bees can be horrible, centipedes terrifying, and flies just annoying. But cockroaches are perhaps the biggest household pest of them all. They crawl, they swarm, they eat leftover food, they stink, and they scatter when exposed to bright light (and some varieties can even fly). Roaches are also incredibly hardy — some being able to survive without food for about a month — and very adaptable to many environments, preferably those that are warm and moist. Often times this is exaggerated in fiction in that they are able to survive a nuclear war (though roaches can withstand radiation poisoning for a long period of time, they are not immune to its effects). They're also used as a symbol of filth and decay in fiction. This trope is dedicated to all things roachy (no, not that kind of roach, or that kind of roach, or even Clock Roaches).
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- Commercials for Raid bug spray often featured cockroaches, which get killed dead by the product.
- In the early 2000s there was a series of TV ads for laundry detergent, bath oil, etc., that played out normally, when suddenly a realistic cockroach began crawling around on the screen. Eventually, an Orkin Man sprays it dead. Many people reported thinking it was real and threw things at the set. This commercial was withdrawn after Orkin was sued by a man who threw his shoe at the TV set and broke it. Another viewer threw her motorcycle helmet.
- Roach Motel bait traps: Roaches check in, but they don't check out!
Anime and Manga
- In anime, women are often deathly frightened of cockroaches in much the same way Western fiction has them scared of mice. One prominent example from Sailor Moon: Setsuna Meioh a.k.a. Sailor Pluto.
- In the second episode of Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh, Jin frightens Maria with what turns out to be a rubber roach.
- Azumanga Daioh has the infamous cockroach scene where Tomo smashes one with her workbook.
- Nichijou has a segment where Nano has a cockroach trapped under a bowl, but is too terrified of it to lift the bowl to kill it (or let someone else do so).
- Roaches, among other bugs, are featured on Franken Fran. They have built a human-like society within Fran's mansion.
- Toriko has Scorpion Roaches, which are Exactly What It Says on the Tin: cockroaches with scorpion stingers. They're about as big as an average person and eat people whole.
- In the Fruits Basket manga, Haru tells a scary story about a young man who innocently gulps down a glass of iced coffee on a sweltering summer day... and discovers a single black cockroach in the glass when he's done.
- In Parasyte, the first sign that Shinichi is becoming as cold and emotionless as the parasite inhabiting his left arm is when he nonchalantly and unflinchingly grabs a particularly large cockroach his mother was frantically trying to kill with his bare hands and throws it outside right into the mouth of a flying crow.
- Digimon had the Roachmon Brothers in the second series. They only attacked the main heroes because they fell under the control of the Digimon Emperor's mind control Dark Rings, and used such pleasant attacks as Garbage Dump and Junkyard Bomb.
- Taken Up to Eleven right past the Uncanny Valley with the cockroach Martians in Terra Formars, who were inadvertedly brought into existance when the governments of an overpopulated Earth tried to terraform Mars by releasing a type of moss and cockroaches into its atmosphere to increase carbon dioxide emissions around the planet by having said cockroaches barely survive in the Martian environment by eating the moss and expanding it across its living area and some other Technobabble concerning Rahab and its legacy that artificially evolved them. Somehow the cockroaches, or "black organisms", mutated into creepy, towering Blackface looking humanoids with huge staring eyes with oversized black pupils whose only indications of their cockroach heritage is their antenna and cersi located on their backside. Also, each of them is a near-unstoppable killing machine that can rip a human to shreds faster than the eye can see. When one of a pair of cockroach exterminators (who only expected to exterminate ordinary cockroaches) attempt to make contact with one of the cockroach Martians, said Martian greets them by nonchalantly snapping the female Love Interest's neck.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Hisako Yakumi uses pheromones to command a swarm of genetically modified cockroaches that can eat people alive and chew through metal, concrete, plastic, etc. Their creepiness can often disturb an esper so much that they cannot concentrate enough to use their powers, making them vulnerable.
- The title character of Gokicha is an inversion, being a cockroach who wants to make friends with humans. Unfortunately, she's hindered by the fact that humans treat her like they would any other roach, but she refuses to give up, even so.
- Arachnid has Gokiburi/Oki Megumi, an assassin girl who has abilities related to cockroaches. She's a smug perverted Psycho Lesbian who wants slaves and enjoys being hated, but gladly makes friends with the heroine, Alice, once she's defeated and dragged to her home for information.
