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A Cockroach’s Life Cycle

In case you’re unfamiliar with Backyard Brains, we like Cockroaches. You might even say we love them. Cockroach’s are hardy insects with a knack for neuroscience and performance. The cockroaches we work with are known as Blaberus Discoidalis or False Death’s Head cockroaches (among many common names). They are often bred for reptile food but we use them for science! Thanks to their size, their legs are big enough for neuroscience and their bodies are big enough to carry the roboroach backpack without falling over. Also, they cannot fly outside of tropical environments and they cannot climb up smooth surfaces like glass (helps to keep them from leaving the cage!) We love our roaches, so we take our roach husbandry very seriously! This is an involved process that involves keeping substrates clean, environments free from mold and fungi, keeping the roach’s well fed and hydrated, but what you might not expect is that we’re actually involved in the rearing process as well!

Last week our dedicated roach caretaker found something exciting while cleaning one of our big terrariums: an egg pouch!
Egg Pouch

We decided to take this opportunity to examine the life cycle of our roaches! We separated the egg pouch and placed it in its own, clean terrarium. Our initial plan was to “Truman Show” it, but after deciding that a 24/7 live feed of the cockroach terrarium probably wouldn’t draw in significant viewership, we decided instead to just post updates as the action happens – think of it like the greatest hits of a cockroach’s life! Keep an eye on the blog and stay tuned for updates!

DIY Cockroach Water Dispenser

Tired of having to dampen those sponges, and adding fresh potatoes for your cockroaches during these dry winter months? Well, this may be the solution for you. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Twine (We borrowed some from Colin Stoetzner’s science video art project)
  • Shampoo/Mouthwash sampler bottle
  • Pair of Scissors
  • Cockroaches (Optional)

DIY Cockroach Water Spout

Simply poke a hole in the top of the bottle, thread the twine through, fill with water, and voil! You have yourself a self-feeding water bottle! The twine will continually be moist, allowing your little friends to drink during the cover of night.

Special thanks to Karen Coulter for giving ByB this tip from her days studying cockraoches for the RHex Robot Project.

New Cockroach Species Arrives

We currently have used American Cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) in our experiments, but we have to order them from Carolina Biological Supply in North Carolina, and they are a bit expensive due to live animal shipping charges. No angst towards that fantastic company, but we have been looking for a local supplier that can give us cockroaches at reduced cost. Fear not! Pet Supplies Plus, within walking distance of our labs and workshops can provide us Discoid Cockroaches (Blaberus discoidalis) at ~$10/dozen! I picked some up last week, they are actually rather cute and look like giant roly-polys. Guess we’ll have some company on our roadtrip to Kansas City to visit the Kauffman Foundation

discoid cockroach