Roach Facts: Why Do Cockroaches Die on Their Backs and More

Cockroaches may be considered as the most disgusting creatures you've ever encountered. But there are a lot of fascinating truths you have yet to know about them such as their significance in the ecosystem, reason why they flip over when they die and whether or not they can die by drowning. This article will provide you an insightful view on the basic truths about cockroaches.

Pretty Little Creatures Called Cockroaches

Cockroaches. These insects are so undesirable that even the name itself would make a number of you shudder. Hence, majority of us look at these creatures with disgust, others with fear, and for some, both. However, there are things you certainly do not know about cockroaches -- that even insects these terrible could still possess some hidden wonder and beauty. So, let's start exploring the dark and bright sides of these pretty little creatures called cockroaches.

Why was it Called Cockroach?

It is incorrect to interpret the word by dividing it into two words because the first four-letter term refers to a rooster while the latter term refers to a type of fish (though roach is commonly used as a shorter term for cockroach).

However, Cockroach actually came from the Spanish word "cucaracha".However, this has evolved into the term we know as cockroach. The brief history regarding the evolution of the term is summarized below:

In a published work of Captain John Smith in 1624, he wrote "...with a certain India Bug, called by the Spaniards a Cacarootch, the which creeping into Chests they eat and defile with their ill-sented dung". This alteration of the term "caca" was soon influenced (and replaced) by the English term associated with the rooster, resulting to the emergence of the new term "cockrootch" and finally to cockroach (American Heritage, 2007).

Are you aware that cockroaches have significance as well?

  • Of course, yes!
  • No, sorry.
  • I don't care! They are still roaches!
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Ecological Significance of Cockroaches

Cockroaches play a vital role in the process of decomposition which is an essential part of the ecosystem. Through them, water, nutrients, and energy are able to be recycled back into the ecosystem from decaying plants, animals and organic litter. Thus, through this process, cockroaches tend to fortify the soil with nutrients that plants need (Paige, 1998). Without cockroaches, the cycle may be impaired and may end up damaging the entire ecosystem we live in.

Other ecological importance of cockroaches include pollination and being part of the food chain.

Significance of Cockroaches

Many among us wonder why cockroaches were made in the first place and why do they exist. If I'm guessing it right, you may even think that they shouldn't have existed at all because they are simply pests that are overly disgusting and filthy. However, unbeknownst to many, cockroaches do have significance. They play vital roles in the world we live in.

Medical Significance of Cockroaches

Historical accounts claim that cockroaches were used as medicines after grinding up and boiling them. Others believed that parts of cockroaches served as treatment of asthma, stroke, bronchitis and urinary retention. Some even made boiled cockroach tea (Can you imagine that?). Of course, all of these are dubious, and would need up-to-date medical proof. However, there are some recent books claiming that cockroaches have significance in the field of dermatology and possibly other fields as well.

One of the medical significance of cockroaches (that need not any proof to be valid) is that they are used for medical experiments. They provide benefit in the field of medical research especially in identifying the effects of chemical and various radiation on nerves.

Isn't it fascinating why cockroaches flip over when they die?
Isn't it fascinating why cockroaches flip over when they die?

Why Do Cockroaches Die on Their Backs

I know that somehow you've wondered why cockroaches flip over when they die (not unless you decided to step on them).It really is mind-boggling, isn't it? Here's a simplified explanation to that:

Cockroaches, apparently, have bulky bodies (composing of 3 heavy body segments) which are only supported by 6 long thin legs, As they die, they lose muscle-control causing the leg muscles to contract. As a result, the legs are forced to be pulled beneath the body causing them to lose their balance, and topple over. This also explains why cockroaches on the wall fall off when they were crawling on the wall and got sprayed with insecticides.

Is flipping over always the case?

No. There is still a possibility for a cockroach to die without toppling over. However, it is inherent upon these insects to involuntary experience muscle contraction and end up lying on their back upon dying.

Scholastic Reading Supplement

Single Insecticide Application Can Eliminate Three Cockroach Generations

  • This approach of eliminating cockroaches involves single application of insecticide. The chemical will spread from generations to generations as cockroaches feed off of each other (including their wastes containing the insecticide). In this way, the insecticide is automatically contracted to other

The Weak Spot

Cockroaches are known for being the greatest survivors. They would even survive a nuclear explosion. At home, it is sometimes too difficult to eliminate cockroaches. So, let's find out what could eliminate a cockroach.