- In Bloom County, Milo's grandfather considers the cockroaches that live in his boarding house to be annoying pests and tries to kill them whenever possible. Subverted with Milo's grandmother, who treats them like adopted grandchildren. One particular cockroach makes repeated appearances later, and while he is a well-mannered fellow, everyone tends to be disgusted by him and try to crush him.
- The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics had some side comics about a roach society which inevitably ended with some getting smashed, but the king laughing it off because "there's plenty more where they came from."
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures had the villain Scumbug, an exterminator who mutated into a roach-like being thanks to the mutagen. He eventually found his way into the original cartoon.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Men In Black features a giant roach alien who devours a human and uses his skin as a disguise. He also leaves swarms of roaches wherever he goes, and loves sugar (preferably in water).
- The "They're Creeping Up On You" segment from Creepshow.
- In Joe's Apartment, Joe shares his apartment with some talking roaches. However, this is more of an inversion, since the roaches in question are friendly.
- Played with in Enchanted's "Happy Working Song" scene, in which roaches pitch in to help the rats and pigeons clean up the apartment.
- In MouseHunt, Ernie's restaurant gets shut down due to an incident where the mayor dies of shock after eating a cockroach head.
- Mimic: Played with. The movie's breed of man-sized insects (basically a termite-praying mantis hybrid) can be confused for giant cockroaches, but they were actually designed originally as an answer to the disease-spreading roaches in New York City. After the new biological weapon had consumed all the roaches, they continued to evolve into ever larger breeds and started preying on humans...
- In Cornered!, a junkie going through withdrawal finds himself continually harrassed by hallucinatory cockroaches.
- Debbie in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, who hates roaches, is turned into one in her nightmare and is then trapped in a roach motel.
- The made for TV film They Nest had cockroaches that nested inside people.
- The William Castle feature Bug has cockroaches that are able to set things on fire.
- The Silent Hill film has cockroach-like monsters with screaming human faces on their underside.
- In Hostel Part III, a woman is sprayed with something that causes a cockroach swarm to crawl into her mouth, suffocating her.
- There are several instances of disturbing cockroach morphing in Animorphs. Marco gets the roach as his cover morph in The Reunion.
- Gregor Samsa, in The Metamorphosis, is commonly depicted as turning into one of these. Kafka's original wording translates better to simply "vermin", and there's very little description given, but from what is said, it's safe to assume he's some type of beetle.
- The drog beetles in Galaxy of Fear: The Swarm aren't quite flying roaches, and not just in the Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp" way, they breed faster and are more fragile than roaches, but they have similar feeding habits and a similar tendency to get into everything.
- In a non-fiction consumer advice book, John Stossel pretty much pegs why people hate cockroaches above most other pests: it's because they dart. "Disease-spreading" and "invasive" are bad enough, but throw in "fast-moving" on top of that, and it's easy to see why people spend so much money and effort to wipe them out.
- An episode of CSI NY feature jewel-encrusted Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches worn as jewelry, squicking out some of the team.
- ER had a woman who had a small cockroach removed from her ear. She immediately freaks out and stomps on it.
- How I Met Your Mother features a hilarious Mouse-Cockroach hybrid dubbed the "Cockamouse" by Lily and Marshall.
- Madagascar hissing cockroaches are a common source of an Eat That stunt on reality shows like Fear Factor.
- Cockroaches are a recurring motif in Heroes representing evolution and survival. This especially applies to Big Bad Sylar, who is resilient and hard to kill. One graphic novel had a character ride a giant cockroach in her dreams.
- One episode of the Animal Planet show Infested featured a roach-infested apartment building. The roaches actually came from the apartment of a man who was a member of the religion called Jainism, where it was against his religion to kill them. Jains believe that every living thing has a soul and must not be harmed.
- The myth that cockroaches can survive radiation was busted on Mythbusters, since there are other bug species that can survive much longer. All of the bugs, however, could withstand far more radiation than humans or other mammals.
- Cockroaches are one of the more prevalent insect pests shown on Billy the Exterminator.
- Hissing cockroaches were used as part of a prank on an episode of Tanked.
- A Running Gag on Taxi involved Louie trying to get rid of quite a few cockroaches who invade his "cage". It was even lampshaded by a "normal human question" made by Alex in one episode.
- Saturday Night Live featured a Parody Commercial of a Roach Motel-esque glue trap that does cruel things to the roaches as they lay stuck there, such as getting their legs pulled off by mechanical arms. It even contained a window so everyone can see.
