Why Cockroaches Fly (Heat, Duh) But Will Never Reach the Hamptons

Flying Cockroaches

It’s August! It’s hot! Planners, geniuses, and rich people spent this past weekend (or longer, if they’re really geniuses) at a villa in Italy, or oceanside in Montauk, or upstate where there are tons of ponds and fresh vegetables. These people, so full of forethought and money, are raising their glasses of frozé and picking buttered corn from their teeth in places where mice are cute and cockroaches don’t exist.

The rest of us stayed right here in beautiful New York City, where only the thickest, smelliest puddles haven’t evaporated and only the strongest air conditioners have survived. If you were lucky enough to spend the weekend in Brooklyn (you didn’t even make it to the Rockaways? Good luck failing through the rest of your life), you might have witnessed one of the truest expressions of summer in the city—a soaring enunciation of our particular, painful position: flying cockroaches.

DNA Info first raised the flying cockroach flag this past Friday, saying that higher temperatures encourage roaches to fly. It makes sense; most insects thrive in the heat. But why are they flying around in your apartment and not speeding (they can cruise at 3 whole miles per hour) to the Hamptons?

Even though cockroaches are notoriously hardy—they can survive in freezing temperatures and for a week without their head—New York’s most common species, the American cockroach, prefers a warm and humid environment in the range of 77-84 degrees, not the 100-degree stretches we’ve been having.

Dominic Evangelista, who earned a Ph.D in biology at Rutgers and won a major grant to map the evolution of cockroaches, told WNYC “At those temperatures, when they get exceedingly high, moisture in their bodies is evaporating from the little spaces in between their hardened segments, so they’re definitely trying to move around to cool off.”

Add to that this important fact: of all roach species, our hometown variety is best-suited for flight, sporting a pair of leathery fore-wings and smaller, more delicate back wings (Oriental cockroaches have no wings; male German roaches have small wings, but the females have none at all).

In other words, not only is our cockroach the best in the world at flying, it’s so hot even they’re trying to escape.

“They’re probably moving to new areas to find new mates, find food, if they’re overheating, they could be moving to find a nook or cranny with a better microclimate for them,” explained Evangelista.

If you’re still wondering why roaches aren’t speeding to the Hamptons, it’s because that’s ridiculous: it’s way too far. It would take the average New York cockroach 40 hours to reach the Montauk lighthouse on foot, and truthfully, their flying skills are more like gliding skills. They can’t take off like a regular housefly, says Evangelista. If you want to know more, you should probably follow Roach Brain, his insane Twitter.

Thought all this was bad news? Brace yourself: bed bugs love the heat too.


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