Ever wondered how cockroaches seem to know the best place to grab a meal?

New research at Queen Mary, University of London, suggests that just like humans the cockroaches share their local knowledge of the best food sources and follow 'recommendations' from others.

This work shows how groups of the insects seem to make a collective choice about the best food source, explaining why we so commonly find them feeding en masse in the kitchen late at night.

Mathieu Lihoreau from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, who conducted the research, said: “Better understanding of how they seek out our food would allow us to develop better pest control measures...”

This study is the first to demonstrate that groups of cockroaches can forage for food collectively, rather than independently, relying on their individual experience.

In the experiment, hungry cockroaches were released into an arena where they could choose between one of two piles of food.

Lihoreau noted that rather than choosing one randomly and splitting into two groups as would be expected if they were acting independently, the majority of the cockroaches fed solely on one piece of food until it was all gone.

By following individual insects, it also emerged that the more of cockroaches there were on one piece of food, the longer each one would stay to feed. Through simple snowball effect then, most of the cockroaches accumulate on one source, said a Queen Mary's release.

“These observations coupled with simulations of a mathematical model indicate that cockroaches communicate through close contact when they are already on the food source,” Lihoreau explains.

These findings were published in Springer journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

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