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Roaches Can Run Fifty Body Lengths Per Second

Did you know that roaches are not only speedy but have ninja like powers of stealthiness?

close up of a cockroach

Photo: Stefan Ray (Flickr)

Yuck!

Dear A Moment of Science,
I have a bit of a roach problem. The little buggers have infested my house. One thing that amazes me, though, and that I can’t help but admire, is how sneaky roaches are. Whenever I flick on the light and discover one or a bunch, they scurry away so quickly that I can never catch them. How do cockroaches do this? Signed: Buggin’ Out.

Amazing Creatures

Roaches are undoubtedly creepy, but they’re also pretty amazing creatures. For example, did you know that when cockroaches run at full speed, they rear up on their hind legs like human sprinters?

When roaches are surprised, they can bolt away at up to fifty body lengths per second. Scale that up to human size at they’re moving at the equivalent of hundreds of miles per hour. So it’s no wonder that roaches are so hard to capture.

Roaches Are Ninjas… Seriously.

What’s even more impressive is that roaches are not only speedy but have ninja like powers of stealthiness. Using high speed cameras, researchers at UC Berkeley recently discovered that roaches can run full speed toward a ledge, dive off, then grab the edge with their claws and swing underneath, out of sight. Some lizards geckos, for example use a similar escape technique.

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