Bug Blog

Roaches’ Cleanliness Could Lead to Downfall

Roaches’ Cleanliness Could Lead to Downfall

In our ongoing war to obliterate the roach from polite society, and pretty much everywhere else, we have learned much about their lifestyle. A brown, sometimes black insect, the roach is elliptical in shape and shiny in surface, and enjoys scurrying about creating a nuisance for humans, frightening the vulnerable, and carrying disease.

Now a new fact about the ways of the roach has been discovered:  they are vain.  As if they didn’t have enough defects of character and appearance.

Roaches, although unpopular, are notoriously difficult to kill. They barely notice radiation, enjoy all types of natural disasters, can survive headless for weeks, and have been around much, much longer than humans – about 350 million years.

But their grooming habits and meticulous self-care may offer a crack in their armor.

“Their habit of incessantly cleaning themselves — particularly their antennae — keeps their senses keen, but also offers opportunities for the development of pest control,” said Coby Schal, entomologist and co-author of a paper on insect grooming that appeared in the online journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have learned that if antennae aren’t clean, the insect’s sense of smell is impaired.  Other studies revealed that dirty antennae could lead to an inability to sense danger or find a mate.  The insect cleans its antenna by running them through its mouth, which may also open a potential delivery system for insecticide.

Investigators hope these discoveries can lead to more targeted insecticide use, rather than widespread applications that are expensive, wasteful and potentially environmentally damaging.