What's it like being a cockroach?

In some ways, cockroaches have an easier life than kids. Cockroaches never have to share their toys or make their beds. (Of course, cockroaches don't have toys or beds.) In this book I'll tell you how to have a cockroach fight and what happens when cockroaches nibble on your food.

When I wrote this book, the sixth graders at Little School helped me. Freddy Nelson and Ryan Gundry caught the cockroaches. Sharon McKinney helped with the experiments. The cockroaches lived in the library in an old aquarium.


Imagine, for a moment, that you are a time traveler. You step into your time machine and set it to travel backwards in time--350 million years ago.

Suddenly there is a whirlwind of activity. Lights on the control panel are flashing. Motors are humming. Data are spewing from the computer printer. Everything is wildly vibrating.

And then all is quiet. You open the door and step out. The air is moist and humid. You are surrounded by masses of tree ferns and evergreens. Plants are everywhere. There are no dinosaurs, and there won't be any for several hundred million years. And of course, there are no humans. Glancing down, you recognize something that you've seen in your own time. What is it?

A Few Experiments

Basic Equipment
For your experiments, you will need some empty jars and a magnifying glass. Use plastic gloves or some old tweezers to touch the cockroaches. Always wash your your hands with soap and water after you handle them.

You will also need a cockroach arena. To make one, get two large pieces of poster board. Cut one piece in half, longways. Staple the edges together to make a circle. Place it on top of the other piece of poster board.

To get the cockroach to clean or groom itself, smear a light coat of honey and water on its body, legs, and antennae. Now watch the cockroach. Write down the steps of a cockroach bath. What part of the body does the cockroach groom first?

Repeat this process with several cockroaches. Do the cockroaches groom themselves the same way? How are they different? How are they alike?

Experiment--Righting Behavior

An important animal behavior is the animal's ability to turn itself over when it lands on its back. Gently drop a cockroach on its back in the arena. How does it right itself? What legs are involved? Are the cockroach's actions the same each time you drop it?

Updated 2-17-08 mk