Cockroaches. They’re revolting creatures, right? Hiding away in the dark spaces of our homes waiting to come out and nibble on any scraps that might be about. In Rat City, the hero Shannon is disgusted when he sees a “dirty brown river of cockroaches” scuttle across a kitchen floor. He’s not alone in feeling that way – most people would not choose cockroaches to spend time with cockroaches either dead or alive.
So why are scientists saying that soon we could all be drinking cockroach milk? Have they lost their minds or are they playing a big science-y joke?
Nope. They’re serious. But before you go imagining rows of cockroaches hooked up to milk pumps in tiny milking sheds, let’s take a quick look at where cockroach milk comes from.
Image: cockroaches at Riga Zoo by Karlis Dambrans (Creative Commons)
For starters, not all cockroaches produce a “milk” that is full of goodness for humans. Those gross critters lurking in the back of bathroom or kitchen cupboards are not going to be feeding us any time soon. But there is a particular breed, the Pacific beetle cockroach, that gives birth to live young just like humans and, as this article explains, “The cockroach mothers feed the babies growing inside them with a milk-like liquid.”
This cockroach milk is packed with nutrients and proteins that are excellent for human bodies as well as cockroach. Is that the good news? Maybe. But perhaps the better news is that cockroach milk won’t be appearing on supermarket shelves any time soon. Cockroaches are small critters and so it would take a lot of the little creepy-crawlies to fill an average-sized glass, let alone sustain a commercial milking shed.
Besides, the scientists looking into cockroach milk weren’t actually looking for a new superfood. They were using a complex technology called x-ray crystallography to take pictures of individual proteins, which is difficult and important research.
But it’s an interesting question. If cockroach milk was super good for you, and a cool, tall glass of it was right there in front of you, would you drink it?
I’m not sure I would. And I’m pretty sure Shannon wouldn’t either. Then again, if it was flavoured with chocolate and ice-cream…who knows?
Top feature image of cockroaches by Matt Lemmon(Creative Commons)