- In an episode of The X-Files titled "War of the Coprophages", cockroaches were the Monster of the Week, and at one point one scurries across the TV screen (as if it's IN YOUR HOUSE!!!!).
- During their first appearance on David Letterman's show, Penn & Teller were told by Dave to surprise him with "anything" for their next visit. They obliged by producing hundreds of cockroaches out of a hat.
- Mexican folk song "La Cucaracha" features a cockroach who has lost two of his legs (or lacks marijuana to smoke).
- "Nothing Beautiful" by Odds is a dark, creepy and ironically very beautiful song from the point-of-view of a cockroach.
First I drank insecticideA little more each dayFollowed by dirty and sugary foodGrown where the light was grey
- Yoshiki and hide of X Japan were both terrified of roaches, which once led to an incident where a roach led to both running around a hotel room, then huddling terrified on the bed while someone else killed the roach.
- La Cucaracha stars an anthropomorphic roach named Cuco Rocha.
- In a Don Martin strip, a man just moved in a cheap hotel room, when the horde of cockroaches takes his suitcase and throws it out. He calls the reception - only to be thrown out himself by the roaches. Rightfully angry, he runs to the reception, calling for the boss, while shouting how he hates roaches and wants to kill every single one of them... only to see that the boss is a gigantic humanoid cockroach. Oh, Crap.
- Invoked and lampshaded in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, where the Cockroach is the totem of the urban-dwelling Glass Walkers tribe. A discussion between the Glass Walker leadership on the spiritual powers of the cockroach devolves into discussing ways to keep cockroaches away without offending the tribe totem.
- Successor game Werewolf: The Forsaken offers up were-cockroaches - the Unclean - as a playable option in War Against the Pure.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse got its own were-roaches, called Samsa, with the introduction of the Mockery Breeds in the W20 Book of the Wyrm. Though they're not explicitly a playable option, they're probably the most suited for it of the Mockery Breeds, being the only truly sympathetic example.
- Junk Man's stage from Mega Man 7 featured Gockroach S., robotic roaches that emerged from nests.
- In Bad Mojo, you are the cockroach. In a Full Motion Video game with realistic graphics and settings.
- Featured in Breath of Fire III as enemies.
- Breath of Fire II also featured roachs, with a roach queen as the second boss.
- Both supporting characters in Resident Evil 2 are forced to deal with a tunnel filled with giant T-virus infected cockroaches. And, oh joy, they're the flying kind! Ada is easily able to outrun them, but Sherry isn't, and while they don't do any damage just by landing on you, it's instantly fatal if enough of them manage to.
- They also appear as enemies in Earthbound and Mother 3. Apparently some of the ones in Mother 3 are robots...
- Roaches (possibly alien) appear throughout Half-Life. Surprisingly absent in Half-Life 2.
- The Creeper monster appearing in both Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2. They are said to be a manifestation of the town itself. Silent Hill: Homecoming has a variation with the Swarm, a leech/roach hybrid.
- Roaches hold the distinction of being the only monsters to appear in every entry of the Shadow Hearts series, Koudelka included. As a Genius Bonus, they are called Gregor in both Covenant and From the New World.
- The first Scarecrow sequence in Batman: Arkham Asylum features a swarm of cockroaches crawling out of the floor grates.
- The Halloween Hack: The Preemptive Scavenger is a Palette Swap of the Violent Roach. The Preemptive Scavenger is creepier because it looks very decayed.
- Five-foot roaches are the first enemy introduced in every Deadly Rooms of Death game, and usually remain the most common monster throughout. In between games, the main character Beethro runs a restaurant in which he serves up the meat from all the roaches he's killed.
- Sam & Max: Freelance Police has Sal, a man-sized upright-walking cockroach who sounds like Patrick Warburton (but isn't voiced by him) and works as the cook in Stinky's Diner. He ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice by walking into a radiation-flooded room. When the titular protagonists voice the well-known myth, Sal explains that it's incorrect... and dies.
- A Bonus Boss in Parasite Eve is a giant mutant cockroach that can whip you with its antennae and sometimes poison you. It can also lay an egg that can hatch very quickly and grow into a new cockroach (which can also lay an egg as well should the first roach die), requiring you to have a lot of firepower and speed to be able to kill the boss quickly and end the fight before you're caught in an endless loop.