Going through some reading materials, I've found out that the weak spot of cockroaches is their appetite (the mouth) such in the case of eating pesticides.

  • Pesticides and insecticides are definitely one of the most convenient solutions you may have.
  • Boric acid or borax are said to be effective in eliminating cockroaches. Some even say that this is their ultimate weakness. Mixing them with flour, and spreading it across your home may totally eliminate your roach problem.

Geeky Facts:

  • Cockroaches are insects under the order "Blattaria".
  • In estimate, there are about 4,000 to 5,000 species of cockroaches in which 30 among them are associated with human habitations.
  • Cockroaches can run up to 3km/hr or 0.8 m/s.
  • Cockroaches recognize their family and relatives by their distinctive odors.
  • Cockroaches are nocturnal, omnivorous insects.

More Interesting Facts About Cockroaches

  • Cockroaches don't easily drown, and may even last for 30 minutes (or more) underwater. Check out the video for the experiment.
  • Most species of cockroaches live in the tropics (like the Philippines)
  • Cockroaches love glue the most. That's why it's their favorite food.
  • Most American cockroaches are immigrants.
  • Cockroach can still survive without its head. Both the body and the head will still be able to respond to stimulus through minor reactions such as wiggling of the antenna and the legs. However, the head part will be able to last only for a few hours while a body may last up to several weeks.
  • Cockroaches can survive without food for a month but will only last one week without water. Hence, the most important thing that they will run after is water and not food.
  • Cockroaches have six hairy legs, and the hairs provide them their sense of touch.
  • Some female cockroaches mate only once and become pregnant for the rest of their lives.
  • Cockroaches can basically eat everything due to the presence of various bacteria and protozoa in their digestive system.

© 2012 Renz Kristofer Cheng

Comments 48 comments

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 months ago from Philippines

I used to torture cockroaches slowly to death with alcohol and watch them whither and die to my deep satisfaction. There was no kindness in my heart for them. Watching them writhe, emitting a low key yet highly emotional sound like an amplifier was music to my ears. An hour later I would go back and yes, the relative would be there. Alcohol Power. Now, I just block their entrance areas. Do I miss them? NOT. But I may buy Borax just in case. IF it doesn't harm my dog...

Julie Brown 2 months ago

I am living in a boarding house/student accomm at the moment and the cockroaches, OMG. Led me to look up some info on them and found your article. Thanks for the hint about borax, buying some of that in the morning!!!

yougotme profile image

yougotme 4 months ago from Manila Author

Thank you for appreciating the article, Gloria Crook!

Gloria Crook 4 months ago

I watched a cockroach die on its back and it took a long time- about 3 hours before it stopped moving its antennae when I came near it with a paper towel to pick it up. I wondered WHY do they turn over? I'm so glad to see the article. Thanks for it! I'm getting out the boric acid! I hardly EVER see one and it's always on its back. But boric acid might keep them all away.

Tess 11 months ago


I nearly died reading your comment LOL!!!! The same thing happened to me a few months ago. A roach was flipped on its back and had just lied there still as I was getting laundry from the dryer. I walked around it grossed out and was going to eventually sweep it outside when I was done. As I kept walking around the roach, his legs started kicking and I freaked out thinking he was either on the verge of dying and he may just get up to die somewhere. I ran to get bug spray and he started kicking harder, trying to get back on his feet!!!!!!! I kept going, "omg omg omg" and sprayed the shiz out of him. From that day on, I never trusted any roach on their backs. **I just killed one today with a wasp spray, darn things** lol

Josh 12 months ago

How do there body's last 7 weeks without a head, but they can only last one week without water, and four weeks without food.. I can't seem to find it anywhere in the article where it says they can eat through there arse to survive?

K Dro 15 months ago

Thank you Melissa A Smith for the breath of humanity you added to these hurtful comments filled with hate and the desire to kill another type of creature that's unfortunately very different from us. I also see their beauty and believe they deserve to live. I do not get disgusted when I see a cockroach and I do not try to kill them. People can raise all the arguments they want to about germs, but it is trifle to argue over facts here. In my mind, the harm done to my spirit by despising and seeking to kill insects is more significant than the potential harm of germs and a creepy-crawly feeling. Thanks again Melissa for your comment and for the parts of the hub that weren't about killing them.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 21 months ago from Manila Author

@Meinukey I usually get paranoid too as if there's a cockroach crawling on my legs.

