How Much Can Cockroaches Really Survive?

Cockroaches have been said to be able to survive just about anything. Having their heads cut off, nuclear war, starvation- people claim it all. But how much of this information is viable? Would a cockroach really survive a month without its head? Will they be the last ones left in the event of a war? Will they survive underwater? I decided to look into this after seeing cockroaches in my hall way, and talking to my brother who said he was surrounded by them constantly when he was living in Vegas and that he did not believe all of the crazy things I had heard. 

In 2008 the Mythbusters gang experimented with cockroaches to see if one of these claims might be true, ability to survive radiation. In order to do this they cockroaches as well as fruit flies and flour beetles, to compare their reactions. Once they had the bugs they them exposed them to different increasing amounts of Cobalt-30 radiation. This isotope is usually used in very small amounts to reduce tumors, but is very dangerous in large amounts. They started the bugs off with 1,000 rads of the cobalt, which could kill a human in about ten minutes, and then gradually increased to 10,000 and then 100,000 rads. ¬†They exposed them to the radiation in ways that mimicked exposure in a nuclear war situation. Over the next thirty days they monitored and observed their health. Compared to the beetles and flies, the cockroaches actuslly did quite poorly and had the lowest survival rate and couldn’t stand the same lethal dose that the flour beetles were able to. So in seeing this we can reject the idea that cockroaches are most fit to survive in a post nuclear war world.

Mythbusters also tried seeing if cockroaches could be drowned. They got five test subject cockroaches and placed each in a jar filled with water. They planned on leaving the cockroaches submerged for half an hour but by nineteen minutes it had already appeared as though one cockroach had died. By the time the thirty minutes was up all five cockroaches seemed like they had died, but decided to drain the water and see what they would find the next morning. When they returned they found each cockroach, even though they had appeared to be dead, was alive and well.This time, the rumor turned out to be true.


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