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Another Urban Pest Legend Debunked

By Chris Williams on May 28, 2013.

Cockroach headQuestion

I just got an email with a link warning about cockroach eggs being found inside drinking straws in the majority of mall restaurants. Can you tell me if this is true? I told my friend it sounded like another one of those urban legends.

Answer

You’re right, it’s wrong. There is no truth to this Internet scare. I had to look it up myself to get the details. A great place to check the authenticity of any of these hoax emails is at Snopes.com. These people research each Internet urban legend and determine whether it has any merit.

The Legend

In this case, the writer found hundreds of tiny black round eggs inside her/his drinking straw after noticing her Sprite had an off-taste. She concluded that they were cockroach eggs. Freaked out, the writer started checking straws at fast food restaurants and found the eggs almost everywhere. Black straws held the most eggs, apparently because cockroaches prefer dark places. The writer says that 80% of mall restaurants use red or black-colored straws so everyone should check their straws before they drink.

Why It’s Not True

We love to scare ourselves and others, so creepy insects and spiders are often the topic of urban legends. There are lots of hints that this story may not be true.

  • First of all, cockroach eggs are not tiny, round, black things. They are white and they are always contained inside a brown egg case or capsule that holds about 30 eggs. You never actually see cockroach eggs, just the capsule, which could be a tight fit for a straw.
  • The German cockroach, the most common cockroach found in restaurants in this country, does not abandon her eggs. She carries her egg case with her until just before it hatches. So, at any one time, most egg cases would be with the female roaches, not deposited in large numbers anywhere.
  • Of all the places where cockroaches could hide or lay eggs in a restaurant, drinking straws would not be high on the list. Cockroaches like dark, secluded, quiet places that are also warm. A dispenser of drinking straws on a counter that is constantly disturbed wouldn’t be a likely place to find roaches or their eggs.
  • Finally, there are the little details that just don’t make sense. Why would the straw’s color matter? Even white drinking straws are opaque, letting little light through. And how many places use black drinking straws anyway?

According to Snopes.com, this urban legend was first spotted in 2008 and initially took place in a restaurant in the Philippines. It has resurfaced often since then with slightly different facts each time. Snopes concludes that this Internet tale is false, and states “while the writer of the piece might have encountered dark flecks of something in a drinking straw (and we’re doubtful even of that), those dark flecks wouldn’t have been cockroach eggs.”

Photo credit: Sharadpunita / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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