything

The Facts: True, they eat everything from plant matter to people food, dead skin cells, and even garbage.

Myth: The only thing that kills roaches is roach treatment

The Facts: Patently false. Roaches have natural predators and aren’t very high up on the food chain. In addition to people’s attempts to remove the household pests, there are animals, centipedes and certain species of wasp that prey on cockroaches.

Myth: Roaches drink beer

The Facts: Some roaches do seem to like alcoholic beverages, beer included. It’s likely because of the sugars found in alcohol, not because roaches like to party.

Myth: Roaches live for decades

The Facts: Cockroaches can live anywhere between a few months to a couple of years, depending on the species.

Myth: Roaches are everywhere

The Facts: That’s a myth, but just barely. Roaches are adaptable and find ways to survive on every continent except Antarctica.

Myth: A roach can survive for a long time without eating

The Facts: This is true, for most roaches can go up to a month without food but will die in a week if deprived of water.

Myth: Roaches move really, really fast

The Facts: Indeed they do, for cockroaches, both young and adult can move up to three miles per hour.

If you’re still curious about cockroaches, check out the All-Hands article last year.

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