Ever wonder about those yucky things called roaches?  Yes, I hate all bugs and spiders but roaches are the worst.  We are blessed to live in warmer climates, but along with our hotter almost tropical weather comes the dreaded cockroach.  I used to think that if the house was kept clean, I could keep them away from my home and family.  No, that’s not really so…  I just hate them… And I can’t find a good reason for their being alive.

Science tells us that the cockroach has walked on the earth 350 million years multiplying and changing when the need arises and multiplying again.  They have been found with fossils of the first seed ferns and were around when dinosaurs walked the earth.

     Science also tells us that it was after the arrival of man that the roach came to be known as the bearer of disease.  But even though the roach lives in quite nasty conditions, after it encounters a human, scientists have found that they go off somewhere and clean their bodies.

There are about 3,500 species of cockroaches, and most of these live in the tropics.  53 different kinds live in the United States, but only a few of these actually live indoors.  These include the German cockroach (called the Russian roach by the Germans), and the American, Oriental, Surinam, and Cuban.  These names came from their possible countries of origin.  The big ones we call American roaches are also known as ‘waterbugs’ and are usually found in basements and sewers where the atmosphere is damp.  They probably came from Africa on slave ships.  The leading house or apartment dweller is the smaller German roach.  Although it has wings, it usually doesn’t fly.

The cockroach is a truly remarkable living thing.  It is able to eat and digest almost anything including the insulation in TV sets.  And, it has several unique defense mechanisms.  The roach is phototropic which means it is repelled by the light and does better in the dark when most of its prey is active and fewer of its predators are around.

Roaches also have built in alarm systems consisting of two long antennae with tiny hairs able to predict the slightest movement of air.  A tiny puff of air will alert the roach’s nerve system and put the roach into rapid flight.

In addition, roaches can compress their external skeletons to fit into the smallest spaces.  When curled into a ball they are able to survive being stepped on. Some roaches have the ability to spray its natural enemies with a seizure-producing chemical.

Roaches release what are called pheromones to alert other roaches that there is a rich food supply in the area.  This explains why great numbers of the insects seem to appear overnight.  Along with the swarm comes an unpleasant musty smell.

Researchers find the cockroach to be a perfect lab specimen.  It is perfect for studies in nutrition, neurophysiology, genetics, metabolism and even cancer research.  Roaches need little space or food and can even survive radical surgery.  A roach missing its head only dies from starvation. Its brain is in its back.

Man’s never ending battle with the roach is really one of control, because there are just too many of them to eradicate them all.  If they survive an insecticide, many are able to remember and avoid that danger in the future.  Others develop resistance to particular lethal chemicals.   Using natural predators to help get rid of the cockroach can be worse than the roaches themselves.  Roaches’ natural enemies include hedgehogs, tarantulas, centipedes and red mites.  If a perfect roach-killer is ever found, roaches will probably do what they have always done… hide in the dark, eat, breed and adapt.

As for me, I will continue to get upset when I see one and run for the nearest insecticide spray.  I just hope they haven’t acquired a resistance to mine yet….  Did Noah really know what he was doing when he took 2 of them?   God bless you.