Cockroach Aggressive Behavior – OMG! They Are Us!

By Chris Williams on March 10, 2015.

american cockroach on glassWe don’t think of our cockroaches as having human-like personalities, but that’s what a recent research study found. The study revealed two distinct personality types among American cockroaches: those that were “shy or cautious” and a second group classified by the researchers as “bold or explorers.” The shy cockroaches stayed in the safety of shelter as much as possible, while the bold cockroaches were more adventurous and chose to explore their surroundings.

German Cockroaches Are All About Maternal Instinct

Even the shy cockroaches must sometimes become bold when confronted by their own kind. In laboratory colonies of American cockroaches, the adult males were quite aggressive, biting and kicking other males, and sometimes females. Female American cockroaches showed little aggression. But German cockroach (our most common pest cockroach) females were just as aggressive as German cockroach males. That could be because German cockroach females carry their egg case attached to their abdomen until just before hatching. Mom has an obligation to protect those 30+ babies inside from cannibalism by others of her own species. The larger American cockroach females, on the other hand, hide their egg case early on in its development. Out of sight, out of mind, as far as they are concerned.

Protecting the next generation is just one reason for cockroach aggressive behavior. Sex, of course, is another. Males fight to take over territories that have food and water which attracts females, and which then gives them a mating advantage. Gals love a guy who springs for dinner.

Let’s Get Ready to RUUUUMBLE!

Cockroach fights are not just puppy play, sometimes legs are actually torn off. The two aggressors first meet face-to-face (so to speak) and begin with a little bit of “antennae slapping.” Then they proceed to “stilt-walking” in which they raise their bodies high off of the ground on straight legs, and jerk (not twerk!) their bodies. At this point, there may be a truce called, but more often the battle escalates to charging, biting, and kicking. This stalking and circling and fending can go on for up to three minutes.

What does all of this have to do with us? Nothing. You’ll probably never see cockroach combat. It’s just kind of comforting to know that even cockroaches don’t always play nice.

Photo credit: Drew Avery / Foter / CC BY

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