Do Cockroaches Play Dead?

The ability to survive in almost all circumstances is what makes cockroaches thrive all over the world. When they sense dangers, roaches can remain dormant because the chances of hunting a moving prey are higher than a stalled one.

Cockroaches can hold their breath and play dead for 15-60 minutes. However, this depends on the species and environment.  Some can stay dormant for 1 hour when threatened until it is safe to move again. Roaches can also act dead in water and go without breathing for 10-30 minutes.

 After the danger is gone and they feel safe, they will bounce back on their feet and disappear. Cockroaches have sharp sensors on their backs that look like tiny hairs under a microscope. Those can detect movements by sensing a slight change of wind from any creature that moves around them.

Do Cockroaches Play Dead?
Cockroaches playing dead

Difference between a dead cockroach and a playing one

For you to avoid being tricked by those smart bugs, you need to be observant and look at the physical behaviors. This will help you in knowing weather a roach is really dead or just messing around with your intelligence. Here is  a check list that to help you with this:

1. Antennae movements

A dead cockroach will not be able to move its antennae around because it does not have the ability to sense anymore. While acting dead, roaches will move their antennae from time to time while trying to figure out if the potential danger is gone.

The roach’s antennae is designed to detect vibrations and smell. This helps it to know when to get up and run after playing dead fro some time. If you are keen, it will move its antennae after every 3-5 minutes. It does not need to look at you because those sensitive detectors are enough for the job.

2. Legs position

In most cases, roaches that are acting dead will have their legs positioned in a way that is ready for action. Those will look like they are spread from the body in a way that can easily grab on something. If you pull its legs, they will go back to the same position with a rigid feeling on them.

A dead roach will on the other hand will have folded legs that are life less and you can tell from how relaxed they are resting against its body. Even if you pool them apart, there will be no resistance as compared to the ones that are playing dead.

3. Odor

A dead roach will produce an acidic odor as it starts to decompose. If they are dead in large numbers, there may be a musty smell that lingers around the area. The odor is usually picked when a group of them is dead and you need to be very close to pick up the smell from a single one.

A live roach that is only staging its death will have no odor. Even from the look, you can tell that it is not withered like a dead one. Even if they are gathered at one point, there may be an odor but it will not be as strong when compared to the type produced from those that are dead.

Unlike roaches in a refrigerator, those in a microwave will produce a bad smell when the machine is being used for more than 30 minutes at a go. The heat will start roasting their droppings which will produce a foul odor.

4. Numbers

It is almost impossible for 3 or more cockroaches to play dead all at once. There will be erratic movements since all of them will not coordinate and stick to the plan at the same time. Some will try to flee while others will fidget and move around.

On the other hand, a colony of dead roaches will remain still without any movements even if they are disturbed. They will stay put as long as they are not moved in any way. Those will attract other pests like ants and lizards that eat cockroaches in your house.

Why roaches lie on their backs when playing dead

A cockroach’s weight is concentrated at the top and this is supported by thin legs. It will topple and die on its backs if the legs become weak. When acting dead, roaches will fold their legs and lie on their backs.

They have strong legs that support them but when they are intoxicated or starved, those legs cannot bear their weights. However, this does not mean that cockroaches have to flip over when faking their death. They can simply choose to remain dormant and wait to see if something will approach them.

Insecticides are made of neurotoxins that cause convulsions. When those chemicals are sprayed on roaches, those chemicals paralyze the muscles that support their legs causing them to turn and die on their backs.

Insecticides that contain toxins like pyrethroids and organophosphate cause stimulation. Bugs cannot handle those simulations and those will cause reflexes on their legs. As the legs become stiff and straight, they will fall on their backs because they are heavy at the top. Roaches can poop as they die due to strains caused by lethal insecticides.

Can dead roaches come back to life?

An After spraying a roach, it may remain still and this will depend on the type of chemicals in the pesticide used. It may look like it is dead but if the chemicals are not strong enough, the roach will come back to life after the spray has faded. You may think that the cockroach was playing dead yet it has just recovered after some time.

However, if a roach is physically dead, it can never come back to life. A dead bug can no longer function as required unless you are high and witnessing miracles of risen roaches from the dead which does not exist. Imagining that bugs can die and rise again is a myth-based on perception.

Old roaches may flip just to rest and you can sweep them away thinking that they are dead. Their legs become weak with time and the body becomes too heavy especially when they are full. After some time, they will wake up and this is why some people think that dead roaches can come back to life.

In such a scenario, the roach will play dead when you touch it. When you leave to go get a broom or something to take it away, you will find it gone. This has created many delusions that those little pests can rise even after you kill them. They simply go dormant and this is part of their survival.

When there is an infestation, roaches can attract other pests. Rats can feed on roaches whether dead or alive. Those are one of the main predators that cockroaches fear the most and they can never play dead around them. Even if they do, they will take off at the slightest approach since that is part of their characteristics.