What Are Roaches? (And how long have they been around?)

What Are Roaches?

The roach is a domestic pest that we humans have been battling for quite some time.  The modern cockroach started scurrying around our planet about 200 million years ago (with close ancestors dating back over 350 million years ago) and has changed very little in that time.  The roaches ability to adapt to new variables in it’s environment have allowed it to not only live alongside humans, but to thrive amongst them.  As much as we want to get rid of the roach, we actually help to produce the food it eats and provide the roach the shelter it needs to maintain it’s foothold as humanity’s #1 pest.

How long have roaches been on Earth?

The battle between humans and roaches dates back a long, long time.  There are 3000 year old passages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (Amazon Best Seller!) with “methods” (see – black magic spells) to eradicate these little guys from invading the halls of the Pharaoh.  I imagine a roach infestation back then looked a lot like this:

Roach Killer Attacking Roach Swarm With Torch 

(Yes I know these are beetles and not roaches, but just enjoy the imagery)

Other references to this pest problem pop up in the middle Ages, Colonial America, and The Civil War.

What Are Roaches Doing That Makes Us Hate Them So Much?

Most folks can’t stand the common cockroach (I say most, because not everybody feels this way) and some people are even debilitated to the point of Katsaridaphobia.


There seems to be something about the cockroach that affects us on an instinctual level.  We probably learned quickly as early humans that we tended to get sick when these critters were running around on our food and supplies.  It also doesn’t help that roaches tend to pick up germs and bacteria from the outside world and deposit them in your home:

“(Roaches) serve as a sort of public transit for the busy microbiological world, a bus ferrying bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites between filth and human comestibles; really, every buggy imaginable rides on this double-decker of an arthropod. Bacteria and viruses settle into the crevices and cracks between thorax and head, and begin to multiply. There are so many fissures and clefts and crannies on a cockroach. Everywhere there are hairs, but especially on the six legs that escort these scuttling creatures from one dark, humid hideaway to another. Microbes snatch a ride on these hairs or are accidentally consumed by the cockroach only to pass into the alimentary canal where they may multiple in number. In one study, the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa was found to have increased multiple-fold over the course of 114 days in the gut of a cockroach (3).” – http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/bodyhorrors/2012/05/09/cockroaches/#.VMFmF0fF8Xs

Our imaginations don’t help either.  The roach has a very alien appearance, with their 6 legs and 18 knees.  In addition to making them the ultimate hacky sack players, this leg configuration also allows the roach to change direction 25 times a second.

Our brains don’t like things that move erratically and randomly.  We like patterns and predictability.  That’s why formulaic Pop Music is so popular and Dubstep makes you want to kill people (sorry, but it’s true).

This triple crown of repulsiveness (disease carrying, eerie appearance, sporadic unpredictable movement) keeps the roach forever enshrined in the hall of fame of bugs and keeps even the best roach killer really busy.

But we’ve put people on the moon.  We have Keurig’s built into Refrigerators.  Why can’t we figure out a way to get rid of roaches (and keep them out of our Keurig coffee makers)?

What are roaches good for?

Firstly, as unsettling as they are, the roach is an important part of the ecosystem.  Disposing of other dead insects, breaking down thrown away food, and becoming food for other predators are part of their positive functions when they are not busy running under the fridge when the kitchen light turns on.

I feel that one of the main reasons that we can’t stand the cockroach is because we have repeatedly tried to wipe them out and we can’t do it.  Not as an entire species anyway.  We can certainly control them in small does and protect our homes for the most part, but with thousands of various species scurrying around the earth, and females (who stay pregnant for life) producing 300-400 offspring each, the roach is here to stay – and will almost certainly outlast us.

Even the best roach killer will never be able to kill them all because the roach is engineered to survive:

Roaches VS Humans - Survival of the Fittest?

350 Million Years
Age Of Species
200,000 Years
Several weeks
# of Days Living With Head Cut Off
< 0
Chances of Surviving Nuclear Bomb
Doubt it.
No prob bruh
Holding Breath for 40 Minutes
Not even Michael Phelps
(record is 22 Min)
Multiple - Ganglia
A type of autonomous nervous system throughout the roach's body
# of Brains
(That'd be 200 MPH proportional to the size of man)
27.44 MPH
(Usain Bolt)
Early Morning Memory Forming?
(I assume. Can't remember)
Roaches feast on dead skin, eyebrows, hair. Basically anything that can fall off of you.
Do they eat each other?
Unfortunately. Yes. But roaches ultimately won this round too.
Does "infinite" count?
Current Population?
7 Billion

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