Friday, June 24, 2011

Facing my fear...

Two nights ago I cried a single tear for the cockroaches. This sounds completely insane, I know... However, my feelings were sincere and still remain the same. The day before, Landon had read aloud to me all of these amazing facts about cockroaches. I told him that I could almost cry because of how ignorant we are. My whole life I've lived in fear of the cockroach, of all things. Snakes and spiders never bothered me. It was always the roaches...  The house I grew up in had a large pecan tree in the backyard that hovered right over the steps that led out of the back door. At nights the cockroaches would fill our dog bowl and when I turned on the porch light and stepped outside they would go scattering everywhere. I would literally see twenty of these creatures at once. These by the way, are the large flying ones... not the small house ones. When I saw them in the house, I would run squealing. My father would kill them and sometimes depending on his mood would chase me through the long hallway holding it by the antenna, which only made my fear worse. They've crawled over my feet and made my stomach turn and several occasions. Not only have they crawled over my feet, they've also crawled into bed with me 3 times in the past 5 months or so.  When you sleep in the nude and feel a roach run down your chest in the night, it's pretty damn creepy. 

The last time this happened to me was two nights ago. The night after I learned how truly amazing these insects are. At first I felt it on my neck, I sat up and turn around facing the pillow shaking my hair. I thought to myself, maybe it was just one of my dreadlocks rubbing against me and I'm over exaggerating. I sat there for a minute and I felt it run across my skin once more, this time I knew exactly what it was and jumped quickly out of bed. Landon awoke and I told him there was a 'bug' in the bed, so he jumped out as well. I think I used the word bug because I was in denial that it was yet again another cockroach. We turned on the lights and shook the covers, and sure enough there it was sitting on the sheets all big and brown.  Can't you tell that I'm afraid? I just said it was big, when I'm ginormous in comparison. Landon killed the cockroach. My immediate thought when I turned the lights on was not that I wanted it dead. Had we not killed it, it would have hung out in the bedroom and crawled over me again. Our other option would have been to catch it and put it back outside, where it probably would have made it's way inside again. And have you ever tried to catch a cockroach? Yeah, not realistic. So the roach is dead, along with the other hundreds that myself, family and friends have murdered in our lifetime. 

So why should I feel bad? Above that, why should I bring myself to shed a tear for a cockroach?  Because what the hell did they ever do to me? They continue to multiply and survive. If anything, they are what I wish I could be... the ultimate survivor. They do not bite me. They have never given me a disease. The do not eat the vegetables growing in my garden. Why do I have such an issue with this insect? Better yet, why do the majority of Americans have such an issue with it?  In the past couple of months I have been trying to come to terms with my fear of cockroaches. I've drawn them and even added one to a recent painting. I am trying to understand them better and see the beauty in them. I don't want to parade around my whole life gasping at the site of them and immediately wanting to end their lives. I want to feel one with them, the way I do with the plants and the fungi. And in many ways, since I've learned more about them, I almost feel they are a little better than us... mainly for these reasons:

-There are 4,000 known species  of cockroaches whose existence dates back more than 400 million years. Of these species, only a dozen or so are considered pest to people. 

-Cockroaches can live for a week without a head, dying only of dehydration because they lack a mouth to drink, as their brain is scattered throughout the body. 

-They can hold their breath or 45 minutes, eat literally anything (they have a separate set of teeth inside their digestive system in case they need to eat on the run)

-They run up to 3 miles and hour

-They withstand an amount of radiation equivalent to that of a thermonuclear explosion- between 90,000 and 105,000 rems for a German cockroach! ( A lethal dose of radiation for a human is 800 rems or more.)

-Cockroaches have one big nerve connecting their heads to their tails, similar to a motion detector, thus alerting them to danger from behind. 

-The claws on their feet enable them to climb walls

-Their eyes, made from over 4,000 individual lenses, allow them to see in all directions at once. 

-When getting out of harms way, their highly sensitive and specialized antennae, containing between 150 and 170 individually jointed sections, allow them to make up to twenty-five body turns per second. The highest known rate in the animal kingdom- and they do it all on pitch darkness.

-They sense minute changes in air currants around their bodies- like a foot about to squash them- with the assistance of tiny hairs on two appendages that feed into a network of fourteen vital nerves that process the information. 
-The cockroach heart is a simple valved tube that pumps blood backward of forward within the body. The roach can slow down or even stop its heart altogether without causing harm. 

-If it loses a leg while out on the prowl, unlike some insects which gradually regenerate a leg over several molting cycles, the cockroach will delay its next molt in order to regenerate its leg first, thereby assuring maximum get-out-of-dodge speed and agility. 

-The roach also excels at the ability to turn valuable nutrients into an energy source that helps it neutralize or lessen life threatening chemicals.

-Always wise to conserving calories, cockroaches spend 75 percent of their day lounging around. 

-Current research shows that they possess certain complex behavior methods such as group-based decision-making when it comes to divvying up food resources. 

-Most cockroach species give birth to live young which prevents other insects from eating their eggs. If food gets tough to scrounge, the cockroach kids can live by eating their parents poop. 

Cockroach facts were taken form the book "WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE" by Cody Lundin.

Illustration was found here:


  1. They spread disease. That's why people don't like them.

  2. Wow, what a great way to conquer your fear! I honestly rarely encounter cockroaches, so they are not as high on my list of fears, but I am terrified of centipedes and spiders. Maybe I should do some research on them, and try drawing them! Great advice! :)

  3. Melody- I believe this is a common misconception. There is no scientific study that has shown a direct transmission of diseases from cockroaches to people. What does happen is that the cockroach may walk over an infected area, leaving a trail of that bacteria. For example, if raw meat were sitting on a counter and the juices from that raw meat where walked over by a cockroach, it would then spread them wherever it walks afterward. Things like that can be prevented by keeping things nice and clean.

  4. Hi Liz~ centipedes are indeed a bit creepy, mainly because certain ones can kill us! So it's always nice to know the good from the bad, bad only meaning deadly. I have been drawing centipedes and spiders as well lately. It's nice to recognize and appreciate the smaller living things on this planet.

  5. Those facts are fascinating--thanks for sharing. I still hate them though.