Myth or Fact? #17 – Cockroaches can survive a nuclear catastrophe

in science •  3 years ago  (edited)


"Hello dear reader!
My name is Cockroachy, the coolest cockroach in town! I live next to a nuclear-weapon test zone and life is pretty tough here! However I am fine and a survival specialist. We don't understand why humans do destroy their own planet but that's not part of today letter to you."

...this is what my little brother wrote last week as they had to write a story of insects. Don't ask me how he came up with this story but as we all know, kids can be very creative!

Actually I am thankful he came up with this story since it remembered me of an myth I heard. It is said that cockroaches can survive anything, even a nuclear catastrophe. Sounds crazy. Sounds like a myth! Well today we will find out.

Deadly radiation

Before we investigate whether or not cockroaches would survive a nuclear catastrophe we need to understand what radiation is and why it is dangerous. We have different kinds of ionizing radiation.

(If you want to know more about the radio active decay I recommend to read my post radioactive-contaminated-waste-glows-green)

Alpha, beta and gamma decay

The alpha decay is the radiation of helium nuclei, made up of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Because this particle has no atomic shell it has a positive charge. As we can see in the figure above alpha decay occurs at heavy, unstable nuclei. After the alpha left, the mother nucleus has 4 neutrons and two protons less.

Fig.1 Schematic illustration of the alpha decay. Credits

The beta decay occurs on heavy as well as on light unstable nuclei. Because of the neutron excess, a neutron decays into a proton and electron. The proton stays in the nucleus whereas the electron is emitted. Because the proton has a higher mass it only can decay into a proton and an electron. This ionizing radiation has a negative charge since electrons are emitted. (To be accurate the neutron decays into a proton, electron and electron-antineutrino). The above described decay is also called beta- radiation. There is also a beta+ radiation where positions are emitted (imagine an electron with a positive charge)

Fig.2 Schematic illustration of the beta decay. Credits

The gamma decay itself has no particle emission. In most cases a nucleus is left in an excited state after alpha or beta decay. When this nucleus gets back to a lower state it radiates penetrating, electromagnetic gamma rays. So mostly gamma radiation is observed together with alpha and beta decay.

Fig.3 Schematic illustration of the gamma radiation. Credits

There are ways to shield against the different types of ionizing radiations. Alpha, beta and gamma are named in the order of their ability to penetrate material. Alpha has the lowest range and gamma the highest. To protect against alpha radiation a simple sheet of paper helps. Thin foil of aluminum can be effective against beta radiation and to stop gamma rays plumb is used. Gamma rays are dangerous because they have a high range, however alpha and beta radiation are not to be underestimated since they can have lethal effects on organisms.

Fig.4 Alpha radiation can be blocked with paper, beta with thin aluminum foil and gamma radiation with plumb. Credits

Biological effects of ionizing radiation

The biological effects of ionizing radiation depends on many factors such as the exposed area, the rate of absorption, type of radiation etc.
As we saw above, ionizing radiation changes the physical and chemical properties of atoms. This has some serious consequences since our molecules are build of atoms, cells are build of molecules and our body is build of cells. Radiation can affect the whole organism!

The interactions with cell materials can cause direct damage to the DNA which can lead to mutations. Enzymes are affected and wont work properly, proteins might get denatured. Remember yesterdays post? Makes sense now! Generally spoken there are four things that can happen to a cell:

  1. The cell dies.
  2. The cell is damaged
  3. The cell is damaged but is able to repair the damage
  4. Nothing happens at all

In one of my articles I described how cell division works. The greater the rate of cell reproduction is the more sensitive the cell is to radiation damage. This is described by the law of Bergonié and Tribondeau.

Makes sense right? The faster our cells divide the more of the actual mutation will spread.

We distinguish between two different kinds of damage to organisms. Acute and latent damage. The following chart shows different acute symptoms in regards of the absorbed dose and time of onset as well as chronically damages.

Fig.5 Whole-body absorbed dose effects chart Source: Wikipedia

Will the cockroach survive?

