End of the World

Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria or Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,500 total are associated with human habitats.

Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources, such as the glue from the back of postage stamps. Some can go without air for 45 minutes. In one experiment, cockroaches were able to recover from being submerged underwater for half an hour.

It is popularly suggested that cockroaches will “inherit the earth” if humanity destroys itself in a nuclear war. Cockroaches do indeed have a much higher radiation resistance thanvertebrates, with the lethal dose perhaps six to 15 times that for humans. However, they are not exceptionally radiation-resistant compared to other insects, such as the fruit fly.[24]

The cockroach’s ability to withstand radiation better than human beings can be explained through the cell cycle. Cells are most vulnerable to the effects of radiation when they are dividing. A cockroach’s cells divide only once each time it molts, which is weekly at most in a juvenile roach. Since not all cockroaches would be molting at the same time, many would be unaffected by an acute burst of radiation, but lingering radioactive fallout would still be harmful.[