There is a whole lot to know and love about cockroaches, and one day they could feed the world!
Introduced or Native?
In Australia, there are six introduced species which do live in houses, but there are also at least 550 native species which are safe, beautiful little creatures. Virtually all cockroaches you find in your garden are native, and all of these are important members of your backyard ecosystem. Some are pollinators, some are decomposers, but most are omnivores. All of them are food for other invertebrates, mammals, frogs and reptiles. The Giant Burrowing Cockroach of Queensland is kept as a pet and lives for 10 years, is 30g and 7.5cm long. It comes out of its burrow at night to munch on leaves, dragging them back down to feed its young.
Been here a long time
Cockroaches have been around for about 300 million years, meaning that they outlasted the dinosaurs. Chances are good that they will outlast humans too. They were the first invertebrates observed in Hiroshima after the blast, and their resistance to a range of chemicals (including insecticides) is phenomenal. Cockroaches can adapt to a range of habitats and food sources, which is probably why some of them have come inside to live with us! Perhaps one of the reasons they are so adaptable is their social structure.
Many cockroaches are gregarious, living in communal shelters and foraging together. They make collective decisions about what to eat and where to live, and communicate via pheromones. They are able to identify how related they are, and avoid mating with close relatives. Cockroaches kept in isolation have developmental and behavioural problems, so they really do need their buddies!
They can do what??
Perhaps the weirdest adaptation seen in cockroaches is cockroach milk. Diploptera punctate gives birth to very small babies, and then nourishes them with milk. What is stranger? an invertebrate producing milk, or the fact that that milk may be the next superfood!
How do you milk a cockroach?
Cockroach milk is four times as nutritious as cow milk, it has proteins, fats, sugars, all essential amino acids, is very high in calories, and it is slow release. Super clever Scientists have cloned the genes responsible for producing it, and inserted them into yeast for artificial milk production. As much as we love cockroaches, milking them may be a step too far!
Look out, at a cafe near you, as Cockroach milk lattes may become the next big thing. Eeeww!!