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Science Experiments - Amazing Cockroaches

Aug 17, 2007
Science experiments sometimes find the oddest things. These facts from experiments on this bug will give you some respect for the creepy crawler. Cockroaches have been around for 400 million years. Dinosaurs have come and gone. Entire races of people have come and gone. But cockroaches remain. Would you believe that there are over 4000 different species of the little buggers?

If there is a nuclear attack, we will die, but the cockroaches are likely to live. Humans can withstand a one-time exposure of 5 rems (a radiation measurement) of radiation. A dose of 800 rems will kill a human. A cockroach, on the other hand, can withstand up to 67,500 to 105,000 rems before succumbing. Think of the science experiments conducted that came up with this fact! Next time you chase a cockroach with a can of spray in your hand, you'll feel him laughing at you.

If you cut off its head, it could live for a month without it. And don't try drowning it. The cockroach can hold its breath for 40 minutes. If you try to seal them off, better not leave a space as thin as a dime, because that's all the space that a young roach needs to crawl into. Roaches of certain species can grow to six inches in length with a 12 inch wingspan. If all other sources of food fail you, a cockroach recipe has been offered that advises simmering in vinegar, boiling with butter, farina flour, pepper and salt to make a paste and then spreading on buttered bread.

Roaches can run at speeds of nearly 2 miles an hour. They can make up to 25 body turns in a second - the highest known rate in the animal kingdom. And, being nocturnal, they do most of this in the dark. So why don't they crash into things?

The answer is: their antennae. In a series of cockroach-assault course experiments it was found that these much-loathed insects boast highly flexible and seriously sensitive antennae one and a third times the length of their bodies and segmented into between 150 and 170 jointed sections.

Researchers found in science experiments that blinded and deafened cockroaches were able to navigate completely normally, even if their average speeds were lower than their sighted and air-current-sensitive counterparts.

Cockroaches are considered one of the most successful groups of animals; because they are so adaptable, cockroaches have adjusted to living with humans much more readily than humans have adjusted to living with them.

Cockroaches thrive in nearly every corner of the globe, despite our best attempts to eliminate them.

Why is it almost impossible to squish a cockroach before it shoots out of sight behind the refrigerator while it is often quite easy to zap it with the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner?

The answer is that the jet-propelled bug thinks with its behind. The cockroach is able to sense minute changes in the air flowing round its body using tiny hairs on two posterior appendages called "cerci" and that includes your foot coming down.

The vacuum cleaner, however, has even smart roaches fooled. If a vacuum cleaner approaches from behind a cockroach, the wind goes from its head to the nozzle. It thinks the attack is from the front and it turns round and runs straight into the nozzle.

And if food is scarce, adolescent cockroaches can live on a very reliable resource -- their parent's feces. I don't recommend recreating this particular science experiment.

In the natural world, dodging disaster is vital if you are not going to be pounced on by predators. Now, the world champion dodger has been crowned - the cockroach.

Japan has been able to stimulate the muscles in a cockroach leg with electrical signals so that its movements can be controlled. A tricky science experiment indeed!

There could be big advantages for the military. Rats could be used to check damage at bombed enemy factory sites, where their presence would be unlikely to raise suspicion. Dogs could be used to search for casualties on battlefields and cockroaches could be used to place surveillance devices in military installations.

Among the more futuristic scenarios portrayed in the study, robots called neural network bugs, built like small cockroaches, can crawl to the best location for surveillance. Researchers are now working on controlling and manipulating real cockroaches by implanting microprocessors and electrodes in their bodies. The insects can be fitted with micro-cameras and sensors to reach the places other bugs can't reach.

The most common injury for them to endure is the loss of a leg. If a predator tugs on a cockroach leg it will fall off at a preset point called an autonomy point, similar to a lizard losing its tail as a reflex to being caught by the tail.

Unlike some other insects which will gradually regenerate a leg over several molting cycles, the cockroach will delay its next molt in order to regenerate its leg. This will provide the cockroach with the swift feet necessary to escape the next enemy quickly. Six legs are better than 5 or 4. The fast escape of the cockroach requires the pattern of running which uses a tripod of legs on the ground at any one time.

One person reported that after cooking pizza in the microwave, the microwave was opened and discovered a small roach still alive.

The microwave oven is amazingly non-uniform in its heating. That is why most of them have carousels to keep the food moving through the focus of the power.

The roach found was clearly not at the focus of the microwave's power, otherwise it would have exploded under the heat at the focus. Another science experiment that I would not try.
About the Author
Mort Barish is co-founder of Terimore Institute, Inc. Terimore provides hundreds of science experiments with step-by-step guides for children in grades K-12 to help them learn more about science. Find fun, easy and award-winning science experiments at www.terimore.com!
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