Can Cockroaches Live Without Their Head?

August 18, 2021

Cockroaches are common pests in homes. They are believed to be older than dinosaurs, and they have been able to be around for that long because they are born survivors. According to scientists, roaches can even survive a nuclear war, with their excellent survival skills setting them apart from other household pests. So, do not be shocked to see a cockroach doing the rounds in your house while entirely headless.

How Is It Possible For Cockroaches To Live Having No Head?

Unlike humans, roaches can do just fine without a head. The main reason is decapitation in humans leads to massive blood loss, subsequently causing low blood pressure, which immensely affects the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to critical tissues. In addition, humans breathe through the nose and sometimes the mouth. So, with decapitation, breathing stops. Humans also cannot eat without the head. And without the brain, vital body functions collapse, resulting in death. How then are headless cockroaches able to survive?

1. Unique Circulatory System

Cockroaches have a different circulatory system from humans. For blood to move around our bodies, tremendous pressure is needed. The cockroach vascular system is less extensive and does not have tiny capillaries, which requires very little pressure. When the head of a roach is severed, the neck seals off by clotting, preventing uncontrolled bleeding.

2. Breath Through Spiracles

Roaches breathe through openings along the body called spiracles, not through the nose and occasionally the mouth like we do. Also, their brain does not play any role in breathing, and their blood does not transport oxygen throughout the body. Instead, the spiracles supply the tissues with air through tubes known as the trachea.

3. Cold-Blooded Animals

Cockroaches are cold-blooded, which also helps in their survival when beheaded. Being cold-blooded means roaches never use the energy acquired from food to heat their bodies. Therefore, they can survive with less food compared to humans. Cockroaches can go for many weeks on a single meal. As long as there are no predators, roaches can live for a while without a head.

4. Active Nervous System

Roaches have clumps of ganglia (nerve tissues) distributed throughout each of their body segments. The clumps can perform all the primary nervous functions necessary for reflexes. So, even without the brain, the body can still function normally, with the roach able to stand, move around, and react to touch.

Can A Cockroach Head Survive Separate From The Body?

It is not just the roach’s body that survives after beheading. The head can also function on its own. You will see the antennae waving back and forth for several hours until the head gets out of steam. If well refrigerated and nourished, the head can live longer than the body when separated.

Do Cockroaches Even Need A Head If They Can Survive Headless?

If they can survive without it, why then have it in the first place? It is good to know that the body gives a lot of sensory information to the head. And the brain cannot function optimally if it does not get these inputs. Therefore, the entire body has to remain intact. When a cockroach’s head is cut off, it also means the noggin glands in the head are cut off from the rest of the body. These glands are crucial in a roach’s life because they control maturation. Without the glands, the development of a roach is severely affected.

How Long Can A Cockroach Live Without Its Head?

There is no specific survival period as several factors determine how long a beheaded cockroach can survive. A roach with no head can live for several days up to weeks as long as normal bodily functions are maintained. However, the cockroach will eventually die after some time due to starvation.

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