Debunking the Cockroach Myth

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Cockroaches are, without a doubt, one of the most annoying pests out there.  In spite of this, we’re sure that you’ve heard of the myth that they will one day inherit the Earth.  Not because they will evolve into a highly-intelligent species, but because they will be the sole survivors in the event of nuclear war.  Well, today we thought that we would put that claim to the test and get to the bottom of this fascinating factoid. Read on to see what we found in our research!

Certainly, cockroaches are some pretty tough critters.  Not only can they survive a few swats with a newspaper before keeling over, but they have the innate ability to live for over a month without food.  Qualities aside, what really entrenched this pest in infamy was the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in World War Two, where they were believed to be the only survivors of the blast.  Naturally, this gave rise to the myth that cockroaches could survive a nuclear blast, and after a catastrophic nuclear war, they would have our blue marble all to themselves.

But, how true is this claim?  In our findings, we discovered that there is some truth to it, but the statement needs to be qualified to a certain degree.

A nuclear blast consists of essentially 2 parts: the immediate explosion, or “fireball,” and the radiation that lingers around, or the “fallout”.  First and foremost, regardless of the fortitude of this little critter, nothing can withstand that immediate “fireball” that ensues immediately after detonation, as everything in the blast radius is vaporized.  However, thanks to their biological makeup, a cockroach can fare pretty well in the nuclear fallout—much better than a human could. A study done using the radioactive element cobalt-60 proved this hypothesis. What researchers found was that half of the cockroaches in the test group were still crawling around after 30 days of being exposed to 1,000 radon units (rads).  For comparison, a human will succumb to radiation poisoning after being exposed to the same amount for 10 minutes,

Furthermore, 10% of the cockroaches in a separate test group were still scurrying around after being exposed to 10,000 rads over the same period of 30 days (the Hiroshima blast emitted radiation of around 10,000 rads).

So, while the cockroach may be able to linger around after the blast, they may not be able to stay for very long.  In any case, the sheer evidence that one of these pests can survive a nuclear blast should be enough to convince you to call in the cavalry the next time you see a few cockroaches run around your home.  If they can make it through the Hiroshima explosion, then they can certainly circumvent DIY pest control.

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