Roaches are one of the nastiest, dirtiest, and most disgusting creatures to have ever crawled this planet. They crawl through garbage and merrily spread bacteria and disease on your kitchen countertops, and when they’re feeling particularly devious, they take to the air and laugh as you run from the room screaming. They’re rarely good for anything, except maybe as fodder for exotic pets. That and, well, they are excellent recyclers, chewing up almost anything they can get their mouths on. Which really, makes them all the more gross (can you tell how much I dislike them?).
Some species of roaches like to get inside our houses and apartments, and I recently noticed that the dead ones I encounter expire belly side up, like the turtles I’ve seen in cartoons that flip over and can’t get back up. And I got to thinking, why is that? Some of these roaches have wings, like the American cockroach that is a common house invader. Surely they can wiggle their wings and get right back up? They didn’t just lie there and wait to die like the turtles in those cartoons, did they? Probably not.
One explanation is that it’s because they have top-heavy bodies, and only six thin and long legs. When they die and lose muscle control, their legs contract and tuck underneath their bodies, which causes them to roll over. That’s why you find them in this position in the morning.
This always seems to happen with roaches that die from insecticide too – and that’s likely because insecticide affects their nervous system, which eventually leads to them having muscle spasms. When they’re twitching through their last seconds on this earth, their top-heavy bodies usually topple over and they get to die staring at the sky and stars (well, most probably your ceiling, which is a considerably less pleasant view).
In nature, a cockroach’s journey through life often ends in a predators belly so we don’t actually get to witness many dead roaches lying motionless and facedown in the streets (of the jungle, I mean. Or the city – it’s really one and the same, don’t you think? I digress). But if they’re not actually dead and they just accidentally flipped over for whatever reason, there would likely be debris they can use to right themselves up again, like tall blades of grass, a fallen fruit, or the occasional crushed beer can. In our homes, in our flat floors and countertops and even relatively flat carpets, they wouldn’t have anything to use to try to right themselves up to perhaps die in a more dignified manner.
Another thing that may be interesting is that roaches have been witnessed to come out into the middle of the room to die. Unlike a lot of other insects and animals that “hide” when they think their time’s up, roaches tend to seek out open spaces. A possible explanation for this is because when they’ve been hit with insecticide, they get disoriented and “flee” their hiding spaces, like a roach version of the phrase “I need some air”.