You might've heard that cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast. If the worst should happen and the world succumbs to nuclear war, the cockroaches would reign supreme as the one and only organism left on earth. This hardly seems fair - consider how much time humans have spent trying to control cockroach populations. You might've chased one of them out of the bathroom this morning! So, if they really can withstand a nuclear blast, what chance do we have of managing cockroach infestations at home?
What people mean when they say that cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast is that they can withstand heavy amounts of radiation. According to the Guardian, being exposed to 1,000 radiation units, otherwise known as "rads" would cause extreme nausea in a human being. A single dose of 5,000 rads would likely be fatal in about half of those exposed. 10,000 rads would be fatal in a matter of weeks. Now consider this: The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons reported that a single 100 kiloton nuclear bomb would cause fatal levels of radiation up to 50 miles away from the blast site.
In a Myth Buster experiment, groups of cockroaches were exposed to either 1,000 rads, 10,000 rads or 100,000 rads for a month. Any of these levels over that length of time would be fatal to a human. However, over half of the cockroaches exposed to 1,000 rads survived. Of those exposed to 10,000 rads, 10 percent survived. 100,000 rads proved to be too much, however. Note that any cockroaches present at the site of an atomic blast would be so much atomic ash and dust - so they're not invincible!
The reason cockroaches are so resilient is because they are far simpler than humans. A single organ from a human is quite a lot more complicated than a cockroach. And the more complicated a system is, the easier it is to mess up. Cockroach anatomy and cell structure is relatively simple.
So does that mean that these simple creatures would rule the world after nuclear war? Maybe not. Mental Floss noted that there are other insects even more resilient to radiation than cockroaches. Fruit flies, for instance, can withstand 64,000 rads. Some species of parasitic wasps can take an incredible 180,000 rads!
If you have a cockroach problem at home, forgo the nuclear weapons. Call a professional pest control company instead.