Do Cockroach Lives Matter?

Cockroaches were immortalized in Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis, when salesman, Gregor Samsa, awakens to find himself transformed into a bug. (The Samsa bug is frequently illustrated as a cockroach.)

Several weeks ago, I was staying in a North Carolina Beach house which had an ample supply of cockroaches. Though I’m not a fan of them, I not afraid of them–even when they hiss. However, one of my guests was absolutely terrified. She screamed, as if the bejesus had stopped her heart! For some perverse reason, I found this amusing. So much so, I decided to research this ancient group with ancestors over 300 million years old.

Pundits believe cockroaches exist to make us clean our houses and shut our doors. They also justify the bugs’ existence to induce terror among both men and women–gender equality! While others posit, the exercise benefit of chasing and swatting these despicable creatures. Some folk are highly allergic to these pests, and in fact, when I had allergy tests years ago, one of my only negatives was cockroach poop!

Actually, though, cockroach lives are important: they feed on decaying matter, such as dead plants, dead animals, and animal waste. Their waste provides much needed nitrogen to the soil. Secondly, they are a primary food source for certain species of birds and small reptiles and mammals, such as mice. In some countries cockroaches are also a food source for humans, and in China, they are used for medicinal purposes, including the treatment of burns and diarrhea.

So the next time, you’re in a panic trying to terminate a roach, remember you’re messing with the ecosystem. And yes, Cathy, cockroach lives do matter.

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