You might have heard it said that cockroaches will be the last creatures standing when the world ends, but how true is this?
They do have a reputation as hardy pests and as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to kill one, it can be almost impossible. But what makes cockroaches so resilient and will they survive the end of the world?
What makes cockroaches so resilient?
They are adaptable: Cockroaches have been around for hundreds of millions of years and in that time, they’ve adapted to life in many different environments. There’s evidence that they can live for a week without a head, they can go a month without food, and they can withstand extremely cold temperatures.
They are good at defending themselves: If you try to squash a cockroach, it gives off a pretty nasty scent which acts as a deterrent against anyone or anything that’s trying to harm it.
Their diet is varied: The chances that cockroaches will die because of a lack of food are slim because they eat just about anything. Their preferred diet is starches, sweet and greasy items, and meat, but they are also partial to cheese, decaying organic matter, and even beer!
Their body size and shape makes them good at hiding: The average cockroach is ½ inch to 2 ½ inches long and their body shape is flat which means they can hide in the tiniest of cracks and set up home in places that are hard to access like under cookers, fridges, and between floor boards.
Cockroaches are nocturnal: Cockroaches tend to spend the daylight hours hiding out then they venture out at night in search of food and water. This means that they can breed undisturbed for a while before you even see one or realise you have an infestation.
They breed fast: Cockroaches lay their eggs in capsules and there can be up to 40 eggs in one capsule. These pests can produce up to 400 offspring in one year and the offspring mature fast. Some species take as little as 36 days to become adults.
And speaking of fast: Cockroaches move very quickly which you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to flatten one!
But could cockroaches survive the end of the world?
The US TV show MythBusters tested the theory that cockroaches would be able to survive a nuclear apocalypse. Cockroaches were exposed to radioactive material and though they survived longer that humans would, all of the cockroaches died when they were exposed to extreme radiation.
Then there’s the fact that they feed on decaying material from humans and animals. If there were no other living organisms around, how long would it be before their food supply dried up?
Any organism that did survive would just be part of an ecosystem that is damaged beyond repair.
They might be hardy creatures, but the evidence points to the fact that no living organism would survive if the world was to end because of something like a nuclear blast. Not even a cockroach.