The TV Roach

The TV Roach

Scientists rank cockroaches among the most primitive of winged insects. Indeed their present—day appearance is very similar to that of their ancestors of 300 million years ago. To most humans they are repulsive creatures, probably because they abound in human habitations throughout most of the world. It is not easy to remain free of them, no matter how clean the human living quarters may be. They adapt quite easily to man's lifestyle and have now moved into one of man's more recent acquisitions in the home. This latter—day species is known as . . . the TV roach.

Supella supellectilium is a species of cockroach native to East Africa. With typical cockroach adaptability it somehow was transplanted to the United States and is now well established, particularly in New York City. The creature lives in TV sets, feeding on such things as paste, glue, and insulation. It never needs to come out of the set as do other household roaches, which feed on pantry provisions. Its TV home is cozy, giving it the darkness it prefers and tubes that provide heat. There seems to be no source of water, so in all probability this species metabolizes water as some desert insects do. This means the roach's own body is able to manufacture water molecules from the food it eats.

There is some merit to this species of roach, which shares man's habitat but not his habits. It does not eat man's food, sleep in his bed, or nestle on his body. Moreover it is not a disseminator of disease, and the actual damage it does to the television set is minimal. If this is not consolation enough, the TV owner may simply send the set's occupant to the Roach Motel!

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth