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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!

Backyard Brains Welcomes Interns from MSU

Summer is finally shining rays of sunlight on our lovely hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and with it Backyard Brains is welcoming its newest bright minds from Michigan State University’s Undergraduate Neuroscience department. Marta, Olivier, Alex, Cort, and Dylan met in the BYB office at the early hour of 10am (well, early for a college student during the summer!) Monday, June 2, to begin familiarizing themselves with the other members of the BYB team, our experimental procedures, and the plans for the next two months.


Each of the five students is planning on writing a research paper, with the goal in mind of each having a publication by the end of the summer. The topics include:

  • Operant Conditioning of Cockroaches
  • Four Channel RoboRoach
  • Circadian Rhythms of Cockroaches
  • Optogenetics with Drosophila
  • RoboScorpion