Cockroach Milk: Yes, This is a Real Thing — But Why?

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: February 9, 2022
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We’ve all heard of dairy free milk alternatives like oat milk, almond milk, and even hemp milk; but what about cockroach milk? The very thought of it is enough to make many people’s stomachs turn, but just what is it? And why would anyone want to drink milk that comes from a cockroach?

To be fair, cockroaches largely have an undeserved reputation. There are actually very few species of roach that make a nuisance of themselves. Out of nearly 5,000 species of cockroach, less than 50 are considered pests to humans. American, German, oriental, brown-banded, and smokybrown cockroaches are all species of urban cockroach that infest homes.

Here, we’ll learn more about just what roach milk is, and the species of roach it comes from. Let’s get to it.

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American cockroach on wood

One species of cockroach, the Pacific beetle cockroach, produces a milk-like substance for its young

©skifbook/Shutterstock.com

What Is Cockroach Milk?

Cockroach milk is a crystalline, protein heavy ‘milk’ produced by the Pacific beetle cockroach (Diploptera punctata). This species of cockroach is ovoviviparous, which means its young hatch from eggs while still inside the mother. While in the womb, they are fed with the ‘milk’. 

The milk of the Pacific beetle cockroach wouldn’t be recognizable as milk the way dairy milk is. Instead, it has a crystalline structure; it’s produced in the midgut of the cockroach. This crystalline roach milk is stored in the guts of the embryos while they develop.

Is Cockroach Milk More Nutritious Than Cow Milk?

Ever since it was first discovered, cockroach milk has been raved about for its nutritional content. According to studies, it has up to three times the energy content of cow milk. 

Cockroach milk is high in proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; it’s one of the only known milk alternatives to have all nine amino acids. But, with all of that nutritional content comes a high calorie count; it’s believed that roach milk has around three times as many calories as cow milk. But, it also seems to be much higher in many vital nutrients than traditional dairy milk.

Can Humans Drink Roach Milk?

cockroach

There isn’t enough evidence to prove that cockroach milk is safe for human consumption.

©kaninw/Shutterstock.com

Though studies have shown that cockroach milk is indeed harvestable, no study has yet demonstrated that roach milk is safe for humans to drink. So, even though scientists know that roach milk has a higher energy content than cow milk, they don’t know if humans can actually drink it.

Do Cockroaches Have Nipples?

You may be thinking; if roaches can make milk, does that mean they have nipples? The answer is no, cockroaches do not have nipples. They’re not mammals, and don’t produce milk in the same way that nipple bearing creatures like cows and humans do. Instead, the Pacific beetle cockroach ferments crystallized milk protein structures in its midgut. These milky crystals are then fed to the embryonic roach larvae as they develop.

How Do We Get Cockroach Milk?

Cockroach milk comes at a cost; the death of the cockroach. In order to harvest roach milk, researchers have to kill a pregnant cockroach (and her unborn offspring) then delicately dissect her to expose the milk crystals in the midgut. Then, they have to harvest the tiny amount of milk, one roach at a time.

Harvesting cockroach milk is a labor intensive process, and must be completed by hand for each individual roach. Since each specimen yields a very small amount of milk, the process must be repeated many times to get even a small amount of the substance. It would take over 400 harvested roaches to fill a single shot glass (1.5 oz) with cockroach milk.

What Does Cockroach Milk Taste Like?

close up of an American cockroach

The taste of cockroach milk is still unknown since no one has tried it yet.

©Guillermo Guerao Serra/Shutterstock.com

Since scientists aren’t sure about the safety of drinking cockroach milk, no one knows what it tastes like. Since pregnant female roaches have to be killed to extract the milk, researchers also question the ethics of attempting to make cockroach milk a dietary option for human consumption. 

Though it may not bother many people to think about dead roaches, producing cockroach milk on a saleable scale might mean killing roaches in the millions. This brings up certain ethical questions about the justifiability of killing so many living creatures for such a small reward.

What Is the Price of Cockroach Milk?

Since cockroach milk is not commercially available, or even proven safe for human consumption, there is no price for it. However, cockroach powder is readily available over the internet. Roach powder is made up of ground up cockroach bodies, which are high in protein. It can be used as an additive, or even a replacement, for regular flour. Cockroach powder is particularly popular in traditional Chinese medicine, and can net high prices in certain markets.

The Next Superfood?

A quick internet search of cockroach milk will bring up several sources lauding the future potential of roach milk as the world’s next superfood. But, don’t get too excited about drinking roach milk just yet. Though it’s been shown to have a high energy content, the labor intensive harvesting process is a pretty big hurdle. On top of that, there’s the question of ethics. Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s the chore of convincing people that they want to drink milk that comes from a cockroach.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © luis2499/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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