How Long Can Cockroaches Live Without Their Head?

Whether you like it or not, the creepy crawlers of the world are here to stay. Spiders, snakes, leeches, ticks, fleas, mosquitos... they all hold a rightful place in Mother Nature's vast and ever-evolving kingdom. Oh, and let's not forget cockroaches. Their name alone seems to inspire vile sensations of repulsion and disgust, but we sometimes forget exactly why. Other than the fact that they scurry around by the hundreds and dwell in dark corners, what is it that makes these ugly little monsters so repugnant? It's got to be something, right? After all, calling people he hated "cockroaches" was one of Tony Montana's favorite past times.

Richard Kaae of California State University believes that cockroaches are perhaps the most reviled and feared insect by humans (via BBC). However, despite their uncanny ability to carry diseases, they aren't necessarily dangerous to us in the immediate sense. They don't bite and definitely aren't venomous, so you're hardly likely to suffer if you encounter one (per Health Line). Maybe it's the various attributes they exhibit that seem otherworldly, and a little more than unnatural, that make them feel so ugly and offensive. 

Cockroaches can live without a head

Yes, you read that correctly. According to LOLWOT, these industrious little insects have various pores on different parts of their bodies through which they breathe, and they don't actually use their mouths or any other orifice located on their heads to take in oxygen. These little holes throughout their bodies are called spiracles and generally function involuntarily. The insect's brain does not conduct them and really doesn't even detect them, so if one experiences decapitation, it can go on breathing for an extended period of time before it dies, according to Cockroach Facts. They also don't bleed much, so this won't kill them either. Creepy, right? 

However, a mouth does come in handy when you need to eat or drink, and if you don't have a head, you don't have a mouth. Ergo, a cockroach will die from thirst and hunger if its head is separated from its body. But how long does that take? If you're not sufficiently freaked out yet, brace yourself — the answer is probably going to shock you. 

A cockroach can go seven days without a head

Apparently, it isn't unlikely for a cockroach to live for up to seven whole days after losing its head. That's right — an entire week can elapse before death by decapitation claims their life, as Pest World for Kids reports. It's a medieval executioner's worst nightmare: imagine swinging the axe and dismembering the accused only to watch him or her strut around the neighborhood for the next seven days or so. One might feel a little uneasy, no? Well, at least they can't sneer or gloat, because... you get the idea.

It almost seems like something out of a Transylvanian terror tale, but it's not. It's just nature, folks. All the same, you've got to respect this particular player in the game of life. A cockroach's refusal to perish is astonishing. Not only will they hold on for dear life after being decapitated, but these creatures can actually survive a nuclear explosion, as they can tolerate high levels of radiation. They've also been around for over two million years, which means they walked amongst the dinosaurs (per LOLWOT).