Indeed! A cockroach can survive a nuclear catastrophe more likely than a human being. Two aspects are to be mentioned. First of all the thick insect carapace blocks a lot of the ionizing radiation which saves the inside organs. Secondly the reproduction rate of cells is much slower than of humans.

It is obvious that nothing would survive a direct blast but we are speaking of radiation here.
Luckily all nuclear states signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996 which made them stop testing nuclear weapons on our earth. Unfortunately there are few countries that still drop these bombs for testing.

Thanks for reading this episode of Myth or Fact! Hope you enjoyed it and until next time!
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11 Reasons way I love those bad boys:

  1. A cockroach can live for a week without its head. Due to their open circulatory system, and the fact that they breathe through little holes in each of their body segments, they are not dependent on the mouth or head to breathe. The roach only dies because without a mouth, it can't drink water and dies of thirst.
  2. A cockroach can hold its breath for 40 minutes, and can even survive being submerged under water for half an hour. They hold their breath often to help regulate their loss of water.
  3. Cockroaches can run up to three miles in an hour, which means they can spread germs and bacteria throughout a home very quickly.
  4. Newborn German cockroaches become adults in as little as 36 days. In fact, the German cockroach is the most common of the cockroaches and has been implicated in outbreaks of illness and allergic reactions in many people.
  5. A one-day-old baby cockroach, which is about the size of a speck of dust, can run almost as fast as its parents.
  6. The American cockroach has shown a marked attraction to alcoholic beverages, especially beer. They are most likely attracted by the alcohol mixed with hops and sugar.
  7. The world's largest roach (which lives in South America) is six inches long with a one-foot wingspan. Average cockroaches can vary in size from ½"- 2" long.
  8. Cockroaches are believed to have originated more than 280 million years ago, in the Carboniferous era.
  9. There are more than 4,000 species of cockroaches worldwide, including the most common species, the German cockroach, in addition to other common species, the brownbanded cockroach and American cockroach.
  10. Because they are cold-blooded insects, cockroaches can live without food for one month, but will only survive one week without water.
  11. There is an actual fact about Cockroaches, if they they disappear from New York City 69 % of the buildings will collapse. Behind those walls they are keeping the city together. Believe me. :D

Your comment is amazing Javier! Followed you and hope to see more from you soon.

Btw. I saw you are new on Steemit. Welcome!

Thank you my friend. I will follow you too. Enjoy in joy.

Interesting facts :)

"3 - Cockroaches can run up to three miles in an hour, which means they can spread germs and bacteria throughout a home very quickly."
Which means I can quickly lose calories chasing after them. \o/ That's great, @javierayala! Haha

Wicked post again! Thanks for the great information, now it makes me wonder even more about the famous tardigrades and whether or not they'd be able to survive an actual blast!?

Namaste :)

Congratulations @timsaid!
Your post was mentioned in my hit parade in the following categories:

  • Upvotes - Ranked 3 with 649 upvotes
  • Comments - Ranked 7 with 104 comments
  • Pending payout - Ranked 1 with $ 737

I think the insulation from the ground also plays a significant role in their survival.

Short and sweet, I have to say... This post, over most others, is genuinely interesting. This is why timsaid is doing so well. I give a follow, as a scientist and profiteer, and hope to hear more! PS Cockroaches are way cooler than beetles, haha. Sucker flew in my window last night and woke me up... it didn't end well for him.

great post, still hard to believe lol

It's impressive what nature offers

very decent post. i like the information within. also, please re follow and upvote back if you dont mind. ty friend.

Just remember, what happened in the movie a bugs life?

And here I am, trying to fight the oncoming summer hoard with by broom... Thanks for the great post!

I know right! Last time I was in Thailand I saw the biggest cockroach ever. Was a monster!

Great one Bro, that was a great article

Thank you! I appreciate :)


My son has a pet cockroach collection. Its disturbing and I think im gonna need to post pictures now...give me the heeveeee jeevees

Please, I want to see that

Quality post - earned my follow.

I am interested in tardigrades - they are able to survive in vacuum and endure huge radiation doses. Really fascinating. These things can last in space.


