The Reason Cockroaches Like Crawling Into People's Ears

Coming down with a nasty bug and having to go to the hospital sounds miserable but isn't unheard of. However, the bug that afflicted Florida resident Blake Collins in 2015 was a different kind of animal. "I could hear [its] legs inside me," Collins recalled. "It felt like someone was shoving a Q-tip all the way inside my head and there was nothing I could do to stop it." That unstoppable force burrowing in his ear was a cockroach, an insect so vile that its name is an insult no matter how you slice it.

It gets worse. Much, much worse.

An emergency room physician emptied a syringe of lidocaine into Collins' roach-clogged ear. The insect invader tried to desperately claw its way to safety, emitting what Collins described as a "faint little squeal" before falling silent. "I heard it die in my head," he said. In its final gasps it laid an egg case.

Collins' ordeal wasn't even the worst-case scenario. In 2018, a different Florida resident, Katie Holley, recounted the horror of having a dead cockroach lodged in her ear for nine days. The doctor had to remove it piece by piece. For a time, its entire head and a stubborn chunk of torso remain entombed in Holley's ear canal. These are just two of the way too many horror stories. Why does that happen? Are cockroaches just living up to the first half of their name?

Cockroaches want to live rent-free in your head

Fiends, vermin, cockroaches: lend them your ears! Why would they bury themselves in your earholes? The Verge explains that cockroaches like to cram themselves into "small, warm, humid" spaces like your ear, which has the added benefit of smelling delicious. It turns out that your ear wax emits an aroma similar to the scent of fatty acids found in beer, bread, and fermented foods.

Cockroaches just want to get drunk off your cozy ear canals, but not every species is small enough to do it. American cockroaches are too large in adulthood, so the smaller German variety is more likely to crawl into your earhole as you sleep. But even those bugs will likely get stuck as you reflexively scratch your ear, prompting the roach to keep spelunking in your head until it reaches the point of no return. Cockroaches have pretty clean exteriors, but their insides are crawling with bacteria, so if you crush it deep inside your ear, you're detonating a tiny bio weapon in your ear. Just remember that when you sleep tonight.