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Is cockroach blood brown?


Cockroaches have been around for over 300 million years and live on every continent except Antarctica. They are known for their ability to survive in tough conditions. But one thing many people don’t know is – what color is a cockroach’s blood? The quick answer is that cockroach blood is not red like human blood. Cockroach blood is colorless or pale yellow.

Cockroach Blood Contains Hemolymph

Cockroaches have an open circulatory system with blood that doesn’t contain hemoglobin like humans. Their blood is called hemolymph. Hemolymph moves through open body cavities and transports nutrients and hormones. Since hemolymph doesn’t contain iron-rich hemoglobin, it isn’t red. Instead, it’s a clear or pale yellow fluid. The lack of hemoglobin is the reason cockroach blood is not brown or red like mammals.

Animal Blood Type Blood Color
Human Contains hemoglobin Red
Cockroach Contains hemolymph Clear or pale yellow

This table summarizes the key differences between human blood and cockroach hemolymph. Humans have red blood with hemoglobin, while cockroaches have hemolymph without hemoglobin leading to different blood colors.

Hemolymph Composition and Function

Hemolymph is composed of water, inorganic salts, and organic compounds such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and vitamins. The primary functions of hemolymph are:

– Transport nutrients, hormones, and metabolites
– Help maintain hydroskeletal hydrostatic pressure
– Immune responses and wound healing
– Thermoregulation

Unlike blood, hemolymph is not involved in gaseous exchange since cockroaches breathe through a tracheal system. Hemocytes and phagocytic cells in the hemolymph also help with immune responses. The hemolymph moves through contractions of various body parts that act as “hearts” rather than through a central circulatory pump. This open system of circulation is one of the distinguishing features of cockroach anatomy.

Hemolymph Color Variations

While mostly clear or pale yellow, cockroach hemolymph can vary slightly in color based on diet. For example:

– Clear to pale yellow: Common color in most cockroach species.

– Greenish: Can result from eating plants high in chlorophyll.

– Orange: Eating carrots or fungi high in carotenoids may cause an orange tint.

– Milky white: High-fat diets may give the hemolymph a milkier color.

Despite these potential diet-related variations, cockroach hemolymph never appears red or brown like mammalian blood. The lack of hemoglobin prevents the bright red color.

Visible Hemolymph When Squashed

Many people think cockroach blood is brown because of the substance that comes out when one is smashed. However, this material is not all blood. When smashed, the contents of the cockroach body cavity mix together, including:

– Hemolymph
– Fat tissue
– Digestive tract contents
– Exoskeleton pieces

This combination of yellowish hemolymph, white fat, brown digestive waste, and black exoskeleton can create an unappealing brown goop. But this mess when squashed is not pure blood. The hemolymph itself remains clear yellow despite the brown appearance of a smashed cockroach.

Do Other Insects Have Brown Blood?

Like cockroaches, most insects have hemolymph instead of hemoglobin-rich blood. This means few insects have brown or red blood either. However, there are a couple exceptions:

1. Horseshoe Crabs

Horseshoe crabs are marine arthropods related to spiders and scorpions. While called crabs, they are not true crabs or insects. Horseshoe crab blood does contain hemocyanin which provides a blue color when oxygenated. When deoxygenated, horseshoe crab blood turns more of a brown/green color.

2. Some Worms

Some marine worms like the palolo worm and lugworm contain hemoglobin. This gives their blood a red or reddish-brown color more similar to mammals. However, most worms do not have red blood.

So while a couple invertebrates break the mold, the majority like insects and cockroaches still have clear or slightly yellow hemolymph instead of brown blood.

Cockroach Blood Testing and Uses

The lack of red blood cells in cockroaches has some advantages. For example, since hemolymph doesn’t clot, it can be used to test medical devices and interventions that require anticoagulants when tested with mammal blood.

Researchers have also investigated using the hemolymph from one species of cockroach, the American cockroach, as a potential antibiotic against drug-resistant superbugs. More studies are needed, but cockroach blood compounds show promise to help fight bacteria.

The hemolymph of larger cockroach species has also been used as a folk remedy for wound healing, burns, and infections. However, more research is still needed on its medical efficacy and risks.


In summary:

– Cockroach blood or hemolymph is not red or brown like in mammals. It’s clear to pale yellow.

– The lack of hemoglobin causes the pale color and prevents cockroach blood from being red or brown.

– Diet can impact hemolymph color slightly but never makes it brown.

– The brown substance when a cockroach is smashed is a mix of tissue, waste, and hemolymph – not pure blood.

– Very few invertebrates have truly brown or red blood like horseshoe crabs and some marine worms.

– Cockroach hemolymph is being studied for potential antimicrobial benefits.

So while an urban legend suggests cockroach blood is brown, science shows their unusual hemolymph is far from the typical red blood people imagine. The next time you see a smashed cockroach, know the brown liquid is not equivalent to mammal blood despite the misconception.