Although roaches are associated with diseases and disgust, they are no less than a scientific wonder. Roaches are thought to survive a nuke, live inside microwaves indefinitely, and without oxygen for hours. To my surprise, amazing facts about roaches keep popping out. Similarly, I wondered how long a cockroach could live without its head?
A cockroach can live without its head from 2 days to a week. However, the survival of a cockroach without its head depends on the hydration status. A dehydrated cockroach will die sooner than a hydrated one. The reason is, the cockroach can respire and control body function without its head but can’t eat or drink.
Insects, including cockroaches, have an open circulatory system, meaning they do not have lungs nor require a mouth for breathing. Instead, they have respiratory openings on the body segments called spiracles. Moreover, Instead of blood, they use hemolymph, which opens directly into the spiracles and carries oxygen to the whole body (Reference).
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Can a Cockroach live without its Head?
There are many myths surrounding cockroaches like, they don’t breathe oxygen. However, a cockroach can live without its head, which is not a myth at all but instead, it is a fact.
Unlike humans, cockroaches do not have a brain for controlling essential body functions like respiration and circulation. Instead, their nervous system is fused with each body segment (Reference).
However, The head helps them locate food and water and alert them from dangers. Therefore, if a cockroach’s head is cut, it can still live without it because the basic survival systems like respiration and circulation are still functional.
Moreover, once the cockroach’s head is cut, the prothorax immediately seals off automatically, preventing any fluid leakages and helping the roach survive the catastrophe.
How long can a Headless cockroach survive?
As discussed above, a cockroach can live without its head. But the critical question is will the cockroach live indefinitely? If not, how long can a cockroach live without its head?
The factor that limits cockroach survival without its head is food and water. This is because a cockroach without its head can’t eat and drink, two critical requirements for long-term survival.
Interestingly, cockroaches can live without food for a month but without water for a maximum of a week. After that, the cockroach’s systems will start to fail, and the cockroach will die.
Therefore, the survival of a cockroach without its head depends on the hydration status. A well-hydrated cockroach at the time of head cutting will live for a maximum of one week, but at the same time, a dehydrated cockroach will die with two days.
Long story short, a headless cockroach can survive somewhere from 2 days to a maximum of a week.
Can a Cockroach regrow its Head?
Interestingly, cockroaches have excellent organ regenerating properties, making them survivalists(Reference). However, cockroaches can re-grow antennas and lost limbs in the nymph stage; they fail to re-grow the head.
This is because, without a head, the cockroach cannot survive more than a week, and the organ needs at least three weeks for regeneration.