Sure, house cockroaches are dirty, smelly, and not exactly the sort of creature you want to see on your kitchen counter.
But are they fast?
You bet they’re fast. Superhero fast. So fast that cockroaches are considered one of the fastest insects on the planet.
With lots of interest in the creatures, scientists couldn’t resist finding out exactly how fast they really are. So they began by testing cockroach’s “start-speed,” the time it takes to start moving from a dead stop.
For even the fastest of humans, start-speed doesn’t go much lower than about 110 milliseconds (about 1/10th of a second). But cockroaches went much faster, darting off at 8.2 milliseconds. Literally faster than the blink of an eye.
At top speed, they’re remarkably fast, and can cover 50 body lengths in a single second. For animals the size of humans that would be the equivalent of 200 miles an hour!
So how do cockroaches run that fast? The secret is in their legs. All six legs have three knees, 18 knees altogether. With so many joints, their movement has precision and accuracy, with very little wasted movement that could slow them down. Once they get up to speed, they rise on their hind legs and run as humans do, which helps them run even faster.
It’s those legs that help them react so fast too. Each leg has tiny hairs that can detect even the slightest movement of air. When you walk into a room, a cockroach can sense the air stirring… and off it goes!
They’re legs have another important feature. A hook-like structure that allows them to flip under ledges or scramble under tables at warp speed. The scientists studying these special ops-style stunts found that the acrobatics happen so fast, the cameras had to slowed down to super-slow speeds to track them all.
So it looks like when it comes to speed, the common house cockroach may not be so common after all!