Eldritch millennial learns about cockroach sex

Three articles caught my eye in the Times today: Mike Pence being forced to testify, something about “Peak Croissant,” and “Cockroach Sex Took a Strange Turn.”

What can I say? Whoever wrote that headline scored a winner. I clicked. And watched a video that I realized — far too late — was in fact a male cockroach attempting to make sweet love to a female cockroach.

In other words, I had unwittingly witnessed roach porn.

I immediately sent the screencap around to various friends and acquaintances, because if I had to see it, so did they (and if you hit the link above, SO HAVE YOU! Congratulations).

Responses were understandably mixed (“Ewwww” and “No!” appeared in various guises).

Still, at least one friend was scientifically inspired. “I’ve never once thought about how cockroaches reproduce,” Linzer wrote to me. “And now I can’t unthink it.”

In case you were wondering, here is how cockroaches get it on.

When a male roach targets a female roach, he will back up to her, secreting a solution called a nuptial gift from the tergal gland under his wings. The solution is full of proteins, fats and sugars, what some researchers call the chocolate of roach food.

Okay, I actually can’t fault the bugs here. The he-roach shows up to his date’s house with chocolate, which means the roach is already ahead of the last few (arguably) human males I’ve dated.

The female cockroach will crawl up on his back to take a sample,

A little weird, but if it’s consensual…

and while she is occupied, the male will whip out a hooked penis to latch onto her reproductive tract.


They will then turn back to back and do the deed for about 90 minutes.

[insert record screeching sound here]

I’m sorry, WHAT?!

I was all set to make a flip comment about “hooked penis” but ninety minutes?!

I don’t know whether I should be amazed, horrified, or vaguely jealous.

Ninety minutes!

I’m not entirely sure if the copulation time is in fact necessary to the article, which is otherwise a pretty scientific description of how humans exploited the roachly love of sweet stuff by putting poison into sweet stuff to kill them. Writer Bethany Brookshire also explains that as a result, roaches evolved to not want sweet stuff anymore…except the lady-roaches, or at least some of them, who do still want their chocolate before their sexy times. When the males do not provide said chocolate, they get turned down.

“But honey,” they plead, “it’s better for us!”

“No treat, no sweet,” the females reply.

Maybe this causes problems down the road for them as a species. I would be concerned about this, but I’m really still stuck on the ninety minutes.

This means if two roaches begin the horizontal tango and you put on What We Do In The Shadows, the movie will end after 86 minutes and the roaches will still be doing it.

Here are other things that do not last as long as cockroach sex:

  • Half a season of Derry Girls
  • My interest in the Star Wars sequel trilogy
  • A bunch of sports
  • A therapy session, which I might need after writing 500+ words about cockroach sex

In the end, I’m not sure if I needed this knowledge, or what I should do with it now that it’s lodged firmly in my brain. It feels like the kind of data that’s going to come hurtling out of me at a really inopportune time — like on a date, when I’m at my most alluring, when a man can no longer resist my siren call. He’ll lean toward me, brush my hair back from my face, and I’ll whisper…

“Did you know cockroaches can have sex for 90 minutes?”

The date will end. He will go home. He will google this fact and realize it’s true, and then he too will be cursed with its knowledge. And he too will be compelled to pass it on. It’ll be like the VHS tape in The Ring. You keep passing it on, expanding its reach, because to leave it in your head is to invite ruin.

You’re welcome.

I really wish I’d clicked on the croissants.