Meinukey 21 months ago

My entire body is itching as I read this.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 2 years ago from Manila Author

Thanks for sharing your story mindy! I didn't know that cockroaches are good actors too. Now, that's interesting!

mindy 2 years ago

So Im in the process of moving and I walk in to my living room and see a roach flipped on his thinking its dead I get the broom and dustpan and go to sweep him up. Well...mhe wasn't dead! It grabs my broom and attempts to climb up!! I scream and smash it!! Lol worst morning ever! :). So I decided to research why they flip over and came across your page. Just want to say thanks. Great article. I learned a lot. But never ever trust a flipped over roach!! Im pretty sure he was faking death. Lmao

yougotme profile image

yougotme 2 years ago from Manila Author

@handymanbill Thanks for dropping by this hub, and I'm glad you found this hub on cockroaches interesting!

handymanbill profile image

handymanbill 2 years ago from western pennsylvania

Spray them, stomp on them any way i can find to kill them. But interesting hub.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 2 years ago from Manila Author

Thank you very much savvydating for dropping by one of my articles again. Yeah, I actually still dread the sight of these creatures, and as much as possible, I don't want to encounter them.

savvydating profile image

savvydating 2 years ago

Lol. What a funny thing to write about. Nevertheless, your article is actually quite interesting. I had heard that roaches do serve a purpose, though I couldn't imagine what that might be. Nevertheless, in my mind, they are horrid little things and I personally cannot bear the sight of them. Good article. Voting interesting.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 2 years ago from Manila Author

@SusannaDuffy Oh well, it's a good thing they have their weakness. If not, I wouldn't know how to deal with them.

SusannaDuffy profile image

SusannaDuffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Horrible things. I hope the only cockroach I ever see again is well and truly on its back

yougotme profile image

yougotme 2 years ago from Manila Author

Thanks puffofglitters for the insights and suggestion! I know it will help some readers who are dealing with roach infestation.

I appreciate you dropping by!

puffsofglitter profile image

puffsofglitter 2 years ago from Miami, FL

Roaches are carriers of a multitude of diseases and I for one to do not want them in my home. So thank you for the part about how to kill and get rid of roaches. Spraying dish soap also does the trick as it causes them to suffocate by plugging up their spiracles (breathing pores).

MJennifer profile image

MJennifer 2 years ago from Arizona

I'm so glad I ran across this hub. I've always had a fascination with insects / arthropods / arachnids, etc. Although cockroaches aren't my favorite, I don't hate them; I'm pretty bug-friendly, really. Interestingly, we have so many scorpions, spiders and lizards on the property that it is rare to see a cockroach or cricket in the house. Nature keeps them well in check if left to its own devices.

Thanks for this interesting article on those much-maligned creatures!

Best -- Mj

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

It's good to know that cockroaches serve a purpose in the world. I still hate them with passion. I like to watch them suffer when they die. I douse them with alcohol and it's a slow death, I imagine, in cockroach minutes.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 3 years ago from Manila Author

Hmmm, yeah, maybe that's one of the reasons why they really designed them to be pointy. Haha! Thanks for the great humor FlourishAnyway!

yougotme profile image

yougotme 3 years ago from Manila Author

@SallyTX Now that's something really interesting! I can't believe cockroaches know how to have a vacation too, and decide to reside instead. Haha!

SallyTX profile image

SallyTX 3 years ago from Only In Texas!

Actually, when I was a child in TX we didn't have the great big ones. We just had the little ones. Those big ones migrated here from Florida, I think. ;D

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Fascinating hub! Who knew that these creatures had so many interesting things about them. They do grow them much bigger in Texas, by the way! HUGE! I think that's why there are pointy toes on cowboy boots -- to smoosh the cockroaches in the corners. Just kidding.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 3 years ago from Manila Author

@carrie I really had a blast writing and researching for this, and the facts gave me much amazement! Thanks for dropping by! Oh, and cool, you know some Filipino words!

carrie Lee Night profile image

carrie Lee Night 3 years ago from Northeast United States

Very interesting hub! :) I do not like roaches...however I've always known they were created for a eco-purpose and very vital to the food chain. Thank you for giving us some cool facts! (some females mate once and be pregnant for the rest of their lives) that fact blew me away and appreciate being human even more. Have a great day Salamat.

