The Truth behind the Urban Legend Those Cockroaches Can Survive Nuclear War

As you learned your frustrating drills about hiding under a chair to survive a nuclear explosion during the Cold War, you probably overwhelmed by the idea that “I’m sure I’m a goner, but at least cockroaches will survive and form their own society.” Roaches, including the Twinkies, have a reputation for ultimate survival. It is not clear why Twinkies have this harsh reputation (they last as long as any other cake) but cockroaches are bad to admit. For example, they are one of the few animals that can survive without their heads.

In the case of most animals, not having a head is the end of things. You rarely read about someone cut off but “spent the whole life well into the seventies”. If blood loss does not kill you and your lack of control over your heartbeat and lungs does not kill you (and both) you will soon have difficulty eating enough to survive. Cockroaches can live for several confusing weeks after hatching, as scientists have proven with alarming frequencies. They survive by freezing on their necks. Their breathing takes place through tiny holes in the body called the respiratory tracts that are not controlled by the brain. Because they are cold-blooded, they need less food than warm-blooded snowmen like us, and the food they ate the day before the roots cut can last for weeks.

What’s more, they have ganglia all over their bodies, enabling them to respond to stimuli as scientists are sacrificing with the help of their pens. Sadly, they can still stand with their heads bowed and turn around. Meanwhile, the head may also have survived, surviving without its body for several hours after the two separated. Given nutrition, they can last longer, although the lack of response from their body does not make them the same at once.

Neuroscientist and arthropod learning expert Nick Strausfeld told Scientific American, “When we tried to teach them when their bits were lost, it was frustrating.” “We have to keep their bodies completely intact.” They are fair, harsh little critics. However, can they survive a nuclear explosion? Will they inherit the earth alone by following the nuclear mystery?

The short answer to the first question is yes, sorted. They found in the rubble after the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, although it should noted that humans also found alive, many of whom later died of radiation sickness. However, there is no record of monitoring cockroach health after survival; at the understandable time, their big thing was going on. However, people, including a team of Mythbusters, tested radiation resistance before and after the nuclear explosion.

Over the course of a month, they released different groups of cockroaches, fruit flies, and flour beetles at one thousand rads (units of dose of absorbed radiation), 1,000 rads, and 10,000 rads. After the fire test, 10 percent of the 100,00 rad group survivors were still alive, 10 times more than the lethal dose for humans. However, none of them survived the 100,000 rads. However, the flour beetles did. Ten percent survived a whopping 100,000 rads for the full 30 days of the experiment, proving them much tougher than the long-dead cockroaches. 

However, tested radioactive cockroaches and flour beetles did not look at whether they could give birth to viable offspring. It could be that the insects survive the explosion and radiation, simply because the whole food chain have been wiped out in order to deal with the problem that the species has not been able to sustain for a long time. Either way, it looks like cockroaches would be worse off than any other insect in the event of a nuclear war.

Evolutionary biologist Mark Elgar told EarthSky, “There is some evidence that they appear to be quite stable to gamma rays, although they are certainly not the most resistant of insects.” “You could argue that some ants, especially those that dig deep in the ground, are more likely to survive forever than cockroaches.” Therefore, to answer the second question, it does not seem that cockroaches have inherited the earth above all else.