Ever wondered if cockroaches can survive a nuclear explosion? I have, especially after seeing WALL-E. But I never looked it up because I didn’t want to see pictures of cockroaches. Or videos of all those scurrying legs. Shudder. Thankfully, the TED-Ed YouTube channel is on the case. They posted an animated video with the answer and lots of other fun facts about cockroaches.
The lesson comes from Ameya Gondhalekar, a professor at Purdue University who studies indoor urban insects. Turns out cockroaches wouldn’t survive a nuclear blast. Radiation does kill them. But they can survive nearly everything else. They carry microbes like E. coli but aren’t affected by them.
There are some pesticides that kill cockroaches, but they are usually able to build up a resistance. And because they reproduce so quickly, that can happen within months. This leaves them locked in an arms race with exterminators. The most surprising thing about the video is that I was sad when the animated cockroach dies. It does so very dramatically.
Other fun facts I didn’t mind learning from the anthropomorphized cockroaches include how fast they move. Fifty body lengths per second! That would be like a human running over 180 miles per hour. They can also withstand pressure 900 times their own weight. So you’re not wrong if you think cockroaches are remarkably fast and resistant to squashing.
Apparently, it’s only a couple dozen species that adapted to live in our houses. They give the over 5,000 cockroach species that mind their own business out in the wilderness a bad reputation.
If you prefer your cockroach fun facts with creepy crawly videos, there’s plenty of content out there ( and here on Nerdist). I do not. In fact, it’s time to brush up on some other fun facts: how to avoid a cockroach infestation.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.