My mother in law could definitely survive a nuclear catastrophe.. She has the thickest of exoskeletons!

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Please, these comments make me laugh way too hard.


You smashed it once again, bro!

But I don't smash cockroaches :P

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

I don't either, only kill anything for food not just to destroy it, life is rear in the known universe


Try it, I am prepared

So if you do survive doomsday, you can rest assured there -will- be radroaches. I am so not thrilled to hear that.

Lots of protein!

Radroach stew though!

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Yes. I wanted this comment. I came here just to find this comment.

This story reminds me of the cockroach from the movie Wall-E following a nuclear catastrophe

Wall-E is so cute! I really enjoyed the movie

Me too! Good post thanks

Wow that was randomly interesting

sure was

Amazing! Good work man!

Thanks hellogelt83! Happy to see you again

☺ follower of Mr. T! Tim Said!!!

Great post. also a very informational one !

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Myth or not they are tough:D

Yes! Awesome info! :) Reminds me of the Trilobite;


These strangely beautiful creatures - named not for their distinctive cephalon, thorax and pygidium (head, body, tail), but rather for the three lobes that divide their lateral symmetry - would eventually evolve into more than 20,000 scientifically recognized species and dominate the world's oceans for the next quarter of a billion years.


I think the best kickass lifeform are the Tardigrades!
For those who haven't seen it(Taken from Cosmos)

Thanks for your information! They look awesome! Will have a look


Indeed, I should stop trying to nuke my cockroaches... :D

It was you?!

I really thought I was doing the right thing...

Just when you think they are gone!

They want to take over the world! They have a masterplan and will put together with ants

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Interesting and informative.
Now all I need is a thick carapace and I can go into the forbidden zone!
Let's resteem this!

Can you make it a Steem carapace? Would love to see it! But I highly recommend to not go to any forbidden zones

They love electricity and are conductors ,so that can be the reason they can live through
please follow we if you can I have wrote a post on smiling you might enjoy

A smile a day keeps the doc away, right? Thanks! Will have a look

Let's next time think twice before stomping innocent Cockroaches outside. Awesome blog post! Very informative thanks :)

Wow! Bro you are back to Steemit. THIS IS AWESOME!

Now I know why the cockroaches will survive. Learned something new! Thank you! But is it just cockroaches which will survive or bugs in general / or other kind of bugs, too?

I know that Scorpions should survive too. I don't have information regarding other insects. However their exoskeleton should provide good protection

This post is going to the moon! Yo bro. You seeing what I am seeing?

Jumping on the roach-wagon! If you cant beat 'em, join 'em.

Maybe we should harness their immutability for blockchain tech.

That's teamwork! Can you think of a nice proof of carapace concept?

Proof of Carapace (POC) - an entomological measure used for envoking denial of peace attacks.

I have been to chernobyl, there were roaches everywhere. The villagers said the wolves are smarter than people and the lakes are filled with fish with multiple heads. I personally can believe a twoheaded fish would be smarter than a normal one. Just a little mythbusters, roaches still there!

How was it there? I saw many history documentaries and they were all exciting.

What if the left head wants to swim to the left and the right head to the right?

Really it is beautiful, Imagine land untouched by man for years. Nature reclaiming what is hers. Now that would be some pictures to post on here. Really amazing because everything was left exactly as it was. But I will tell you they say the radiation is almost the same as it was the day it happened. The entire area is contaminated.

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Me too, the docos are very eye opening seeing all the wild life that is still surviving there, Russia is one place I would like to visit, people I tell that to don't get that we are constantly lied to about Russia here in the west, the propaganda has been thick and fast on the mainstream news lately, they don't realize who is poking who in the war machines.

I would think 2 heads would slow them down, easy pray compared to a streamlined one.

sad and yet funny in a weird way

Sometimes that's how reality is. But as a Steemian you have more fun

Love this story

mind blowing awesome

Wow! I had never even heard about the fact. This is a very informative post. :)

wow cockroaches is realy hard to kill 😂 nice post btw😉 keep up the good work

They are harmless :)

Great post!!! "Mother Nature is a Mad Scientist!" To quote Kramer

Love the detail. Interestingly, Cockroaches aren't even among the top contenders to best survive a nuclear holocaust.