WindexSavesLives 3 years ago

I just spent an hour running away from a cockroach and decided to use Windex to kill it. It worked! Hope this helps...

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

You are disgusting, Mr. Roach, but I find a strange attraction to things that are written about you. I really would like to snuff all of them out, but I realize that everything in nature has its ecological role, or significance as you say. Thank you for gathering these facts.

Astralrose profile image

Astralrose 3 years ago from India

All animals, including insects like cockroaches are beautiful creatures that also have rights to crawl YOUR world, too! Killing them is a selfish act from a being who is supposed to be far intelligent than them!

James 3 years ago

Horrible filthy insects! Yuck

yougotme profile image

yougotme 3 years ago from Manila Author

Now that's pretty interesting, wltw ! And I guess I could update this hub with that kind of information! :)

wltw profile image

wltw 3 years ago from Northern Maine

I heard the cockroach is actually the first cousin to the lobster on the zoological scale. It's easy to see who the black sheep of the family is.

tattuwurn 3 years ago

They can survive amazingly, even from nuclear radiation... but still fall dead from a mere spray of insecticide. hehehehe

yougotme profile image

yougotme 4 years ago from Manila Author

It really does make cockroaches more fascinating. Thanks for dropping by KDuBarry03! :)

KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Wow, I knew cockroaches were great survivors but I would have never known about their possible medical usages. Huh, very interesting!

yougotme profile image

yougotme 4 years ago from Manila Author

That's another interesting trivia. I'll try to confirm that one, and perhaps update it.

I guess, being dirty is a matter of perspectives. For roaches, the see themselves clean, while we view them otherwise. Truly is it fascinating! Thanks for dropping by idigwebsites!

idigwebsites profile image

idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

Yes, they've survived radiation, but they still die from just a spray of an insecticide.

I've read somewhere that although roaches have the reputation of being dirty, they are actually fastidious little creatures, they clean themselves in a manner like cats do. They are clean. Hahaha.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 4 years ago from Manila Author

Thanks Ruchi for dropping by this hub about cockroaches. Yup, I was also surprised when I read it, but I believe it has still not been proven yet. And I myself, wouldn't dare to try it. Well, who would right? :))

Ruchi Urvashi profile image

Ruchi Urvashi 4 years ago from Singapore

Great information about cockroaches..I like the part cockroach medical tea but I will not try it for sure..thanks for unique information!

yougotme profile image

yougotme 4 years ago from Manila Author

Thanks for the insightful comment Green Bard! You seem to have grown fond of these creatures. That's nice!

How does it feel to have them as pets? I'm just curious. :)

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife

I actually like cockroaches and used to keep Madagascan Hissing ones as pets when I lived in Cardiff. Here in Tenerife there are roaches all over the place and most people kill them with insecticide. I catch them an throw them out. I have noted that they are social creatures and gather in groups but I don't know how they do this.

Jhudah 4 years ago

haha that is so funny and so true. when the cockroach is in flight run for your lives! LOL

yougotme profile image

yougotme 4 years ago from Manila Author

I hate to admit it, but yes! When that happens, I usually don't know what to do. That's why I end up hiding from it by going to another room (if it's inside our home), and running away (if it's outside).

Jhudah 4 years ago

Cool cockroach facts haha. Cockroaches are scarier when they are flying.

yougotme profile image

yougotme 4 years ago from Manila Author

@Sally's Trove Yeah. These creatures are pretty much interesting.

@Melissa Smith I really appreciate your comment! The reason why I included that portion is because others would find the information useful. Also, these are still additional facts about these creatures. However, it does not mean that I condemn them. I hope you understand my point of view. Thanks again Melissa! :)

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

More about roaches than I wanted to know! Indeed, they are survivors, but far from pretty little creatures, IMHO. I guess we still have a lot to learn from them. They've been around a lot longer than humans, and I'm guessing they know more than we do about survival. Still, I'd go to every length to get them out of my house.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 4 years ago from New York

I think cockroaches are beautiful. Thanks for writing some positive things about this group of animals for once. Such a shame that you had to typically demote your hub in talking about killing them.

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