Will Cockroaches Ever Go Extinct? – What Would Happen?

David Floyd:

David Floyd has 20 years of experience working as a pest control technician as well as running his own pest control company. David is Quality Pro certified and is a certified Structural Pest Control Operator in the state of North Carolina, and the owner of NCPestControlExperts pest control company.

will cockroaches ever go extinct

When we see a cockroach scurrying around, our first instinct oftentimes is to smash it, not bothering if it is the last species of its kind or what that would mean for the ecosystem. However, the annoying nature of cockroaches is well known, and we understand why you want them out of your homes however possible. But since roaches are such pesky insects, you might be wondering, will cockroaches ever go extinct?

But, in your bid to send them parking, it’s best to do it right by calling for professional pest control. 

There are over 4,000 species of cockroaches in the world, and each species is a descendant of ancestors that have passed through every major catastrophe across many centuries. However, the only thing that these evolutionary events did to cockroaches was to help them evolve into more adaptable creatures. 

So if there will ever be a chance of totally wiping cockroaches out of existence, it’d have to be by a nuclear event or something greater.

Will Cockroaches Ever Go Extinct?

Cockroaches probably won’t ever go extinct. They’ve survived for millions of years and they are extremely adaptable so it’s very unlikely they’ll go extinct.

How Long Have Cockroaches Been On Earth?

There is fossil evidence that proves that cockroaches have been existing for many million years. They are one of the oldest insect groups present, and also have one of the largest populations on earth. Read our guide on cockroach history and why cockroaches are called cockroaches!

These insects even precede the existence of dinosaurs by more than 60 million years. Thanks to their longevity, they are said to be one of the most resilient organisms living on earth.

What Would Happen If Cockroaches Went Extinct?

A short answer is that our ecosystem will significantly change. And this is because the role cockroaches play in the food chain is foundational. Some cockroach species are decomposers, while others are pollinators to name a few. 

So even at a foundational level, a plethora of detriments would result if they get wiped out. One such effect is that many plants would die off, thus depriving multiple organisms of food. Cockroaches also help our forests by releasing nitrogen into the soil during the decomposition of organic matter. Once the cockroach excretes its waste into the soil, nitrogen is released together with it, which then mixes with the soil and helps plants and trees in the long run.

Scientists suggest that the extinction of cockroaches would inadvertently lead to wasps becoming extinct too. Wasps lay their eggs in other insects such as cockroaches so that the eggs can feed on it when they hatch into nymphs. This parasitic relationship means that wasps hugely depend on cockroaches to recreate, and would therefore be greatly affected by an extinction of them.

Birds such as jungle fowls and babblers are insectivorous, and their feeding nature will take a hit if cockroaches should ever go extinct.

How Did Cockroaches Survive The Dinosaur Extinction

Long before dinosaurs even existed, cockroaches did, and have survived the mass extinction, including the one that wiped out dinosaurs. With their flat bodies, they crept into little spaces that hosted them all through those periods, so they can definitely survive another.

Even in severe conditions, like famine or food scarcity, there won’t really be one for cockroaches. They can digest non-organic matter like paper and can spend up to twenty days without water and food. So these “irritating insects” are pretty good at staying alive. Along with this, roaches can survive without their head, so they are built to survive!

Over the course of their evolution, they’ve become more resistant to factors that work against their biosystems, such as different brands of insecticides that led to the deaths and near-obliteration of their ancestors.

A female cockroach could produce as many as fifty offspring in ninety days. When she gets exposed to chemicals and is able to survive them, she develops some kind of immunity to such chemicals. As she lays eggs, that autoimmunity becomes the highlight of her generation and is passed down from offspring to offspring.

Why Can’t Cockroaches Go Extinct?

Cockroaches are one of the most resilient groups of insects that live on the planet. Their existence dates back to the Carboniferous era when dinosaurs still existed. They have survived several potentially catastrophic events and have evolved as a result, which makes it difficult for them to ever go extinct. But how did this species attain such resilience?

  • Adaptiveness– they are highly adaptive and have managed to adjust to any global evolutionary changes. Cockroaches will eat just about anything, which means they will constantly have a food source to survive on.
  • Size– cockroaches aren’t particularly big, and their flat bodies allow them to hide anywhere. This makes it difficult to eradicate them completely even when humans try.
  • Variety – as stated earlier, there are up to 4000 species of cockroaches that currently exist. Eradicate them all you want at home, but thousands more different species are out there in the wild that have never been seen in residential areas.
  • Reproduction – One female cockroach can reproduce up to 14 times in a year, and each time produces 40 eggs. This means that she can produce more than 400 offspring in her lifetime, some species even more. Once the nymphs mature into adults (which usually does not take that long), it’s only a few weeks until they can start to reproduce themselves.

Final Thoughts On A Possible Cockroach Extinction

Cockroaches can be a handful in all the places that they infest. But, they also have key roles that they play in keeping our ecosystem stable. Some of these roles include the decomposition of organic matter, pollination of plants, primary consumption in the food chain, and a plethora of others.

It is nearly impossible to wipe out cockroaches, but, hypothetically speaking, if that were to happen, our ecosystem would change. Some plants won’t thrive due to the absence of nitrogen that cockroaches provide to the soil, and the food chain will get disrupted. Some other organisms such as wasps will suffer too. Wasps share a parasitic relationship where the wasps attach themselves to the cockroaches’ eggs. So, when cockroaches go extinct, wasps will gradually follow suit.

While it is unlikely that cockroaches will ever go extinct, happenings like global warming will only help them adapt to less oxygen and a hotter atmospheric temperature. The earth will heal itself eventually and cockroaches will go back to living normally as if nothing happened.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on will cockroaches ever go extinct!


  1. Texas A&M

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