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What is the Lifespan of a Cockroach?

Nicole Madison
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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On average, cockroaches live for about one year. These insects are rather hardy, although some people think they can simply be starved to death as a means of pest control, such as if a building is left empty with no food source for a long time. In fact, the opposite is true, as the insect can go for about a month without eating anything. Likewise, roaches can survive on things that most people would not consider suitable food, even for insects. For example, they can eat such things as glue, paper, and even shoes.

Though roaches can live for about a month without food, they can only live for about one week without water. In fact, even without their heads, they can live for about a week. The only reason they die without a head is because they can't consume water with their mouths missing. Interestingly, cockroaches can even live for a time if their hearts stop.

Many people have heard that after a nuclear war, cockroaches would be the only living beings to survive. While this statement is widely made, there is no concrete scientific evidence to prove it. There is scientific evidence to suggest that roaches and similar insects are more capable of withstanding radiation than other life forms, however. Roaches can withstand up to 15 times the amount of radiation that a human being can, but when compared to other insects, they aren't abnormally radiation resistant.

The reason that cockroaches may be able to withstand radiation better than humans is the fact that their cells divide slower than those of human beings. In these bugs, cell division takes place only once during each molting time, and at most, they will molt just once weekly in their juvenile stage and not at all as adults. This means that, if radiation exposure is fleeting, roaches that were not molting during that time would not be significantly affected. Any lingering radiation would have the potential to damage their cells, however.

These insects begin their life cycles in egg capsules, which are dropped right before they hatch. A female German cockroach, for example, may carry about 40 eggs. It takes about three to four months for an egg to develop from birth to nymph to an adult.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a All Things Nature writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon1001571 — On May 14, 2019

I worked in the catering industry many years ago, and cockroaches were always a problem. Most of them came onto the premises in boxes of eggs from our supplier (government egg marketing board) and sometimes the cases contained more cockroaches than eggs.

By honeybees — On Nov 17, 2012

What is the best cockroach treatment? I am pretty sure I saw a dead cockroach in my garage and want to do something right away about getting rid of them. I don't want to wait until I see another one to make sure I have a roach problem or not.

I usually like to find a natural solution to remedy things, but in this case, I am not so sure. I wonder what makes them so hard to get rid of and what kind of natural product might kill them off if I decided to go this route.

By LisaLou — On Nov 17, 2012

I never had cockroaches until I let a friend who needed a place to stay live with me for awhile. He didn't have any place to live or to store all of his stuff, so everything came to my house. Little did I know that he would bring roaches into my house.

I know this was not intentional, and I think they were in the boxes he used to pack his belongings. I had to spend quite a bit of money trying to get rid of them and it didn't happen right away. I hope I have gotten rid of them for good. Now I am very cautious about bringing boxes in my home if I don't know where they came from.

By golf07 — On Nov 17, 2012

Fortunately I have never had a problem with cockroaches in my home. I have heard if you see just one, there are probably hundreds of others close by. That really isn't a comforting thought for someone who has a roach problem, but I bet there is quite a bit of truth there. Bugs seem to multiply like crazy and roaches are probably one of those that don't die very easily and multiply quickly.

By John57 — On Nov 16, 2012
I can't stand cockroaches, and just thinking about them makes me kind of sick to my stomach. To think that one cockroach can live for up to a year is disgusting.

When I was in college I lived in an old run down apartment building and we had cockroaches. The first time I saw one I just about died. If you walked in the kitchen in the middle of the night and turned on the light, you would see them scurrying off. I called the landlord and had him come and spray right away.

I was too poor to move out and the only thing I could hope for is that the chemicals would kill them until I could afford a different place to live.

By SZapper — On Aug 31, 2012

@Monika - Yeah, a year does sound like kind of a long lifespan for a bug. I'm more stuck on the fact that cockroaches can have 40 babies at once though. So it sounds like all it takes is one cockroach to start a cockroach infestation in a home!

No wonder so many different companies offer cockroach pest control!

By Monika — On Aug 31, 2012
I find it scary that cockroaches can live for a whole year. I always assumed their lifespan was more like a few months, because a lot of insects don't live for very long (compared to the human lifespan, anyway). Now I see why cockroach infestations can be so terrible: the cockroaches live for a whole year and keep breeding during that time.
By JessicaLynn — On Aug 30, 2012

@ceilingcat - I feel the same way you do! It is interesting from a scientific standpoint, but the fact that they are such hardy little critters makes them really hard to kill. So, if you're trying to do cockroach control on a home or business, it can be very difficult.

Once you get roaches, it's really, really hard to get rid of them. I had a friend that lived in an apartment that was infested, even though she kept things very cleaned. The landlord kept exterminating, but nothing worked. Finally she just moved out, after getting rid of most of her possessions (she didn't want to risk taking the roaches with her.)

By ceilingcat — On Aug 29, 2012

Cockroaches are both fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Having worked in a restaurant with a cockroach infestation, I know how disgusting they are because I've seen it first hand. However, it's fascinating that they can withstand radiation so well, and live for a week without their head!

By bythewell — On Aug 20, 2012

@anon32429 - Cockroaches don't really have hearts in the same way we do, because they don't have lungs and they don't put their blood around their bodies in the same way.

Their heart is just a tube that contracts to push the blood down and around their bodies. I believe the reason they can continue to live even if it stops is because their blood is oxygenated at many points along their bodies and they don't need it all to flow from one central point, like we do.

By KoiwiGal — On Aug 19, 2012

@anon109694 - They are definitely doing a lot of research on cockroaches, although I'm not sure how much of it will directly benefit us in a health sense, since insects in general and the cockroach in particular are very different from humans in terms of what their bodies are like.

For example, they don't actually have lungs, they breath through openings that are all up and down their bodies. Something to bear in mind is that there are only a few species that are actually pests but many many more that exist in the wild and are an essential part of the ecosystem that we all depend on. So a complete cockroach extermination wouldn't be a great idea.

By anon109694 — On Sep 08, 2010

Wow, they can live without heads or hearts?

Maybe we should look into stem cell research on them.

By anon101647 — On Aug 04, 2010

I wish somebody would eliminate this species.I understand geckos will eat them. maybe a gecko is a way to get rid of them.

By anon90166 — On Jun 14, 2010

who cares how many hearts? just kill the nasty things.

By anon32429 — On May 21, 2009

do cockroaches have more than one heart?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a All Things Nature writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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