Do you ask yourself, why are roaches so hard to kill? Imagine a creature with the ability to scale nearly any surface, travel at top speed through the narrowest crevices, and withstand 900 times its body weight in compression. It might sound like something out of the latest sci-fi movie franchise, but in reality, these unsettling traits are all part of the skill set of one of our least-favorite pests: the cockroach.

Infesting homes and businesses wherever humans congregate, the roach is often jokingly described as the one thing that could survive, and thrive, in an apocalypse. But what makes this tiny terror so hard to kill? We thought we’d take a look at what makes this pernicious pest tick.

Roaches: A History of Hardiness

Anyone who’s ever smashed a roach and then recoiled in horrified frustration as it bounced back and scurried off has probably wondered, “How do they do that?” Well, the answer, according to a 2016 study conducted by scientists at Cornell University, lies in their incredible flexibility and compressibility. The Cornell researchers found that the overlapping plates that form the insect’s exoskeleton give cockroaches an almost unbelievable degree of crush protection. They also found that roaches travel while “smooshed” using a unique method of locomotion that gives them full speed even when their bodies are undergoing incredible stresses. Able to withstand pressures nearly 900 times greater than their weight, roaches are masters of squeezing into tight spaces while keeping themselves intact and traveling at surprisingly efficient speeds.

And they’ve been doing it for a very long time. The first true cockroaches appeared on earth about 200 million years ago, and they haven’t bothered to change much since. In addition to their enviable speed and physical toughness, many species of roach have other defenses as well, including chemical discharge, and the ability to mimic other insects, including ladybugs, beetles, and even wasps and ants.

You’re not likely to find such defenses at the disposal of the most common roach species infesting California, but the destructive and disease-spreading powers they command (along with their high resistance to being crushed or otherwise killed) makes them tough customers anyway.

Not Exactly Nuke-Proof

A common misconception is that roaches will be crawling through the ruins of human civilization even in the wake of a nuclear war. But while roaches are approximately five times more radiation resistant than humans, that’s actually a fairly low score (especially by insect standards), and the same radiation that did in humanity would eventually take out the roaches, too.

A lack of atomic armor notwithstanding, roaches are still tough for even seasoned homeowners to thoroughly remove. “Keeping roaches out of your home in the first place is still the best way to deal with the crush-proof critters.

Clearly, dealing with a 200 million-year-old survival expert is not for the faint of heart. So if you’re dealing with a potential cockroach infestation, don’t bother reaching for your shoe. Pick up the phone instead and reach out to your local extermination experts at American Rat Control. They’re standing by to help you identify and eliminate all sorts of household pests, and work with you to ensure your home will remain off limits to even the most rambunctious of roaches.