Why do I need a USDA permit to ship non threated insects into the state, that are native here? That's like making one state get a permit from another to let their rivers flow into the other state. WTF?:|
While working part-time in the food service at USC, I had the opportunity to see thousands of dead cockroaches. One thing about these roaches intrigues me: why did they all die on their backs? Is it programmed into their tiny little genes, or do they do it just to bug us? --Leslie, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Frankly, if I saw thousands of dead cockroaches at the food service where I went to school, I'd have other things on my mind than why they all died on their backs. Besides, they don't always die that way--basically it depends on how the little scumbags happen to meet their Maker. I've been discussing the subject with the crack bug scientists at some of the nation's leading institutions of higher learning, and we've formulated the following Roach Mortality Scenarios, which represent a major step forward in our understanding of roach postmortem positioning:
(1) Roach has heart attack while crawling on the wall. OK, so maybe roaches don't have heart attacks. Just suppose the roach croaks somehow and tumbles earthward. The aerodynamics of the roach corpse (smooth on the back, or wing side; irregular on the front, or leg side) are such that the critter will tend to land on its back. Or so goes the theory. Admittedly the study of bug airfoil characteristics is not as advanced as it might be.
(2) Roach desiccates, i.e., dries out, after the manner of Gloria Vanderbilt. This is what happens when you use Cecil's Guaranteed Roach Assassination Technique, described elsewhere in this archive. The roach saunters carelessly through the lethal borax crystals, causing him to lose precious bodily fluids and eventually die. Since this process is gradual, it may happen that the roach simply conks out and dies on its belly.
(3) Roach dies after ingesting potent neurotoxins, e.g., Diet Coke, some traditional bug poison like pyrethrum, or the food served at USC cafeterias. Neurotoxins cause the roach to twitch itself to death, in the course of which it will frequently kick over on its back, there to flail helplessly until the end comes. No doubt this accounts for the supine position of the deceased cockroaches you observed.
One unresolved issue. Having seen thousands of dead roaches, did it occur to you to avail yourself of, say, a broom?
A: First, few cockroaches die on their backs in the wild. Natural death of cockroaches probably occurs in the stomach of a bird, bat or other small animal.
Second, Cockroaches are not used to living on a polished marble or vinyl floor. They are more used to a ruguous living plane including leaves and sticks and other vegetable debris. Thus when a cockroach finds itself on its back (by some mistake in its orienteering) it may have trouble righting itself if there is not debris around to grab hold of with its legs. (Try it, put a cockroach on its back on a polished floor with and without some crinkled paper.)
Third, often we come across dead cockroaches in buildings that have died of insecticide. Most of these insecticides are organophosphate nerve poisons. The nerve poison often inhibits cholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetyl choline (ACh), a neurotransmitter. With extra ACh in the nervous system, the cockroach has muscular spasms which often result in the cockroach flipping on its back. Without muscular coordination the cockroach cannot right itself and eventually dies in its upside down-position.
I live in Wisconsin now, and haven't seen cockroach dead or alive in quite some time.
I'm trying to obtain some locally hard find caterpillars for a photography project. There might be a thousand just down the road destroying someone's grape vines, but I'm having trouble finding even one.
Are you sure that all or even most roaches die on their backs? I don't spend much time looking at dead roaches so I don't really know. If they were convulsing when they died they would probably have a bout a 50/50 chance of ending up on their backs at the moment of death. Obviously once they're dead they can't flip themselves back over