Cockroaches have excellent senses that allow them to seek out food, monitor for predators and survive in a generally hostile world filled with animal predators and human enemies. They do not, however, have ears. Instead of hearing, they rely on a variety of other methods to interact with the world around them.
Cockroaches are long, flat insects that rely on a hard outer shell to protect them. The shell, or exoskeleton, does not grow with the cockroach. Instead, the insects shed the shells when they get too small and grow new ones. Because they breathe through many parts of their bodies, they can go for weeks without eating and are not subject to massive blood loss the way humans and other animals are when decapitated; they can live for weeks without their heads, until their bodies starve or thirst to death.
Despite the misconception that cockroaches have ears in their knees -- most likely drawn from confusion with the fact that crickets possess this unique anatomical feature -- cockroaches do not have ears. Hearing, however, is merely a matter of sensing the vibrations caused by sound waves and translating them into meaningful noise. While it isn’t quite the same, cockroaches hear changes in air currents and movements in their environment through their cerci, two delicate appendages mounted on the rear of their bodies.
Roaches can’t hear the way we can, but they have other senses they rely on. Their sense of smell resides in their antennae, which help them feel their ways as well. Their legs are covered with extremely sensitive hairs, working with the antennae so the insects feel the slightest touch. They can smell and taste using their mouths, and their eyes -- mounted on top of their heads -- have almost a 360-degree view. Their eyes contain more than 1,000 lenses, giving them the ability to form multiple pictures of their environment at the same time.
Trouble With Roaches
Cockroaches can be more than appalling; they can be dangerous. Cockroaches often crawl over feces, which they can then transfer to food and household surfaces when they touch them. This can bring disease or bacteria into your home. To minimize roach infestations, remove piles of debris such as newspapers, recycling, unused boxes and bags of pet food that provide places to hide. Clean surfaces carefully to minimize spills and crumbs, and put all food away in tightly lidded containers. Seal off access to sinks and pipes, and repair damage such as cracks or mouse holes.
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Sarah Moore has been a writer, editor and blogger since 2006. She holds a master's degree in journalism.