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Would Cockroaches Really Survive A Nuclear War? And 4 Other Weird Cockroach Facts

If you’ve ever had cockroaches in your home, you know that the critters are pretty darn tough to shake. It’s as though they can survive anything–which is a little surprising, if you think about their position on the food chain. But… could they survive a nuclear war? We’ve got the answer, along with a few other weird facts you never knew you wanted to know about these quick-footed pests. 

1. Yes, Roaches Could Probably Survive a Nuclear War

…at least for a little bit longer than humans. Roaches are several times more resistant to radiation than human beings–6-15 times more resistant, depending on the type of roach. In case of a major nuclear disaster or event, like a "nuclear apocalypse," though, roaches would either die from the blast or eventually succumb to the effects of radiation, just like other living creatures. Also, because roaches tend to live off the detritus that other creatures leave behind, they likely wouldn’t fare for long without the rest of the world to supply their needs. 

2. Roaches Can Live Without their Heads

Cockroaches have an open circulatory system, meaning they take in oxygen through micro-holes in their bodies–so they don’t need their head to allow them to breathe. They can live for about one week after they’ve lost their head, at which point they will succumb to dehydration. 

3. Roaches Can Go One Month Without Eating 

Most varieties of roaches can live for a month or longer without eating a morsel–but they do need water every week or so to stay alive. This is one reason pest control companies strongly recommend packing away every last crumb of food in the kitchen and throughout the home. Like beer? Make sure not to leave open bottles around the house or yard; like many humans, roaches are particularly fond of the hops/sugar combo. 

4.  The Biggest Cockroaches on Earth Have a Wingspan of 7 Inches

These roaches occupy tropical regions, and generally try to stay away from humans–they’re not the roaches you’ll find hiding under the furniture of the unwary homeowner (thankfully). The Australian rhinoceros cockroach, which is as strange-looking as it sounds, measures about 3 inches from head to behind and weighs as much as one ounce. Not a critter you’d want to encounter unawares. 

5. Cockroaches Can Be Trained

Unlike most insects, roaches have exhibited the ability to learn–and they learn quickly, after just one or two corrections. Of course, their capacity for learning is limited (scientists practiced training them to salivate when presented with certain smells). It’s also worth noting a roach’s quick ability to evolve resistance to pesticides (no wonder they’re so hard to evict once they’ve taken up residence in your domicile). 

Despite our general creeped-out reaction to roaches, they don’t generally pose a threat of any kind (though some do carry harmful germs and bacteria around human abodes).