Roaches Live Wax On, Wax Off… Ingest Wax, Shit on Your Food

Despite being associated with uncleanliness, a recent video has shown roaches to be, according to entomologist Coby Schal, “fastidious” in caring for their hygiene.

Basically what the roach does is it grabs one of its antennae with its mandibles (the sort of mini arms located under its head, different from its six legs it uses to propel itself) and then uses its mandibles to systematically rub down its antenna from root to tip. According to entomologists, the roach is actually using its mandibles to rapidly floss between the tiny hairs on the antennae.

According to the description given for the YouTube video, cockroaches and other insects perform this grooming ritual “incessantly.”

Despite initial surprise at their meticulous grooming habits, the same scientists that provided the video went on to reaffirm that cockroaches are fucking gross, only grooming because their bodies produce a stupid amount of what the NPR science desk described as “gunk.”

The study used a mini “antenna cone,” much like a doggie cone used to prevent your dog from scratching, to prevent the test roaches from pulling down one of their antennae for cleaning. Scientists noticed that within 24 hours of restraint the antenna that couldn’t be cleaned saw a buildup of shiny, waxy “gunk.”

In small amounts this gunk is good for the roach, preventing it from drying out. However, too much wax clogs the pores on the antennae hairs that lead to odor-sensing cells. In other words, these pores are something like mini nostrils.

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Roaches quite literally wax on, wax off
via 7thprovince.com

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via drugstore.com

So apparently cockroaches get clogged pores too. And often (I smell an untapped market, Neutrogena). No biggie, right? Humans get clogged pores and noses too. What makes it particularly disgusting in the case of the roach is it actually ingests everything that it grooms off its body. This includes not only the wax it itself produces, but other unwanted dust and other foreign chemicals that get stuck to the gunk, picked up from dragging itself around inside your apartment’s dusty, moldy walls, all the shit on your floor, and whatever garbage they can get their mandibles on. As one might guess, this makes many of the microbes on their antennae are actually pathogenic and thus dangerous to humans.

While roaches are fastidious in their grooming, they have no such standards to when it comes to shitting on your stuff, particularly your food.

Moral of this story: invest in some bag clips.

To watch the video, click here.

SOURCE: Ira Flatow’s and Flora Lichtman’s “Surprise: Cockroaches are Fastidious Groomers!,” NPR

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