Campus News

Associate dean discusses cannibalistic habits of cockroach species


Allen Moore

Allen J. Moore, associate dean for research entomology and a professor in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, was recently quoted in a New York Times article about the cannibalistic habits of mating, monogamous cockroaches.

A recent study published in Ethology found that a certain species of male and female cockroaches not only mate monogamously, but also completes the “romance” by chewing off each other’s wings.

So, do these cockroaches gain any benefit from this minor cannibalism? Well, the authors think that the cockroaches benefit from losing their wings, since wings can be burdensome when the roaches are living in tight spaces. Cockroach wings can also pick up mites or mold, the authors said.

“It makes sense that there’s an advantage to getting rid of your wings if you’re not going to fly ever again,” Moore said.

There are other insects that live underground or inside wood that also shed their wings after mating. For example, termites, close relatives that Moore refers to as “just fancy cockroaches.”

Still, in the case of these insects, they have to lose their wings on their own.

“This mutual helping is just really unique,” Moore said.

The article continued to detail the roaches’ evolutionary traits.

Moore said he agreed with the study’s authors that the cockroaches’ cooperative behavior probably stems from their monogamous relationship.