Interested in Cockroach Sex?

When a male cockroach wants to mate with a female cockroach very much, he will scoot his butt toward her, open his wings and offer her a homemade meal — sugars and fats squished out of his tergal gland. As the lovely lady nibbles, the male locks onto her with one penis while another penis delivers a sperm package.

If everything goes smoothly, a roach’s romp can last around 90 minutes. But increasingly, cockroach coitus is going really, weirdly wrong, and is contributing to roach populations in some places that are more difficult to vanquish with conventional pesticides.

Back in 1993, scientists working at North Carolina State University discovered a trait in the German cockroach, a species that inhabits every continent except Antarctica. Specifically, these new cockroaches seemed to have no affection for a form of sugar called glucose, which was strange because — as anyone who has ever battled against a cockroach infestation knows — cockroaches normally cannot get enough of the sweet stuff.

So, where did these new, health-conscious cockroaches come from?

It seems we created them by accident, after decades of trying to kill their ancestors with sweet powders and liquids laced with poison. The cockroaches that craved sweets ate the poison and died, while cockroaches less keen on glucose avoided the death traps and survived long enough to breed, thus passing that trait down to the next cockroach generation.

But, wait, there’s more! We’ve not only introduced physiological changes; behavioral changes have expanded the need for re-examining the sex lives of these critters.

Rescue robots need to imitate cockroaches

It’s possible that if you were trapped under a pancaked skyscraper after an earthquake, or in a mine that had just collapsed, you’d be totally fine with getting rescued by a giant robot cockroach. What are you going to do? Say, “No, thanks, I’m good, send something cute”?

Even if you did request something more charismatic, odds are it couldn’t reach you. The American cockroach, says a paper out today, is perfectly adapted for getting into tiny spaces a human-shaped rescuer might not, thanks to a collapsible exoskeleton and really creepy mode of locomotion. The cockroach, it turns out, is a good model for a rescue robot. The researchers even built a prototype. It skitters.

Yes, it had to be cockroaches. “We are not entomologists. We also think they’re disgusting,” says Robert Full, who works on biomechanics and animal locomotion at UC Berkeley and is lead author on the article, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “But they can teach us bigger principles.” As is typical for insects, cockroaches have an exoskeleton—overlapping plates of a tough material called chitin held together with a flexible membrane. In the wild, that flexibility lets American cockroaches run about 5 feet per second, more than 3 mph…

Don’t blame the cockroaches for their extraordinary adaptability to that space between your floorboard and your wall. That’s not what their skill set evolved for. It actually keeps them safe. “Cockroaches like to be against walls, against surfaces, and the more surfaces they can contact, the more comfortable they are,” says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University. It’s called “thigmotaxis,” and the roaches feel most OK when they perceive a slow, light brushing against bristles that grow from their bodies…

That collapsible exoskeleton is yet another physiological marvel. Not only does it flex and expand—allowing for developing insects to grow and molt, and bloodsucking insects like bedbugs to accommodate the meal they have made out of your precious life essence—it also shunts their mass around. “In a cockroach the blood flows in an open cavity called a hemocoel,” Schal says, “so it can deform its body by moving blood from one part to another.” It’s like a disgusting, insectile, armored balloon…

Gross, sure, but it also makes a great model for robot mobility…That’s why you might not mind if a robot bug comes to rescue you. A Terminator wouldn’t be able to get there at all. “It’s not like the Darpa robotics challenges where you go down a hall, down stairs, skip over some rubble. No, no, no,” Murphy says. “You’re going into spaces too small for a human or a dog to get into. Or maybe they’re on fire…”

If you still can’t handle the idea of someday being carried to safety by a swarm of chittering, exoskeleton-wearing robot bugs, Full has you covered. He’s also working on a giant crab.

Something, anything, saving my butt is welcome. I don’t even care if it looks like Ted Cruz.

I wouldn’t care to be the guy setting a record for the biggest insect removed from inside a human ear

Hendrik Helmer has taken out the unofficial title of having the largest cockroach removed from a human ear in Darwin.

He says dislodging the 2cm giant at Royal Darwin Hospital caused him agonising pain.

The cockroach took about 10 minutes to die after it was removed from his ear.

Mr Helmer, from the Darwin suburb of Karama, said his ordeal began early on Wednesday morning when he was woken up at about 2:30am by a sharp pain in his right ear.

He immediately thought some type of insect may have crawled into it while he slept…He said the pain was intense and despite a few bouts of relief began to get worse.

“I was hoping it was not a poisonous spider … I was hoping it didn’t bite me,” he said.

After trying to suck the insect out with a vacuum cleaner, he tried squirting water from a tap into his ear to flush it out…

“Whatever was in my ear didn’t like it at all,” he said.

As his pain increased, Mr Helmer, who works as a supervisor at a warehouse, roused his flatmate to take him to Royal Darwin Hospital, where he was quickly seen by a doctor.

Mr Helmer said the doctor put oil down the ear canal, which forced the still-unidentified insect to crawl in deeper but eventually it began to die.

