Cockroach maths: 50/3=?


Cockroaches, Blattella germanica, are one of the insect species that live in groups and benefit from the survival style. In groups, they reproduce more, share their resources like food and shelter, and it prevents desiccation. Communication is essential in groups, and thus it is interesting to examine how these cockroaches communicate with each other and how the groups make decision.

Halloy set out to explore cockroach group behavior by placing the insects in a dish that contained 3 shelters, and observe how the cockroaches would divide themselves into the shelters. It is then found that when each of the 3 shelters could contain only 40 bugs, the cockroaches divided themselves into 2 groups of 25 and occupied only 2 of the shelters, leaving the last shelter empty. When the shelters had a capacity of more than 50 bugs each, all the cockroaches occupied just a single shelter (Jennifer, 2006). Decision-making was made through various forms of communication among the insects, including antenna probing and touching. Halloy and colleagues then concluded that these cockroaches optimizes their group size and strike a balance between cooperation and competition for resources.

Halloy's cockroach experiment

Such behavior that allows the cockroaches to optimize their group size is indeed supported by other literature. Mathieu, Loic and Colette (2009) found that cockroaches that are rearer in social isolation develop certain negative behavioral syndromes, including reduced foraging activity and reduced ability to assess mating partner quality. This shows that living in groups,optimizing group size and sharing of resources are the best survival ways for cockroaches to reproduce and survive.


Jennifer Viegas (30 March 2006). Animal Planet News. Discovery Communications. Available at:

Mathieu L., Loic, B., Colette R. (2009) The weight of the clan: even in insects, social isolation can induce a behavioural syndrome. Behavioural Processes, 82(1), 81-84. Available at:

Houston we’ve got a problem!!!!


It appears that the ants share our love for technology.

The Crazy Rasberry Ant otherwise known as Paratrechina species near pubens is fast replacing fire ants as the main concern of pest infestation across the united states.

These little terrors similar to their cousins – the  Fireants or ants from the genus Solenopsis have a preference for electronic devices, like electrical boxes and computers over sweet stuffs. This has proven to be a major problem especially when the Crazy Rasberry Ant decided to make Texas where NASA is located as their home.


The Crazy Rasberry Ant, according  to observation seems to enjoy feeding or biting on electronics. In heavily infested areas they often appear in clusters hiding inside power sockets and many other electronic appliances, causing overheating and short circuits.

Tom Rasberry who first discovered the species highlighted its staggering resilient to pesticide and the species’s ability to repopulate itself  “I sprayed some pesticide just to knock them down, But the next year I went from seeing a couple thousand to millions of them.” This seems to be contributing to their rapid dispersion across Texas.


Preying on the fire ants and out competing them through a faster reproduction cycle. The Crazy Rasberry ants is slowly marching towards NASA’s headquarter.  Electric appliances reported to be damaged by them includes Computers, burglar alarm systems, gas and electricity meters, iPods, telephone exchanges and even pumps at a sewage facility.

An infestation of these electronics hungry ants in NASA would prove to be extremely devastating. The cost of replacement for the billion dollar computers, the risk to national security and space expedition would be unimaginable.

The threat is real and imminent yet scientist know little about this enemy who seemingly happen to appear from no where.

Some entomologist suggest that ants simply take refuge in electrical appliances due to the shelter it provides against predator. Others claimed that all ants are attracted to electric wires.

In an experiment conducted by Mackay, Majdi, Erving, Vinson and Messer (1992). The researchers tested 10 species of ant’s reaction to differences in electric field. They found out that electric appliances are damaged by ants which are attracted to the electric fields it produces.

This further substantiate the danger that The Crazy Rasberry Ant pose on NASA.

First discovered in 2002 by Tom Rasberry, the Crazy Rasberry Ants is distinguishable by its erratic movement dissimilar to other ants which moves in trail.  Hence the “crazy” in its name. As of now, little is yet known about the Crazy Rasberry Ant.

Reference list

Mackay, P.W., S. Majdi, J. Irving. , S.B. Vinson & C. Messer, 1992. Attraction of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) to electric fields.   Journal of the Kansas entomological society, 65 (1): 39-43

“Crazy ants that eat electronics marching to Oklahama?” by KOCO Oklahoma city.  KOCO.COM Youtube channel. 19 May 2008. URL (accessed on 3 Apr 2010)

“Rasberry Crazy Ants” by Tom Rasberry. Rasberry Crazy Ant gallery. URL (accessed on 3 Apr 2010)

“Billions of electronic- eating Crazy Rasberry Ants invade Texas,” by Chris Ayres, Times Online May 16 2008.  URL: (accessed on 3 Apr 2010)

“A pest without a name becoming to ever more” by Ralph Blumental, Houston Journal May 16 2008. URL: ( accessed on 3 Apr 2010)

“Crazy ants distribution” by Ants-Maps.  URL: (accessed on 3 Apr 2010)

“Computer at risk from Crazy Rasberry Ants” by Sharon Gaudin, Techworld 16 may 2008. URL: (accessed on 3 Apr 2010)

“Ants in Texas” International union for conservation of nature. URL: (accessed on 3 APR 2010).

A walk in the park?

One of the worse nightmares while walking a dog is when you bump into another leashed canine.  Sometimes this awkward encounter will result in furious exchanges of barks between two dogs with the owners pulling hard on their leashes. Here we find out why.

Dogs are said to pay a great deal of attention to our movements, behavioral cues and facial expressions. According to an anthropologist, Brian Hare, “dogs are really interested in humans, interested to the point of obsession. To a dog, you are a giant walking tennis ball.”

“I think they are looking at our eyes and where our eyes are looking, and what our eyes look like,” the ethologist Patricia McConnell, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says. “A rounded eye with a dilated pupil is a sign of high arousal and aggression in a dog. I believe they pay a tremendous amount of attention to how relaxed our face is and how relaxed our facial muscles are, because that’s a big cue for them with each other. Is the jaw relaxed? Is the mouth slightly open? And then the arms. They pay a tremendous amount of attention to where our arms go.”

In her book The Other End of the Leash, McConnell decodes one of the most common of all human-dog interactions – the meeting between two leashed animals on a walk. To us, its about one dog sizing up each other after first sizing up their respective owners. The owners “are of ten anxious about how well the dogs will get along,” she writes, “and if you watch them instead of the dogs, you’ll often notice that the humans will hold their breath and round their eyes and mouth in an ‘on alert’ expression. Since these behaviors are expressions of offensive aggression in canine culture, I suspect that the humans are unwittingly signaling tension. If you exaggerate this by tightening the leash, as many owners do you can actually cause the dogs to attack each other. Think of it: the dogs are in a tense social encounter, surrounded by support from their own pack, with the humans forming a tense, staring, breathless circle around them. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen dogs shift their eyes toward their owner’s frozen faces, and then launch growling at the other dog.”

You can avoid a lot of dogfights by:

  1. Relaxing the muscles in your face
  2. Smiling with your eyes
  3. Breathing slowly
  4. Turning away from the dogs rather than leaning forward and adding more tension.


“Fighting Dogs” by Rachel Baum. Dog Wars. URL: (accessed on 2 April 2010).

Gladwell, M. 2009. What the Dog Saw. Penguin Book Ltd. London, UK.

McConnell, P.M. 2003. The other end of the leash: why we do what we do around dogs. Ballantine Books. United States.