Underdogs of the Animal WorldCockroaches Aren't So Bad, Right?Tilly Boscott

Imagine a world where rubbish is piled higher than houses, where trash topples out of bins onto streets paved with dog poop and chewing gum. Everything smells like that boyfriend you had once… you know the guy. Sometimes you think you can still smell him, but it’s just your own morning breath plus bad dreams. Yeah, him. Are you imagining this world? Wondrous, isn’t it? Magical, heavenly almost, no? Hmm, well aren’t we lucky that the humble cockroach didn’t fling itself off the bridge into non-existence? Thank you, Clarence.

Okay, let’s get all the hatred out of the way. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! GETAWAYGETAWAYGETAWAY! *Flails arms around like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubeman* Right, I’m done. Yeah, alright, they’re pretty icky. The fact that they leave a trail of poop to find their way around doesn’t exactly make them animal of the year, but cockroaches still have a lot of positive aspects, so I’m gonna go all Shallow Hal on you and explain.

There are actually over 4,000 different types of cockroaches, but only 30 that are considered to be household evil-doers. Of these 30, there are four top roaches which appear regularly in our homes, climbing in our windows, snatching our people up, etc. These are the German cockroach, American cockroach, Brown-banded cockroach and the Oriental cockroach. The German cockroach and the American cockroach are both originally from Africa, because people who name animals like to mess with our heads for fun. The German cockroach is the one that most of us are icked out by, and since cockroaches can live all over the world, the chances of you having a run-in are pretty high. But I’m arming you with facts here, and knowledge is power against tiny insects without firearms.

Oh hai.

Oh hai.

Yes, I said “tiny” insects. If you’re standing in your kitchen in your underwear at 2am, screaming because all you wanted was a PB and J sandwich and oh God, why is life so hard, then the little dears probably don’t look tiny to you, but trust me, things could always be worse. The Giant Burrowing cockroach (or the Rhinoceros cockroach, depending on if you’ve resorted to name-calling) is the biggest cockroach in the world, and can grow up to three inches long. These roaches are the kind you might wanna have around, though, since they don’t have wings and hang out in Australia munching dead leaves and possibly surfing. Some people keep them as pets, too, either because they’re an excellent choice or because they’ve never heard of guinea pigs.

Like the Giant Burrowing cockroach, Oriental cockroaches also don’t have wings, which is handy if you’re trying to catch them, but cockroaches that do have wings aren’t too talented at the whole flying malarkey, anyway. To make up for their poor aviation skills, cockroaches have the perk of being fast. Really fast. In fact, the hissing sound that cockroaches make may in fact be the neaaaaaaaaaaw that young children channeling aeroplanes know makes you go faster. That’s science. Okay, that sound is actually air blasting out of the breathing holes in their belly, but even that’s kinda cool, considering that most insects can only produce noise by rubbing body parts together.

Anyway, cockroaches are Fast and the Furious speedy. Researchers found that an American cockroach can scuttle around at up to 29 inches a second. They have a few secret weapons in their arsenal (NOS not being one of them, but neon lights and Vin Diesel do play a part). Cockroaches have eighteen knee joints. Their back legs (metathoracic, if you wanna show off) are the most important, and the cockroach will rise up onto these whilst moving super fast in a Warner Bros. fashion. Cockroaches also have lower joints which are like an ankle and a foot, which they use to hook onto things and skitter up walls so that they can watch us while we sleep. The handiest gift that cockroaches have been blessed with, however, is the tiny hairs on their legs, which allow them to feel the slightest air movement around them and run away, like the cowards they are. Cue wheel-shaped leg blurs and smoke clouds. Possibly a meep meep thrown in for fun.

Question: Where does a cockroach like to chow down?

Answer: Anywhere.

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