“Near the 10 minute mark … somewhere about there, he started to stop burrowing but he was still in the throes of death twitching,” he said.

At that point the doctor put forceps into his ear and pulled out the cockroach…

“She said they had never pulled an insect this large out of someone’s ear,” Mr Helmer said.

Helmer says he’s not changing anything in his lifestyle – or sleepstyle; but, when some of his friends were asked for an opinion, they said they’ve started sleeping with headphones on or earbuds in their ears.

Eeoouugh!

Are we getting ready for a remake of “MIMIC”?

The High Line, a park that turned a dilapidated stretch of elevated railway on Manhattan’s West Side into one of New York’s newest tourist attractions, may have brought a different kind of visitor: a cockroach that can withstand harsh winter cold and never seen before in the U.S.

Rutgers University insect biologists Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista said the species Periplaneta japonica is well documented in Asia but was never confirmed in the United States until now. The scientists, whose findings were published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, say it is too soon to predict the impact but that there is probably little cause for concern…

Michael Scharf, a professor of urban entomology at Purdue University, said the discovery is something to monitor.

“To be truly invasive, a species has to move in and take over and out-compete a native species,” he said. “There’s no evidence of that, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about it…”

Periplaneta japonica has special powers not seen in the local roach population: It can survive outdoors in the freezing cold…

The likelihood that the new species will mate with the locals to create a hybrid super-roach is slim.

MIMIC is one of my favorite sci-fi flicks. That it had a terrific cast along with solid writing did it no harm. The CGI was an early example of just how intricate and realistic computer-generated illustration was becoming in the movie world.

I will wait and watch. Bwahahaha!

Scientists create Borg cockroach that produces its own electricity


 
An insect’s internal chemicals can be converted to electricity, potentially providing power for sensors, recording devices or to control the bug, a group of researchers at Case Western Reserve University report.

The finding is yet another in a growing list from universities across the country that could bring the creation of insect cyborgs – touted as possible first responders to super spies – out of science fiction and into reality. In this case, the power supply, while small, doesn’t rely on movement, light or batteries, just normal feeding…

“It is virtually impossible to start from scratch and make something that works like an insect,” said Daniel Scherson, chemistry professor at Case Western Reserve and senior author of the paper. “Using an insect is likely to prove far easier,” Scherson said. “For that, you need electrical energy to power sensors or to excite the neurons to make the insect do as you want, by generating enough power out of the insect itself.”

Scherson’s team…developed an implantable biofuel cell to provide usable power…

The researchers found the cockroaches suffered no long-term damage, which bodes well for long-term use.

The researchers are now taking several steps to move the technology forward: miniaturizing the fuel cell so that it can be fully implanted and allow an insect to run or fly normally; investigating materials that may last long inside of an insect, working with other researchers to build a signal transmitter that can run on little energy; adding a lightweight rechargeable battery.

“It’s possible the system could be used intermittently,” Scherson said. “An insect equipped with a sensor could measure the amount of noxious gas in a room, broadcast the finding, shut down and recharge for an hour, then take a new measurement and broadcast again.”

Or photograph a famous politician having illicit sex.

RTFA for the technology and science.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Cockroach ancestor depicted in 3-D

An early ancestor of the cockroach that lived around 300 million years ago is unveiled in unprecedented detail in a new three-dimensional ‘virtual fossil’ model, in research published in the journal Biology Letters.

Scientists at Imperial College London have made a comprehensive 3D model of a fossilised specimen called Archimylacris eggintoni, which is an ancient ancestor of modern cockroaches, mantises and termites. This insect scuttled around on Earth during the Carboniferous period 359 – 299 million years ago, which was a time when life had recently emerged from the oceans to live on land…

The lead author of the study, Mr Russell Garwood, a PhD student from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says:

“The Carboniferous period is sometimes referred to as the age of the cockroach because fossils of Archimylacris eggintoni and its relatives are amongst the most common insects from this time period. They are found all over the world. People joke about it being impossible to kill cockroaches and our 3D model almost brings this one back to life. Thanks to our 3D modelling process, we can see how Archimylacris eggintoni’s limbs were well adapted for all terrains, as it was not only adept in the air but also very agile on the ground.”

The researchers created their images using a CT scanning device, based at the Natural History Museum in London, which enabled them to take 3142 x-rays of the fossil and compile the images into an accurate 3D model, creating a ‘virtual fossil’ of the creature, using specially designed computer software. The scientists used the models to visualise the Archimylacris eggintoni’s legs, antennae, mouth parts and body, which had never been seen by human eyes before…

Mr Garwood adds: “We now think this ancient ancestor of the cockroach spent most of the day on the forest floor, living in and eating lots of rotting plant and insect matter, which was probably the bug equivalent of heaven. We think it could have used its speed to evade predators and its climbing abilities to scale trees and lay eggs on leaves, much in the same way that modern forest cockroaches do today.”

Now that they’ve wired the basic routine, they will be using the same techniques to examine other fossils, other insects – to bring them to 3D representation.