Ever Wonder Why Roaches Die On Their Back?

by | Last updated Jun 28, 2023 | Roaches

Have you ever returned home one evening only to find roaches at the top of your kitchen counter, dead on their back? And you have been wondering why do they do that. Read on to learn more on why do cockroaches die on their back.

If you happen to have closely watched a dying cockroach, you might have discovered that more frequently than not, it would drop on its back before leaving the planet for good. Even though this is not particularly true with every cockroach’s death, it is somewhat a familiar occurrence, especially for domesticated roaches. As weird as this might seem, have you ever asked why do cockroaches die on their back?

So why do cockroaches fall on their back and die? Is dying this way more comfortable, or is there any scientific justification for this?

Ever Wonder Why Roaches Die On Their Back?

Practically speaking,  one of the reasons why cockroaches fall on their back is because they are heavy on top. They have somewhat round-like and oily backs that allow them to slip and hide in small cracks. Their six long limbs help carry their broad and heavy bodies, giving them a higher center of gravity.

As a result of this, cockroaches carry a notable amount of their mass weight on their backs. When a roach is about to die, researchers believe that its high gravitational pull that makes the roaches flip over on its back.

Its round-like back and weak limbs prevent it from staying upright, particularly on smooth surfaces. After falling over, the cockroach struggles to get back up and eventually dies.

Do Cockroaches Always Die On Their Backs?

That’s a straight no: Regardless of how many cockroach deaths you’ve seen in your own home, not every cockroach dies on its back. Out in the woods, it’s uncommon to find roaches dying on their backs. Predators (e.g., birds, geckos, spiders, etc.) will either eat them or die naturally due to lack of food and old age.

Besides that, in the wild, roaches can  get back up pretty well as there are many objects on the ground(e.g., twigs, leaves, etc.) that they can grasp and stand up quickly. Much of this is to suggest that not all roaches die on their back.

Related reading: Benefits of Cockroaches to Humans

However, for those that do, below are a couple of explanations that will help you understand why.

Other Reasons Why Cockroaches Die On Their Back

1.     Insecticides Destroy Roaches’ Nervous Systems.

A cockroach’s limbs or legs require continuous nerve stimulation to stay in a wedged position under the body. In simple terms, a normal cockroach has its limbs curled up due to a cluster of nerves in each leg that generates regular stimulation and assists in movement coordination. This is one reason why cockroaches move when dead.

Most insecticides and pesticides are neurotoxins (poisons the nervous system). Once the poison destroys the leg nerves, the roach starts experiencing little seizures, and after a while, the cockroach falls over on its back. That’s why you can find a cockroach alive on its back; the legs have no more energy to carry it up. It’s just waiting to die.

So besides the heavy back, insecticides can also make cockroaches fall on their back.

2.     Cockroaches Dislike Smooth, Tiled Floors.

Another thing that makes the unfortunate pest situation even worse is smooth, polished, and tiled floors. Most insect and pest love being domesticated in homes with smooth surfaces, but roaches are not one of them.

Out of the thousands of roaches species out there, only a handful of them are household pests. However, there are times when wild roaches accidentally find their way to a household setting and cannot get out, resulting in them being trapped inside.

Cockroaches usually have a hard time crawling on top of a smooth marble surface. Most of the time, they slide and topple over and land on their back. Things quickly turn to a life and death situation as unlike in the wild, where they can easily grab something and get up, there is nothing to grab here.

3.     When A Cockroach Dies Of Old Age

Because of the long legs, roaches have a balanced gravitational pull. When young and fit, they manage to stay upright pretty well. However, it becomes a different story as they start to age; their round-like back is systematically pulled towards the ground.

Due to weakening muscles (because of old age), old roaches find it extremely difficult to get back up once they topple over, particularly on smooth floors.

Related reading: Diseases Caused By Cockroaches


Why Do Cockroaches Move When Dead

It’s hard to believe that the cockroach’s brain does not coordinate everything on its body. Instead, the legs have their own nerve system that controls them. That’s why even if you cut the roach’s head, it will still move about and try to get up.

This roach will eventually die but not because it’s headless, but because of thirst and hunger as it does not have a mouth to feed. Incredible isn’t it!

Why Do Cockroaches Play Dead?

When you come across a roach that is lying on its back very still and not moving at all, be sure not to take your eyes away from it. Most likely, the cockroack is playing dead. This is a clever way to deceive predators into thinking that the cockroach is dead.

Most roaches will do this on purpose as a survival strategy. However, there are occasions where the cockroach’s body takes over and does this as a defensive mechanism(state of tonic immobility). It mostly happens when sprayed with insecticides. It can stay dead for up to a week in this state, trying to fight the poison it inhaled.

How Long Can Roaches Stay On Their Backs Before They Die?

This will depend on what caused the cockroach to fall on their back in the first place. If it flipped because of inhaling an insecticide, how long it will stay on its back depends on the spray inhaled intensity and quantity. If it slipped and overturned on a polished surface, it might take a few hours or days, depending on the roach’s strength.

Related reading: What are Cockroaches Afraid of?


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Even though most roaches in a homestead setting die lying on their back, it’s not always like that for all roaches. It usually depends on what killed them. In the wild, cockroaches most likely end up as a snack for different predators or die naturally due to old age.

Related reading: Research

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