If you’ve ever entered your kitchen and seen a cockroach on the counter that suddenly stops and lies still, you’ve likely wondered why it did this. Cockroaches often spend days lying perfectly still, but believe it or not, there are reasons why they do this.
Cockroaches stay still to analyze their surroundings, to help them to communicate with each other, too molt or to detect or leave pheromones.
This article will explore the simple reasons why cockroaches stay still for so long.
Here are some of the reasons why cockroaches lie still for long periods of time:
To sense their surroundings, cockroaches use two main body parts: their antennae and the hairs on their backs, known as their anal cerci. Roaches have receptors in these body parts that allow them to sense sounds and vibrations, which makes it easier to detect any type of threat.
They also use them to detect food and other roaches, and they work best when the cockroach is standing perfectly still. This is one of the main reasons for cockroaches staying still for a long time.
Cockroaches will “play dead” to protect themselves, but there’s another reason for it as well. Cockroaches can communicate with other roaches better when they’re standing still and use this technique to warn other roaches that a predator is nearby.
In fact, in the insect world, playing possum is a very common way to steer predators in the other direction.
When a female cockroach lays its eggs, it can take about 30 days, and they always stand still when doing this.
Part of this is due to the fact that the egg-laying process itself can take several hours, so they’re still for a very long time. In addition, cockroaches go through about five molting stages to shed their exoskeleton, and when this happens, they stand still until the process is complete.
Cockroaches sometimes communicate by using the pheromones (chemical signals that are unique to each of them) to find food and shelter. Other animals, such as termites, have more advanced abilities to do this, but it works for cockroaches as well.
Pheromones are found in humans, too, and they are very strong, which is why it is so easy for roaches to use them to find food or shelter.
Neck lesions can be quite common in roaches, and when they are recovering from these lesions, they adopt hyper-extensive postures and therefore don’t walk.
Sometimes, these neck lesions take a long time to recover from, which is why the roaches will lie still for so long. Once they do recover, however, roaches start moving their legs slowly to get out of the hyper-extended posture.
Cockroaches can see you, but they see better depending on the angle. If it’s daylight and they’re looking at you from a few feet away, they can see you perfectly. This is because roaches have four eyes—two large compound eyes on each side of their head.
They also have three “simple” eyes, called ocelli, in between each of those, which detect changes in the intensity of light. If you’re close to them and they look up at you, they can see you, but they may not know what they’re looking at because of the angle. Still, cockroaches have good eyesight and will be able to see you if you’re anywhere near them.
Unfortunately, when you kill a cockroach and don’t dispose of its body, it attracts more roaches to the area. A dead cockroach releases large doses of different pheromones, including one called oleic acid, that attract other insects, including other roaches.
The best thing to do when you kill a roach is to dispose of its body immediately and clean the area where you killed it. The oleic acid that is released when you kill the roaches can remain on the surface, and other roaches will be able to smell it and, therefore, may come towards the area in a hurry.
Since roaches can play dead for days at a time, it is often difficult to determine if they’re in the process of dying or simply playing possum.
If you want to know for sure, take a small object (never use your bare hands) and touch the roach. If it’s just playing dead, it will start to move again because you touched it. If it is dying or already dead, it will continue to lie there and be still.
This is the easiest way to learn if the roach is dead or dying or simply pretending to be dead.
Stepping on a cockroach is a natural reaction when you see one scrambling around on the floor, as is swatting it with a newspaper. The thing is, cockroaches can support up to 900 times their body weight, so stepping on one might not kill it.
One of the best ways to get rid of cockroaches is to suck them up with a vacuum cleaner, which kills them instantly.
Cockroaches often play dead and can remain perfectly still for days at a time. They normally do it to communicate with other roaches, protect themselves from predators, analyze their surroundings, or even find food or shelter.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.