Cockroaches are possibly the most revered and disliked creature on the planet. They’re able to invade our homes and hide in places we never thought possible such as microwaves and other kitchen corners and niches.
When a cockroach is discovered on its back, most people believe it’s a position that roaches take when they’re dead. But what is the actual reason for this, why do cockroaches die upside down?
The most likely reason for a dead cockroach to end up on its back is because it has been exposed to insecticides. The neurotoxic chemicals in insecticides interfere with the nervous system, causing the muscles to lose control. When the poison takes hold, the muscles spasm violently and the roach flips onto its back.
It’s vital to remember that cockroaches aren’t always killed on their backs; however, because of their top-heavy forms, this is typically the case, especially when it comes to roaches living in houses or who have been treated with insecticide.
Insecticide may not always kill a cockroach immediately. It’s paralyzed and will be forced to lie there until it starves or dehydrates.
If the chemicals in the insecticides are not the reason for the cockroach’s death, then they rarely end up on their backs. In the majority of cases, they’ll die on their bellies or sides.
Why Are Cockroaches Upside Down When They Die?
Cockroaches have big bodies formed of three heavy segments supported by six long, thin legs and are thus prone to rolling on their backs when they die.
Because they lose muscular control at death, their leg muscles contract and tuck beneath their bodies. Their top-heavy bodies fall over and they die belly up, on their backs, without anything to support them.
Cockroaches that have been poisoned usually die on their backs. This is because insecticides affect the cockroach’s nervous system, causing various enzymes to accumulate in the roach.
This can be a very painful process since the enzymes tend to induce muscular spasms and due to their already top-heavy build, they almost always end up resting on their backs at death.
In nature, cockroaches are killed most of the time by predators. If a cockroach in a natural environment accidentally ends up on its back, there is usually some organic material for them to use to right themselves, such as sticks, leaves, or stones. They would use these items to support them in returning to an upright state.
If a cockroach rolls over on a smooth surface in your home such as tile flooring or a marble worktop, it gets into a tough situation. They will exhaust themselves and die after making numerous tries to get back on their feet.
How Do Insecticides Target The Nervous System?
Insecticides operate in the same way as nerve gas. They take away the cockroach’s ability to control its muscles, causing paralysis. Insecticides are made up of neurotoxic chemicals that are similar in structure to naturally occurring insecticides that are produced by plants.
These chemical compounds attack specific sites on neurons, blocking them from transmitting messages.
When exposed to insecticides, cockroaches lose control of their legs and flip on their backs or sides where they are unable to right themselves. Insecticides prevent the neurons from transmitting messages between muscles and nerves, causing muscles to contract uncontrollably. Cockroach legs will continue contracting for several minutes after the poison has taken its effect.
This effect will cause the cockroach to be caught in a state of spasm for several minutes after it dies. Because insecticides affect their nervous systems, cockroaches die on their backs unable to right themselves due to paralysis.
How Insecticides Make Cockroaches Flip Upside Down
Insecticides are neurotoxic chemicals that affect the nervous system. They cause muscles to spasm, tremble and contract uncontrollably, which is exactly what happens when cockroaches die.
Neurotoxic insecticides disrupt communication between neurons by blocking or changing their structure or function. Insecticide molecules are similar in structure to naturally occurring insecticides that are produced by plants.
Neurons transmit messages from one muscle to another through synapses, tiny gaps between cells. If a neurotransmitter, such as acetylcholine, is released from a neuron across the synapse and binds to receptors on another neuron, it will trigger the second neuron to open an ion channel and allow positive ions to flow into the cell.
This flows through the neuron and causes all the muscles that it is attached to contract. Cockroaches fall over when they lose control of their leg muscles, and this condition makes them flip upside down on their backs or sides where they cannot right themselves. Insecticides prevent neurons from transmitting messages between muscles and nerves, causing muscles to spasm uncontrollably.
Is a Cockroach on its Back Always Dead?
If you see a cockroach on its back and not moving, you would be sure that this creature is dead and not going to trouble you any further. But you would be mistaken – a cockroach on its back will not always be dead.
Most leading domestic insecticides claim to kill cockroaches on first application, but they aren’t always successful. The cockroaches that you find upside-down may not be dead. If they don’t move when nudged or picked up, it’s because they’re temporarily paralyzed.
It may take a few hours to a week for cockroaches to die after being exposed to pesticides. If the poison is strong, or if the roach has a robust immune system, it could take anything from a few hours to several days.
Cockroaches have developed a cross-resistance to insecticides over time, and this will only get stronger as they evolve into the super pest that they are.
Why Do Cockroaches Come Out to Die on Their Backs?
A cockroach won’t just crawl out of its hiding place one day and die on its back. However, if you find an insect that has died in this unnatural position, it’s because it was poisoned. Cockroaches don’t just crawl out and die normally.
A cockroach will only be found lying on its back if it has been exposed to a poisonous substance that affects the nervous system and causes muscles to spasm uncontrollably. When the toxins that kill roaches work their way into the insects’ nervous systems, they cause muscles to contract uncontrollably. This will result in the cockroach being caught in a state of spasm.
The cockroach could be scurrying around your home at the time when the poison properly kicks in.
This will cause the cockroaches to flip over onto its back. When more than one cockroach does this, it can seem like they intentionally came out to die on their backs in your home, but that’s not true.
Can Cockroaches Play Dead?
A cockroach can play dead if it has been caught off-guard and is not prepared to fight the predator. A roach will stay still and keep its legs tucked in until the threat of danger goes away.
A cockroach’s first line of defense when it is surprised by a predator is to run away, but they can’t outrun most threats. So when confronted with an imminent threat like a mantis or gecko, the roach will stay still and wait for the danger to pass.
Do Cockroaches Die If You Step on Them?
When you step on a cockroach hard enough, it will die.
Most people like to destroy pests like cockroaches by squashing them under their shoes. A hard enough blow with the foot is enough to inflict serious wounds and crush most internal organs inside the cockroach’s body. This leads to death in many cases, but not all.
Cockroaches possess an open circulatory system that functions like a long, thin tube with blood moving through it and into the body cavity where tissues and organs are found. Blood is pushed to all parts of the cockroach’s body by the heart, which is located near the insect’s head. This circulation system does not carry oxygen to cells, and without oxygen, cells cannot survive. This system makes it possible for a cockroach to stay submerged in water and still breathe because the oxygenated blood can flow through its body and into the respiratory structures.
Cockroaches have been known to survive after being cut in half. If you were to chop off one of their antennae, they would grow a new one back after shedding the wounded body part. A cockroach can survive without its head, but it cannot live for more than a few hours because it will not be able to feed itself.
A Natural Way to Kill Roaches
If you do not want to use insecticides in your home, you can opt for a natural way to kill cockroaches.
Borax is a type of poison that is known to be effective against cockroaches. It is a popular home cleaning powder that can be found at any grocery store. Scientifically known as sodium borate, borax is a residual mineral that may be found in deserts where seasonal lakes have evaporated away time and time again, such as in Death Valley and other similar regions.
Cockroaches are attracted to a trap baited with borax by mixing it with food lures such as sugar and leaving it on sites visited by the insects. After being lured to the trap, cockroaches eat both the bait and the insecticide (borax).
Chemical granules are scattered in small quantities and collected by the pest’s legs, which will later be consumed during preening.
Borax, when eaten, destroys the cockroach gut lining, causing it to die of hunger. As the abrasive granules harm the insect’s exoskeleton, dehydration sets in.