Do Roaches Play Dead? Interesting Facts About Roaches

Do Roaches Play Dead

Often we have unwanted guests in our houses, one of them being roaches. These insects are common worldwide and invade any house, whether sparkling clean or dirty. 

If you regularly clean your house and detect the presence of roaches, don’t beat yourself up. The presence of roaches doesn’t necessarily mean your house is dirty. 

Often roaches gravitate near water, shelter, and food, and since our houses (either clean or dirty) have what they are looking for, you will find them there. 

To ensure a constant supply of their needs, roaches have developed some tricky mechanism that allows them to stay out of sight and safe from their predators. One defense mechanism is playing possum. But is it even real?..

Do roaches play dead?

Yes, roaches have perfected the art of playing dead and can hold their breath for about 40 minutes. When they sense danger, they will stay still and pretend to be dead (sometimes lay on their backs) until the danger goes away, then run into safety. 

A Side Note For Clarity

Before going further, let’s first clear the air on two terms that confuse people: roaches and cockroaches. What is the difference? 

The wood roach is the short form of cockroach and reffers to all the cockroach species at large. 

On the other hand, the term cockroach is used when referring to a particular species, for example, the American cockroach. 

But Why Do Roaches Play Dead?

Most animals have an acute stress response, a physiological reaction when exposed to danger. 

An animal can either outrun or fight the danger depending on the circumstances. In the case of the roaches, these creepy insects are tiny and probably don’t stand a chance of facing most of their predators or outrunning them. 

For this reason, they have developed a defense mechanism that suits their nature, and that is playing dead. All they have to do is stay still until the coast is clear and then take from where they left.

You might be wondering what it is that makes these roaches able to hold air for that long. Well, here are some hypotheses put forward.

  • While oxygen is vital to the functioning of the roaches, too much of it can be toxic to their bodies. We, humans, are no exception; we can develop a condition called oxygen toxicity, which is the damage of the lungs from breathing too much oxygen. 

With roaches, it’s argued that they stop breathing to protect themselves from high oxygen concentration from time to time. And this has made them good at holding their breath for extended durations.

  • By holding their breath, roaches can conserve moisture. It’s a long-known fact that many insects hold their breath while resting. It’s up until recently when the studies on roaches have shown why. 

Although roaches don’t have lungs, they have a very efficient respiratory system. Air is drawn into the body via external valves called spiracles and then transported directly to the cells via trachea tubes. 

When in an environment that prompts roaches to lose a lot of water as a biological reaction, they will stop breathing to minimize water loss. This has made them good at holding their breath.

  • When roaches hold breath, they accumulate Carbon dioxide in the body, making it easy to excrete. And by doing that, they’ve become good at holding their breath for long.

Interesting Facts About Roaches You Didn’t Know  

A lot is known about the health dangers roaches pose to human beings. Allergic reactions, spread of germs, and asthmatic attacks are risks that roaches come with. 

But very little is known about their cool side. These creepy pests are built to survive, and they have some fascinating characteristics that we are going to discuss.  

  1. A roach can live for seven days without its head. It will only die because of thirst and hunger. Roach doesn’t rely on the head to breathe but the spiracles on each segment of its body.
  2. A roach can survive submerged underwater for half an hour. They are known to hold their breath for 40 minutes, a mechanism that allows them to minimize water loss.
  3. Roaches can run up to 3 miles in an hour. Do you find that fascinating? Well, hold on first, what that means is the creepy creatures can spread germs in your house that quick!
  4. Roaches thrive in humid and warm conditions. In some cases, they can withstand temperatures below freezing point. When they’ve had enough is when they will seek shelter in your house.
  5. Roaches can outlive human beings after a nuclear explosion. Research done proves that exposing roaches to lethal radiations does not affect them. 
  6. Some species of roaches can reproduce without a male. This has been seen in American cockroaches, and the process is referred to as parthenogenesis. 
  7. There are about 4,600 cockroach species on the planet, and only around 30 are known to invade human spaces.

Here Is What To Do To Confirm Whether A Roach Is Faking Death Or Not

How do you tell if a roach is dead or faking it? It’s simple. Wear a pair of gloves (to prevent contamination of germs), gently pick up the roach and, using a feather, rub it on the stomach. The roach will move its leg in response to the stimulation if alive.

How To Safely Get Rid Of Roaches In Your House

Now you have determined that your house has some roaches, what next? It is important to note that roaches like hiding in tight, warm, and dark places. 

During the day, they seek shelter in poorly lit places like under the fridge, wall cracks, in the closet, etc. 

They only come out at night seeking water and food. If you happen to see roaches in your house during the day, it means you have a problem. Infestation!

Your next course of action would be to repress them. There are several ways you can get rid of roaches in your house. 

While some methods can cause harm to humans and pets in your house, there exist other safe methods you can use.

To combat these annoying creatures, you need to understand how they operate and their defense mechanism. Beating them at their own game is the key. 

You need to understand how they get into your house, where they hide, under what conditions they thrive well in, and the species of cockroach. 

1. We know that roaches come into houses to search for food and water. Start by cutting off the food supply.

The aim would be to starve the roaches already in your house and eliminate the attractants in your house. 

Unfortunately, these stubborn pests can survive for a month without food. For this reason, you need to be thorough and punctual doing the following to starve them out.

  • Wash dishes and store them away immediately after use.
  • Clean up spills and crumbs immediately. 
  • Cover pet food dishes when not in use.
  • Get rid of stagnant water and repair any leaking pipes to cut off the water supply.

2. Do away with entry points and hiding spaces.

Roaches can enter your house through very tight places like openings in your door (on the sides and at the bottom) or the window. 

Try to seal all the possible entry places to keep them out of your house. Once in the house, they hide in dark places, gaps between tiles, cracks, etc. Your house needs to be well lit to discourage their habitation

3. Use glue strips

Glue strips can measure the severity of the situation and trap roaches to reduce their population. Place the glue strips in places you suspect to have a high number of roaches. 

The number of roaches trapped will give you an idea of how bad the situation is. You can also place the traps on the entry points to trap them as they enter your house.


Roaches are pests that disrupt peaceful living in our houses. Folks living in warmer areas are even having a harder time dealing with them. 

Over the years, roaches have developed survival tactics to stay safe from predators. One of the tricks they have perfected is playing dead. 

Other than mind tricks, a roach may be still/motionless if the temperatures are too low or due to the effects of insecticides. You can physically check to confirm if a roach is dead or you are being played. 

You should take immediate action to curb the infestation upon detecting the presence of roaches. Be sure to use methods that are safe for your family and pets.