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"…later that week, Johnny and his father heard screaming coming from the kitchen and ran in to find his mother hysterically stamping on a cockroach. Johnny looked up at his father, smiled and asked "do you want to tell her Dad or shall I?"".

Basic Information

Cockroaches have been on the planet for the last 350 million years according the fossil records we have.[1] There are thousands of species of cockroach on the planet, some sites will have a record listing of ~3500, while others site over 5000. The largest recorded species is in South America, is six inches long and has a one-foot wingspan.[6] Not all cockroaches have wings, and even among those that do, not all can fly. Flying ability differs dramatically among those species capable flight, with some being nimble, expert flyers, while others are more clumsy in the air. [3]

They breed quickly, laying eggs, or in some species they create eggs that are hatched inside the female as she carries them,[1] with 16 to 64 eggs depending on the species[3].

They are a hardy species, capable of going without air for 45 minutes, living off of barely edible things like stamp glue. They are not nearly as susceptible to radiation, compared to humans, largely due to how often their cells divide - the most vulnerable point for radiation damage to take effect. During their juvenile stage they molt roughly once a week, dividing their cells. But once they are adult they don't molt nearly as often. Humans, by contrast, do not restrict our cell division to a weekly event at any point in our lives.[1]

Wasps are one of the most efficient predators and killers of the cockroach, paralyzing them, sometimes killing them, and sometimes dragging them back to their nests for egg laying. The wasp stings the cockroach to paralyze it or kill it, since biting it or cutting it isn't nearly so effective.
A cockroach can live from a week up to a month without it's head.[6] The have a organ called a Crop that stores extra food for digestion later, and if their mouth doesn't get a chance to chew everything before the roach has to run off, then their Gizzard can do the job later. They also store the extra as fat (that white stuff that squirts out when you step on one1).[6] If a cockroach was really in the perfect situation for food and water and lost it's head, it could just stay put and not do anything and live off it's fat stores and food left in the Crop until it all runs out. Then it would die from the decapitation because of thirst. [2]

Also, although they are "cold blooded" like all insects, they are also freeze tolerant and can be frozen solid in a block of ice, only to revive apparently unharmed upon thawing. Cold weather will suppress their activity, but will not kill them.

They can lose a leg too and it can grow back at the next molting. Most predators have a hard time catching a cockroach partly because they are so fast and hard to catch. Each of the 4000 species has differences in how fast they can move (some can go 3 miles per hour[6]), but they are all fast enough to detect the air wave in front of a predator and allows the cockroach to scuttle away, avoiding capture. [2] They also have two hairs on the backside, called Cerci, that act as motion detectors for that sneak attack from behind. [3]

Roaches can see almost all directions all at the same time due to their compound eyes with nearly 2000 lenses in each eye (humans have 1 in each eye). [6] Cockroaches (and most other insects) have two light receptors, one sensitive in the ultraviolet range and one in the green range but can't see in red light. Most pest cockroaches are not attracted to light. They are active at night and if anything they might avoid light. The yellow 'bug' lights would be least visible to any of the wild cockroaches that can see your light. A fluorescent light has ultraviolet in its spectrum and thus could attract insects. A normal incandescent light will have the usual blue and green light in its spectrum and thus attracts insects that see that light. [2]
Most cockroaches don't make much noise, and some don't make any. Some zoos have displays of cockroaches, and the Hissing Cockroach is a rather impressive display.[4]

Just as we have pests in our lives, like bed bugs, and eyelash mites, Cockroaches suffer too. They can also get mites.[5] They are also carriers of very nasty diseases like dysentery, typhoid and poliomyelitis, as well as gastroenteritis.[1] This is unfortunate as their efficient reproduction and extreme resilience makes them copious infestors of urban areas in most of the planet - careful building design and maintenance, vigourous eradication and scrupulous hygiene are usually required to control infestation and where any of these fail - particularly in poorer areas where most, if not all, of them tend to be absent - the cockroaches proliferate.

Cockroaches can eat just about anything, but can they be eaten? Fear Factor, a popular TV show, had a Celebrity episode where the contestants participated for a charity of their choice. Pen and Teller where there and Teller ate a cockroach first, when it was not his turn. He seemed to enjoy it, but that might have been just acting. In May 2009, an entomologist was on NPR and informed the listening audience that cockroaches caught in the coffee grinders at large manufacturing facilities can't be separated out, so some pre-ground coffee is bound to have them2.[7] And some people believe in the healthful benefits of Cockroach Tea. The main biological barrier to human consumption is their high pathogen load (as noted above) - at least partially a result of their diet - and the resultant formal and informal taboos against their consumption. Theoretically hygienically farmed cockroaches would overcome the non-cultural parts of this, but there seems little incentive to pursue the idea at present. Numerous small primates and similar species make extensive use of cockroaches as an important source of dietary protein and fat. With extraordinarily potent molecules in their brains that function as antibiotics, there may be some medicinal uses for cockroaches in the future. [8]

Roaches have also been fitted with remote control as part of research into neurobiology and robotics … and the cockroach is neurologically simple enough that completely artifiical Robot cockroaches have been constructed that perform a lot like the real thing.

See Also:

News: Zombie Cockroaches Revived By Brain Shot


Teller Eats a Cockroach on Fear Factor

Game and Story Use

  • Characters could face down the formidable foe of the Cockroach! Even if it's head is removed it keeps fighting.
  • Radioactively enhanced cockroaches were not killed but mutated into giants.
  • A character could be part Cockroach, taking on different aspects of it's regenerative side.
  • The campaign could be created around search-and-destroy tactics for a dangerous cockroach species in the area.
  • It may be an underwater variety, or extra large, or super fast, or has created a pact with the wasps in the area.
  • Even a significantly carnivorous mutation of the vanilla type could be extraordinarily dangerous. Just the sort of thing to emerge from the tank meat plant or industrial abbatoir when it closes and cuts off their original food supply. Their first victims are likely to be street people dazed by drink or drugs, the very old and very young and others who are weak or incapable. Next come sleeping adults and finally, aggressive swarm attacks on the fit and healthy.
  • The characters find themselves in an insect city where the Roach bar is the only place selling food cheap enough for the group. Unfortunately it's all the leftovers and trash from the other restaurants in town!
  • The evil witch has Cockroach Tea in her cupboard! 'gasp'
  • Where roaches are so common as to be ignored the remote control cyber-roach could bring a whole new meaning to 'bugging someone's apartment'.
  • A suitably disgusting villain may be able to swarm shift into a plague of cockroaches.
  • Anything that can control cockroaches has the potential to act as an effective pied piper - or a serious nuisance.
  • Roaches are generally a good short hand for a "slum" area. The presence of large numbers of them in an otherwise clean area should be an indication that something has gone wrong - for example a horde of roaches emerging from a suburban toilet bowl may imply that all is not as it should be in the sewerage system.
  • A suitably unsqueamish society might make use of the roach's ability to convert trash into food by farming them. Dinner in their town might be a little off putting.
  • A cockroach may be caught and sacrificed for its brain, which heals a diseased or infected hero.
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