I Have a Cockroach in My Office!
Last week, Tania Perez, who is on our Museum education staff, found a cockroach crawling on our office wall! Said roach was quickly trapped and contained and was waiting for me when I got back to my office.
Here in North America we have 55 species of cockroach (there are 3500 total in the world)! Of these 55 species, six in California are considered pests. The American Cockroach is the largest of these six roaches, with individuals reaching a maximum of 2 inches in length. Surprisingly, this roach isn't from America at all. It actually native to Africa. The species is also known as the ship cockroach and has hitched rides on ships traveling from Africa to the U.S. A likely apocryphal story, it paints the picture in such a way as to imply it was slave ships during the 1600s that inadvertently transported these insects to our shores.
Although this roach is sometimes found in our homes (or on our office walls) it is much more often found living in sewer tunnels, steam vents, and industrial buildings. They are prolific breeders and, according to UC Davis, a "female and her offspring can produce over 800 cockroaches in one year." Females produce egg cases that are small, brown, and bean shaped. These egg cases are deposited in sheltered spaces and after five to seven weeks, they hatch. It takes just over a year for a cockroach to develop to adulthood, and they can live another year as an adult. What makes these creatures particularly impressive is they can go two to three months without any food, one month without water, and even up to a week without their head! That's right. Cockroaches, like other insects, have a decentralized nervous system, and can therefore survive, even walk around, without their head!