So, humans will die off at about 4-10 radiation units (GY).
Cockroaches? between 100-9,000!!
Tardigrade (water bear)? - 5,000
Some bacteria? 15,000
Archaea? 30,000

There's something to be said for the little guys...

Interesting Interesting Interesting!!

Do you think we could ask them to help us with our nuclear problem? Like, pray to the cockroach gods to protect us? I had to look up the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996. Interesting.

Could you please ask them and tell us what they say?

lol, I will give it a try and report back...going to have to follow you now...

Great post! Exited for the next part ;)

All these comments got me thinking of Joe's Apartment

Poor Joe! How's he doing?

You better not be talking about my brother Joe ;)

Post was very interesting. I really enjoyed reading. Crazy to think that they can survive.

Also does anybody else think about Men in Black?

nicely done 😀 keep up the good work

Niceeeeee! Really informative

Awesome post!

Nice post man. Even more interesting that you came up with this topic haha.

Thanks buddy! Sometimes it's hard to explain science in a simple way but that's what I try to change with this series. Not too complicated, not too plain

well, that's a post!

Thanks bro <3

you're welcome :)

Very insightful. It makes me think of when I was a kid and used to imagine giant cockroaches taking over the planet.

If we could actually learn from cockroaches we could adapt to nuclear radiation, using their material.

Interesting.. Thanks

very informative post.
I wrote more or less about the same here:

great post~~~^^*

damn that was a golden cockroach made you 878$ ! well done :))

The ockroach told me to build a Steem Vault. But I will use it more wisely and upvote more people. Thanks!

This specific cockroach seems to be from future also !

Great post!

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Genuinely interesting post, Thanks for the great information.

Woah. Just BLEW my mind! Kinda like when Anakin Skywalker blew up the deathstar... but less firer... equally cosmic. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

i am quite surprise that cockroaches have this kind of survival capabilities and how their protective wings can protect them from radiation. But could these cockroaches die from at least the force of blast?? I think they are small enough to be eradicated. Anyway, such a great post. Thanks for sharing

Am I the only one who skipped over all the technical jargon to get to the answer at the end? Yeah yeah,...I know. I'm a slacker. I know I'm not the only one.....

I can survive aswell😂👍

The only other things to survive nuclear radiation? Keith Richards and Hostess Twinkies.

Cockroaches are by far the oldest beings on planet, even before dinosaurs... so i guess they have something that we dont when it comes to survival... ;)

In fact humans are also pretty high in the survival ranking since they can build vaults

Hahahaha... good one... alot of elites are making bunkers, whats the reason??? ;)

this post is very intersting....very nice.i like this post.

Nice post man..for me personally i hate cockroach, but i wont kill it without good reason..But after reading this article, i was thinking if cockroach can survive from nuclear catastrophe, then human should be even stronger because human can kill cockroach with just a single just kidding.
Anyway its a great and very informative post. Good Job!!

Wow crackin article!

Real Scientist. I am proud to be one.

Steemit needs you :)

If Tim said that cockroach can survive a nuclear catastrophe, then it must be true xD

Haha dude :D

Yet they die if sprayed with Cedar Oil. So if Cockroaches took over the Earth and we had but 1 hope, we should create a Cedar Oil Bomb like a nuclear bomb.

They are difficult to kill, but I think they get a bad wrap. Harmless in my opinion (Don't want them in my house though) ;-)

I agree. Wouldn't kill them since they are harmless. Just throw them out lol

Damn it! They are invincible!

Wow , great post , but still hard to believe

There's a lot in here..
Gotta read that long.. Haha

Real science nice to follow you

We can finally put that myth to bed. A cockroach can survive nuclear radiation. Nuclear blast, not so much.

I doubt there is anything that would survive a direct hit

The tardigrade accepts your challenge!!

LOL ya he is so much more stronger than the roaches!!!

Ewww.... This dude looks evil

Evil is his middle name.. indestructible is his first