Most of us have seen a cockroach skittering around the counter or floor in search of the ultimate meal. But new research shows that this beleaguered bug is not only taking an inventory of the contents of our cabinets — it’s writing a restaurant rating for fellow bugs.
ScienceDaily reports that researchers in the United Kingdom have found that cockroaches share their local knowledge about good food sources. In addition, they give out and follow "recommendations" from other roaches. This discovery may lead to improved methods of dealing with our nearest neighbor in the future.
Dr. Mathieu Lihoreau from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences is the lead researcher on the new study. As he told ScienceDaily, "Cockroaches cost the U.K. economy millions of pounds in wasted food and perishable products. Better understanding of how they seek out our food would allow us to develop better pest control measures, which are frequently ineffective and involve the use of insecticides that can have health side effects."
Yes, it is like cockroaches run their own ZAGAT guide of restaurant recommendations. This study further shows how cockroaches forage for food collectively — and why you might turn on the lights in your kitchen to find a convention of bugs.
The study revealed that cockroaches feed en masse — sort of a snowball effect. Cockroaches were released in an area with two piles of food. The bugs fed as a group on one pile until the food was gone. The more cockroaches were drawn to one pile of food, the faster others would come. This meant that most of the bugs would simply pile on top of each other. Experts say this behavior is the result of a short-range pheromone released by the bugs, but the origins of these pheromones are still unknown.
Scientists said the insects may be releasing chemicals from their saliva or from hydrocarbons that cover their bodies.
Either way, researchers believe that this information may lead to how we control the insects. Who wouldn’t want a trail of cockroach pheromones leading directly out of the kitchen? Lihoreau said the study could also have an impact on human societies. According to Lihoreau, "We should definitively pay more attention to cockroaches and other simple 'societies' as they provide researchers with a good model for cooperation and emergent properties of social life, that we could extrapolate to more sophisticated societies, like ours."
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