There are plenty of insects all around but the one that’s guaranteed to give you the heebie-jeebies is the cockroach. The sight of one scurrying around in your home is probably going to have you extremely concerned.
But the idea of flying or leaping cockroaches is the stuff of nightmares. So, you may be wondering with trepidation, can roaches jump?
Cockroaches have no natural jumping ability. Instead, they grab hold of anything that is high enough to leap up to, such as a windowsill or door handle, and use their wings to propel themselves into the air. Certain species of cockroaches can jump either straight up or forward, but it is not very well coordinated and accurate.
Can Roaches Jump Like Crickets?
Many insects including grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, etc. can jump long distances. This is because they have legs that allow them to push their body in a specific direction and propel themselves forward.
However, while roaches can sprint very fast, around 3 miles an hour, they don’t have the legs that can support the jumping action.
Roaches have 6 extremely flexible legs, but they are not designed for jumping. In fact, cockroaches do not have the natural ability to jump. The muscles in the back legs of the roach allow it to position its body upwards; however, they don’t offer the control needed to jump.
If a cockroach is trying to escape, it may use its wings to launch its body into the air to help its legs leap forwards but the jump usually lacks coordination or accuracy. The cockroach may use its wings to flutter into the air and fly a very short distance. A roach may try to fly or jump only when it needs to reach high areas or runs out of options to escape from its predator.
So, when we think that the cockroach is jumping, it is simply hopping or bouncing to get away but most commonly, the roach will simply run to escape any danger. The only type of roach that can jump is the leaproach.
What Are Leaproaches?
Found only on the Table Mountain in South Africa, the leaproach or Saltoblattella montistabularis is the only species of cockroach that can jump using its legs. Believed to have existed during the Jurassic period only, the leaproach was discovered in 2009 by a group of University of Cambridge researchers.
The leaproach looks quite similar to the grasshoppers that are also found in this habitat. The leaproach is quite different from regular cockroaches and has large, bulging eyes, which enables it to see better than the other types of roaches. The large eyes of the leaproach provide better vision and enable them to see where they are landing when they jump.
What Makes Leaproaches Good Jumpers?
Leaproaches have very long hind legs, which are two times longer than their other legs and more prolonged compared to the rest of their bodies. The hind legs of the leaproach make up 50% of the roach’s body length and 10% of the total body weight. The hind legs of the leaproach have more muscles that help them to jump forward.
The tibiae muscles provide the legs the power to jump and these muscles engage with the femora as the roach prepares to take a leap. The hind leg muscles shrink before the leaproach takes off helping to save energy, which is released promptly, allowing the roach to jump.
While the joints and muscles of the hind legs exert a force sufficient for the roach to jump, it is the resilin, an elastic protein contained in the femorotibial joint or the joints of the hind legs of the leaproach that enables it to jump very long distances and to the height that it does.
The leaproach also makes use of its antennae to determine the attachment points to the location where they are going to jump. This enables them to balance when they sail through the air.
Other species of roaches have very short legs and do not have the resilin in their joints or the motor functions required for jumping. And so, they cannot jump like the leaproach.
Do Leaproaches Use Their Wings to Jump?
Leaproaches are quite different when compared to the other cockroach species and do not have wings. They do not need wings for their day-to-day functioning or to flee from danger.
Leaproaches move 71% of the time by jumping for which they use their hind legs. And, since they have well-developed legs, to escape from their predators and stay safe, they do not have wings.
On the other hand, although they don’t use them, other roach species have wings because they offer evolutionary advantages. These species have legs developed for running very fast that enable them to escape from danger rather than for jumping. And, their wings offer them help to survive when all other ways fail.
How Far and High Can Cockroaches Jump?
Cockroaches in general, cannot jump; however, if at all they do jump, they are better horizontal rather than vertical jumpers. When jumping horizontally, the average roach can propel itself and jump up to 50 times the length of its body, which is around 5 to 6 feet. And, sometimes, roaches can jump even further.
While leaproaches are built to jump, thanks to their longer hind legs; however, the average roach easily beats the leaproach when you consider the jumping distance. This is because their wings enable them to glide helping to add to the distance traveled, although this may not be considered technically as jumping.
When you consider the distance that leaproaches can jump, the females jump longer distances compared to the males.
Although the female leaproaches are heavier compared to the males, they can jump up to 36 times their body lengths compared to the males, which can jump up to 24 times their body length.
When you consider the jumping height, male leaproaches can jump higher than females. The males can jump up to 11.6 + 2.7 cms horizontally, while the females can jump 9.5 + 2.4 cms.
Other roach species, on the other hand, can jump to great heights. They either can jump from a higher position or use their wings to glide very low to the ground.
In conclusion, while in general, cockroaches run away from any danger and don’t jump, there is a variety that does jump i.e., the leaproach. However, leaproaches are not found around homes and are not considered household pests. So, if you do see a roach around, you can rest assured that it’s not going to jump up at you.