How to Milk a Cockroach

How to Milk a Cockroach

[ intro ] You, me, dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs … we’re all mammals. All part of one big, happy, milk-producing family. Other animals generally don’t share the
ability to feed their young with a substance secreted
from their own bodies… With a few exceptions. Like the Pacific beetle cockroach. Yes, I said “cockroach.” Now, let me start by clarifying that I’m
talking about a milk-producing insect, not a milk substitute made from insects, which does exist but is a whole other, unrelated
thing. And I should also note that this stuff is
not exactly milk— at least not by the standards of the dairy
industry— since the roaches don’t have mammary glands. Plus, their babies don’t nurse after birth the way mammalian babies do. so you can’t just like, squeeze them to collect a tube full of milk. But these insects do produce a special food for their young. And that’s how they’re able to avoid doing
something that most other insects do: laying eggs. Eggs can’t exactly run from all the predators that might make a fine meal of them. So young insects that can move about the moment
they leave their mother have a bit of a leg up in life— or, six of them, to be exact. And the Pacific beetle cockroach is the only known viviparous cockroach, which means that females give birth to live
babies. They actually have a uterus of sorts called
a brood sac. And it’s while a female is incubating her
babies in this sac that she produces a milk-like substance for
her embryos to ingest. This quote “milk” is a complete source
of nutrition for the young cockroaches. It’s almost 46% protein, including all of the essential amino acids,
and about 25% carbs. And it’s a whopping 16 to 22% fat, which
includes omega-3s and other “healthy” fats. Plus it’s got vitamins and minerals. So basically, it’s got a lot of everything, which is why it has three times as many calories
per gram as buffalo milk, and some researchers say it’s among the
world’s most nutritious substances. And that gives the soon-to-be cockroach babies
an evolutionary advantage. During gestation, Pacific beetle cockroach babies undergo a
50-fold increase in dry mass from the time they arrive in the brood sac
as fertilized eggs to the moment they leave their mother’s
body. That’s so big that, at birth, the brood
— typically numbering around 12 nymphs — can be one and a half times the weight of
their mother. And this whole process from embryo to nymph
happens three times faster than in other cockroach
species! They keep growing fast, too. Males will reach adulthood after just three
to four molts. By contrast, German cockroaches molt six times before reaching adulthood. And since the bugs are very vulnerable during
and just after the molting process, fewer molts means they spend less of their
lives in this exposed state. In fact, this milk is considered so nutritious
that… well, you may have already guessed where we’re
headed. Yes, some have tossed around the idea of mass producing cockroach milk
for human consumption. But alas, scientists and health-food moguls have yet to come up with a practical way to
harvest this stuff. The roaches are pretty small, and since the fluid is excreted into the brood
sac not out into the world, you can’t exactly attach them to a milking
machine. To get the milk from the mama bugs, researchers inserted filter paper into their
brood sacs. That soaks up the goods, which the scientists
can then extract from the paper. They can also cut open the young roaches to
get at the stuff. see, the liquid turns into crystals in the
embryos’ digestive tracts. And those crystals can then be cut from their
stomachs— a process the roaches don’t survive. Either way, each roach only gives a tiny amount. Experts estimate it’d take upwards of 1000
cockroaches to get 100 grams of milk. That means you’d have to milk— and probably kill— countless cockroaches to produce an actual
bottle of this stuff, let alone enough bottles to sell to the masses. Also, we don’t actually know it’s safe
to consume in any quantity. So, you won’t see it on store shelves any
time soon. Researchers may one day be able to synthesize
cockroach milk, though. Still, even if that happens, the milk is more likely to have medical applications than it is to end up as a substitute coffee
creamer. Which is fine, because we can always drink that milk that’s
made from insects instead… Bottom’s up! Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! If you enjoyed it, I have a feeling you’ll
really like our podcast, SciShow Tangents. It’s a collaboration between Complexly and
WNYC studios, and it’s hosted by several of the awesome
people who work on SciShow. Basically, they try to one-up each other with awesome science knowledge about a given
topic. Like, there’s an entire episode about how
wonderful mucus is. And snot gross at all… Anyhow, we here at SciShow have a lot of fun
making it, and we hope you’ll have just as much fun
listening. So if you want to check it out, you can find
it on all the major podcast platforms! [ outro ]

100 thoughts on “How to Milk a Cockroach

  1. “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.” – Winston Churchill

    Replace chicken with cockroach and breast or wing with Milk.

  2. I was always told, that mammals are the only animals who give birth to live offspring and not lay eggs. I guess that is not true any more /sigh

  3. I guess I'm unusually curious because I don't really think insects are gross. I'd be very interested to taste that stuff 😀

    Doesn't seem sustainable as a food stuff though, especially when you can assume that the entire insect is more nutritious.

  4. Im interested about this honestly. I love milk and I can drink it. Am I a gross person xdd. Hygiene comes first in my opinion because I also dont want to cause new diseasies

  5. Why is she talking like we’d give a sh*t if ‘countless’ cockroaches get killed in the process of extracting their milk?

  6. Eww gross. I stopped watching at 10 seconds in. You might think it’s because of the grossness of the idea of roach milk.

    Nope. It’s because I’m grossed out by frumpy chicks with tats. Why do I keep watching these vids? blech

  7. Interesting. This could work for those few people born lactose intolerant like me. An animal based milk substitute, even if from roaches, is almost certainly better for infants than a complex soy based mixture. All assuming there is a way to get it easily and that it turns out to be safe for human consumption, of course.

  8. You never told us how to milk a cockroach! Disappointed. When I was a child in Florida I used to wake up with a roach CHEWED up in my mouth, at least 6 times as I recall..

  9. I frowned when I saw this video title. I have a feeling this video is going to get less views than most.
    Wait till you are not eating to watch this one.

  10. But wait, laptica dubia cockroaches give live birth, as do gromphadorhina portentosa roaches.

    Or is their method different?

  11. Get the full DNA of this cockroach, experiment by inserting it into bacteria until we find the gene(s) that code for milk production then begin mass producing it. Like we did with insulin only probably a billion times more complicated.

  12. Humans thousands of years ago:
    Am hungry..
    Mmm succ goat tiddies
    Humans now:
    We're killing the planet…

  13. Lol “we want to sell it, but we don’t know anything about it…. we would kill a ton of cockroaches in the proess though….. go for it!”

  14. At least half the people in the comments are weirded/freaked out about roach milk, but doesn't bat an eye when people drink milk from cows.

  15. So my dubia roaches are ovo-viviparous meaning that the female creates and egg (ootheca) and then pulls it back into herself internally incubating the live offspring until she then gives live birth when ready. So they also give live birth but only after internal incubation.

    I would be interested to learn more of the "uterus" you mentioned and the trade offs that these roaches made in order to achieve this adaptation such as a lower quantity of brood or motility issues while gravid. Gonna have to search for through journal storage.

    The "milk" is very interesting though great video! I love the videos that leave me with questions that inspire me to learn more.

    The more you know. The more you know you don't know.

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