- Homestar Runner has Gavin, an ordinary cockroach who is sometimes seen in Strong Bad's room.
- Oggy and the Cockroaches is about three roaches named Dee Dee, Joey, and Marky who terrorize Oggy the cat, who wants nothing more to sit back, relax, and watch some TV.
- Roach Coach from The Powerpuff Girls was a villain who controls a whole swarm of roaches. Who turned out to be a roach in a Mobile-Suit Human.
- In Capitol Critters, a cockroach husband and wife come for a short time to tour the capitol, and she leaves millions of eggs everywhere.
- In CatDog, as the duo visit the city dump, Dog befriends and cares for a roach with a broken leg, much to Cat's dismay. Roachy here is an inversion, since he actually saves Cat's life near the end.
- In King of the Hill, after Dale is forced to quit his job as an exterminator (due to all the poisons he exposed himself to) and gets a desk job at an adhesives company, his son brings over some roaches which eventually get loose and swarm the place. Dale then kills them all off.
- In an episode of The Fairly Oddparents, Wanda takes a day off at the Fairy World spa, and Timmy and Cosmo promise her not to make any wishes. This promise fails, however, as Timmy wishes for a roach to be smart enough to tell him what he's thinking as part of a school project. The roach — along with several others — proceed to take over the world. Eventually, Wanda poofs them away to the spa, as you can't really kill them.
- From the Family Guy episode "Screwed the Pooch" (which provides the page image): As Brian and Sea Breeze move into a run-down motel, the owner warns them about the roach problem. They are encountered by some gigantic Hispanic-accented roaches in the bathroom wielding knives and wearing bandannas.
Roach 1: Hey, you're on our turf, man!
Roach 2: Hey man, I cut you- I cut you up so bad, you- you gon- you gonna wish I no cut you up so bad!
- On an episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Buzz is teleported to what he thinks is a planet of roach-like aliens, but it turns out to be actual roaches in the local Greasy Spoon.
- The Penguins of Madagascar once had to save some cockroaches from Officer X. It was especially hard on Private.
- Futurama features an alien race called Cygnoids, who resemble roaches and eat like them, too.
- Kim Possible offers a subversion and an inversion. A mad scientist uses a device to enlarge and mentally enslave cockroaches for his own private army, but they're no bigger than a small dog. Ron, who in that episode showed an intense fear of bugs, isn't that frightened of them, but Kim is. Ron eventually befriends one of the roaches who strayed behind, noting that, at this size, cockroaches aren't that scary-looking. Kim still stays freaked out, as does everyone else, as Ron and Rufus bond with Roachie. Ron even learns to speak Roachie's language, and Roachie saves the day by being able to communicate with the one actual giant roach the mad scientist created. He convinces the giant roach to make a Heel-Face Turn and go after the mad scientist.
- The short-lived Santo Bugito features a group of mariachi-singing roaches who occasionally narrate the plot and action.
- Completely averted in one episode of Superjail where the two gay prison inmates, Jean and Paul, bred the world's strongest cockroach to win a Superjail Science fair. Not only does it save them when it's hit by the Warden's Growth Serum, but its anthropomorphized behavior (lifting dumb-bells and smoking) make it more appealing than the assaulting mutant insects that grew and escaped from the Warden's terrorarium.
- In one episode of Justice League, Superman gets thrown 30,000 years into a post-apocalyptic red-sunned future, where he and Vandal Savage have to infiltrate a nest of giant cockroaches to recover the power-source for Savage's time machine.
- The Cleveland Show: Cleveland is too afraid to kill cockroaches, so he just puts bowls over them, resulting in the house becoming filled with slowly moving little domes.
- In the pilot episode of Total Drama Island, a normal cockroach "corners" Lindsay, and the other campers must "rescue" her. Duncan finally dispatches the insect with a fire axe.
- One of Raphael's greatest fears in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). Alas, fate has made sure that these are among the mutated monsters he faces in "Cockroach Terminator".
- In some places, giant cockroaches are kept as bizarre pets. These are usually not the same kinds of cockroaches you find under the kitchen sink.
- In tropical north Queensland, these giant cockroaches are important members of the ecosystem as they mulch dead forest matter. So, quite an inversion in this case.
- Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are a popular pet for bug enthusiasts due to their inability to bite, docile temperament, and easy handling.
- Russian idiom "tarakany v golove" ("cockroaches in one's head") means not quite sane, crazy, off kilter.