What are cockroaches for? - Functions

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As temperatures rise and the winter lethargy comes to an end, the appearance of cockroaches takes center stage in fields and cities. The rapid growth and high fecundity of these insects has allowed them to survive and adapt to urban environments on almost the entire planet. Recognizable for their agility, fluidity, ability to fly and the amazing ability to penetrate small crevices, cockroaches are considered by many people as one of the least appreciated invertebrates in the home.

You have probably ever wondered: What are cockroaches for? When we see animals that can cause us rejection or fear, we tend to think so. At Ecologist Verde we clarify what are the functions of cockroaches in ecosystems.

Important link in the food chain

The work carried out by these arthropod animals in the correct functioning of the trophic chains in which they intervene is of great relevance since they are in charge of decompose remains of organic matter. We can thus recognize cockroaches as scavengers that allow closing the cycle of the passage of organic matter and nutrients within the trophic chains in which they participate. You can learn more about Scavengers: what they are and examples.

What's more, cockroaches are a food source indispensable for many species. When answering the question of what is the natural enemy of cockroaches, we find multiple answers depending on the geographical region in which the cockroaches live. Thus, these city animals serve as food for mammals with which they often live, such as rats, mice and hedgehogs, and even amphibians, such as frogs, and reptiles, such as geckos and turtles. In this way, cockroaches comply with the important function of keeping the population size of different species in equilibrium of the city and country ecosystems in which they inhabit.

Municipal waste disposal

On many occasions, cockroaches cause rejection in people when we find them in our homes. It is hard to believe that, despite this, there are currently cockroach farms with a beneficial purpose for human beings: the elimination of our own waste.

More and more countries, following the model of industrial cockroach farms created in China, choose to feed millions of these insects with the aim of reducing urban garbage, since cockroaches, thanks to their scavenger diet, contribute ecological way to reduction of the organic remains of our garbage fast and clean, amazing, right?

Thanks to the ability of cockroaches to orient themselves in the dark using their long antennae and the preference of these insects for humid environments, the requirements to maintain these amazing cockroach farms they are based on low light, humidity and warm temperatures.

Valuable role in the nitrogen cycle

Did you know roaches release nitrogen? Both in the soil and on its predators, the release of nitrogen is a curious function of small cockroaches and large cockroaches, which is directly related to the regulation of the natural cycle of this important chemical element.

Like some bacteria and other organisms, cockroaches return part of the nitrogen to the soil that naturally composes the earth, thus favoring the incorporation of this nutrient in the growth of plants and the general maintenance of the ecosystem in which they appear.

What if cockroaches didn't exist

Despite the successful adaptation of cockroaches to almost any type of environment and the data that multiple publications ensure that it would be difficult for cockroaches to disappear from Earth, the reality is that this could happen if the climate changes on our planet, as well as if we continue to bet on the use of the fumigations as a tool to indiscriminately kill cockroaches that live in cities with people.

If so, the multiple functions and benefits of current cockroaches would be lost, being reflected in the population imbalance of the links before and after the position of the cockroaches within the trophic chains in which they intervene.

From this, a cascade of multiple environmental consequences, economic and social would follow the disappearance of the different types of cockroaches that live throughout the planet. According to the data collected in the "Cockroach Species File", there are currently around 4,600 species, the most cosmopolitan species being the best known, such as the black cockroach (Blatta orientalis), the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) and the commonly known as blonde cockroach (Blatella germanica).

Therefore, now that we know in more detail what cockroaches do and why they are beneficial for the global balance of ecosystems, we must promote less drastic measures to control cockroach populations.

If you want to read more articles similar to What are cockroaches for?, we recommend that you enter our category of Animal Curiosities.

  • Drafting team (11/13/2018). The houses preferred by cockroaches. National Geographic: Nature. Retrieved from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com.es/naturaleza/actualidad/donde-se-esconden-cucarachas_1346
  • Suen, T. & Woo, R. (12/10/2018) The largest cockroach farm in the world: see what it is for. Online newspaper La Vanguardia: Natural. Recovered from: https://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/20181210/453474411614/jinan-china-granja-produccion-cucarachas-reciclaje-residuos-alimentacion.html
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