Cockroach Milk - The Next Superfood?

Cockroach Milk - The Next Superfood?

Taxes, twinkies, and cockroaches.

What do these three things have in common?

They are all guaranteed to survive through the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

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Only one of these is being explored as a source of a potential new superfood, and it isn’t Twinkies, and it sure as hell isn’t taxes.


Yes, the same little vermin that you gladly stomp into smithereens when you see them scurrying across the floor are now being explored by researchers as a potential source for supernutrition, or rather their milk is.


What is Cockroach Milk?

In simplest terms, cockroach milk is akin to human breast milk -- the primary source of nutrition for baby roaches.

Interestingly, most species of cockroach don't actually produce milk. There are three main categories of cockroach: [1]

  • Oviparous
  • Ovoviviparous
  • Viviparous

One of the main differences between the species lies in its respective form of “birthing” new cockroaches.

The oviparous species deposit their fertilized eggs (known as ootheca) onto a substrate or retain them in an enclosure attached to the mother’s body.

The ovoviviparous species deposit their eggs into the brood sac of the mother roach. While in this “sac” serves as a protective barrier for the embryos and also supplies them with water, but not with other nutrients.

Diploptera punctata is the only known viviparous cockroach. The eggs of this species are the only ones in which you can find a yolk. Another big difference with the viviparous cockroach is that they receive nutrients directly from the mother while residing in the brood sac.

This unique circumstance improves development of the larvae, due to the significant reduction in time to reproductive maturity.

A Deeper Look Inside Cockroach Milk

Intrigued by the fact that an insect actually gave birth to another live creature and nourished it with a food source similar to the way in which mammals develop, researchers set out to determine the source of nutrition supplied to the embryonic roaches.

Researchers began by harvesting fertilized eggs (embryos) from the brood say of mated females. To obtain the crystals (milk) from the embryos, researchers had to get to the midgut of each embryo. This involved decapitating each embryo and removing the end of its abdomen. [2]

Crystals were gathered using in a Pasteur pipette and transferred to fresh sterile water. Once the crystals were obtained, researchers could fully explore just how nutrient-packed the mother’s milk, known as Lili-Mip was.

As it turns out the stuff is pretty loaded. Lili-Mip does indeed compare to the milk of mammals in that it supplies developing embryos with a source of complete nutrition. In analyzing the Lili-Mip, researchers found it contained:

  • All nine essential amino acids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Lipids

More specifically, Lili-Mip ranged between 16–22% of the dry weight, with linoleic acid being the most prevalent fatty acid in the mix. Additionally, cholesterol was the only steroid present in the milk.

Researchers also noted that cockroach milk contains three times more calories than buffalo milk. And, in case you were wondering, a cup of buffalo milk contains 236 calories and 9.2 grams of protein.

Perhaps most intriguing is that researchers discovered that cockroach milk protein is time-released.[2] As the protein in the milk is digested by the embryos, the crystal releases more protein at a sustained rate to continue the digestion.

Will We See Cockroach Milk in Stores Soon?

Most likely not.

While we are starting to see an increase in the number of alternatives to cow milk (rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, etc.), it’s simply not feasible (or desirable for most people). The amount of cockroaches that would need to be milked to provide sufficient amounts for humans to drink is staggering as the amounts they produce is not very much.

Nevermind the fact that the thought of drinking some milky projection from a cockroach is enough to kill anyone’s appetite, and we don’t have enough evidence yet that cockroach milk is safe for human consumption.

Additionally, just because a food is nutritious doesn’t inherently mean you need to rush out and go try it as there are tons of other highly nutritious options available that don’t involve you having to milk a cockroach.

One area where you might see cockroach milk pop up is a South African company called Gourmet Grubb who uses insect milk in their ice cream. Other than that, don’t expect to start seeing cartons of cockroach milk in the grocery or your friendly neighborhood supplement retailer to start stocking tubs of cockroach protein isolate.


1) Roth, L. M. (1970). Evolution and taxonomic significance of reproduction in blatt aria, (87).

2) Banerjee, S., Coussens, N. P., Gallat, F.-X., Sathyanarayanan, N., Srikanth, J., Yagi, K. J., Ramaswamy, S. (2016). Structure of a heterogeneous, glycosylated, lipid-bound, {\it in vivo}-grown protein crystal at atomic resolution from the viviparous cockroach {\it Diploptera punctata}. IUCrJ, 3(4), 282–293.

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