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Are cockroaches Asexual?

An infestation with cockroaches is challenging to control because they multiple pretty fast. Once the female roach mate with a male cockroach, they reproduce offspring within a matter of days. However, you might be shocked to know that some species of female cockroaches can even reproduce without mating with a male partner. This is called asexual reproduction or parthenogenesis.

Not all cockroaches are asexual; most cockroaches reproduce through sexual reproduction. However, few species of cockroaches like the Speckled and American cockroaches can reproduce asexually when needed.

However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t reproduce sexually. Instead, cockroaches that can reproduce asexually still prefer sexual reproduction.

Interestingly, an article published in Annals of the Entomological Society of America by Louis M Roth et al. states that parthenogenesis has been considered rare among cockroaches. Moreover, the author also claims that experiments conducted to either prove or disprove asexual reproduction in cockroaches have not been extensively carried out. Therefore, this is still a controversial topic.

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What is parthenogenesis?

Parthenogenesis Flow Chart (Source: National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science)

According to a research paper published in Zoological letters, parthenogenesis is a reproductive strategy in which females are able to generate offspring when mating partners are unavailable. This phenomenon is seen in many animal phyla.

In parthenogenesis, an unfertilized ovum can transform into offspring without an external source i.e., sperm. Asexual reproduction is not limited to insects or cockroaches. It is also observed in,

  1. Certain species of birds like chickens, turkeys, and pigeons
  2. Rarely in reptiles such as geckos, dragons, and snakes
  3. Certain types of Fish including Amazon molly and guppies.

Can roaches impregnate themselves?

Interestingly, when reproducing asexually, the American cockroach gives only birth to female roaches. This disturbs the overall balance of the male-to-female ratio, further perpetuating asexual reproduction.

However, this doesn’t mean that roaches can impregnate themselves. Instead, cockroaches develop through pseudogamy or gynogenesis.

This type of reproduction at least needs the presence of sperm cells to trigger egg cell division. However, during this whole process, no genetic material is exchanged.

Additional Read!