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Everything posted by varnon

  1. Dr. Darby Proctor, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology has recently started using cockroaches to teach principles of psychology and neuroscience. Article and video below: https://adastra.fit.edu/blog/research/florida-tech-discovery-magazine-spring-2019-buggin-out/ I met Darby at a conference last week, were we were both presenting some of our cockroach research. The conference was near her school, so she actually was able to bring some of her discoid cockroaches! It was my first time seeing discoids in person. I now have "other roach envy." I know a number of labs that are investigating using hissing cockroaches for similar work, but generally I find them too lethargic. I have made some good progress with my research as well, and just received a grant to continue the work, though I do not yet have any fun videos to show yet.
  2. varnon

    Best hygrometers?

    I have found most hygrometers to be very unreliable. I think you will see this trend in reviews. I use a cigar box hygrometer. I think I have three of them now between home and work. https://www.amazon.com/Cigar-Oasis-Caliber-Digital-Hygromter/dp/B00JXOKQVW/ This hygrometer works great. It also can be calibrated, but at least so far, new hygrometers have not needed calibration. They are accurate and consistent. I highly recommend them if humidity is important.
  3. They are absolutely capable of noticing differences, changing their behavior, learning, and maybe even having basic moods or emotions, but I do think what is going on with them is not quite as complicated as what causes behavior for you or I. We are sort of designed to explain things in terms that we understand, so its very normal to assume another animal (or even another person) thinks the way we do, but it is rarely the case. I imagine he simply has less reason to do things now that there are no mature females around. He will likely perk up if other adult females are around, or when the nymphs get bigger. He might even be more active if there was another male for him to have territorial disputes with, although they may also fight too much. Right now he is likely just chilling, waiting for something that actually requires behavior. I don't think he is depressed, but they are somewhat social species, so I think they probably do the best when they live in groups.
  4. Well, I generally don't think my sense of smell is great, but it could be individual differences between us, or differences in our roaches and/or their environment. I do find the musty mothball approach to be interesting though. I can imagine that, and maybe some of the substrate has that kind of smell, but I just can't imagine that as a hisser smell. I'm going to have to do some bug sniffing later today and think about that.
  5. Hissers have a smell to me. If there is a dead hisser in the colony, it will also have a distinct smell. Hissers smells remind me of vinegar. My orange heads have a bit of a smell if you mess with them too much. Otherwise they seem to smell mostly like the substrate. I don't notice a specific orange head smell, unless they are disturbed.
  6. Hmm, the synchronized movement is interesting, but I do like my bugs to be a bit more active. Your wife should be happy the females get a chance to wait. So many females of various species never get a male-free moment. Waiting and longing is romantic! I imagine the poor lonely roaches singing Disney-style songs while waiting for their knight in chitin armor. And then she finally meets the one!
  7. Wait, is this species parthenogenetic too? I might have to get some.
  8. Very cool. I'm sure it is not coincidence. I wonder what is the minimum number of individuals it takes to get that response. Will they do it in pairs? I'm assuming it is somehow a defensive behavior. I wonder what causes it. You can almost see waves of movement a few times. It has to be a single roach that starts the wave, but the few bold individuals that are moving more do not seem to be triggering the group response.
  9. I think it depends on the species, but it seems reasonable to assume different causes for dead and live cannibalism. Perhaps the later should be called predation. I have noticed my orange heads will occasionally eat a live individual that is freshly molted (still white). It is a little disturbing to see a half-eaten, still living roach that just started adulthood. I believe this happens more as a result of male/male aggression than actual nutritional need, as the orange heads do not wait until until the exoskeleton of an adult is hardened before mating or being aggressive. But overcrowding is likely an impact on both nutritional and territorial drives. My hissers on the other hand, almost never engage in any form of cannibalism. It is interesting you find yours go for different body regions. I'm sure there is some thing to that.
  10. varnon

    Panchlora sp. "White"!

    Hope he is okay and not focused on bugs because he is focused on other fun things.
  11. That is an interesting observation. My guess would be that they are just doing what male hissers do: feeding, fighting and, mating (the three Fs of animal behavior). They may not have a suitable target for their reproductive behavior, but they still have the drive. I would only talk about sexual orientation in the case that courting both males and females was an option. Here, we cannot say they are homosexual because a lack of females means we can't observe a preference for mating with males vs females. In Xenoblatta's colonies however, it would be interesting to record the mating preferences of roaches. Maybe there are some that have no preference (bisexual) or prefer other male roaches (homosexual). On the other hand, maybe they would exclusively prefer female roaches if there was no competition. Also, I'm sure you have all observed that the females are often not in the mood. Very interesting topic. Maybe there is a research project here on sexual preferences in cockroaches.
  12. varnon

    roach racks

    Hi bug friends. I recently finished my phd in animal behavior, accepted an assistant professor position, and I'm starting up my new animal behavior lab. And guess what that means? More bugs! I will be looking into getting some bumblebees later, but for now I want a better setup for my cockroaches. I would like to set up a roach rack. I am considering something like this snake rack: The rack is a standard metal wire shelving unit with heat cable woven in between the wire shelf grid. Has anyone done anything like this? One concern I have is that the metal would simply act as a radiator and dissipate all the heat. I will use something like tubs with gasket vents as seen here: I'm not sure what size things I want yet. The rack will need to fit in a nook in my lab space (currently being renovated), and then I will get bins to fit the rack. I will have hissing cockroaches, orange head cockroaches, and I'm hoping to get some glowspot roaches breeding. The hissers and orange heads will be for behavioral research, so I will have a few bins for them. The glowspots will be my cute, beginner-friendly roaches, to help people become accustomed to insects. I am not intending to keep banana roaches anymore, but I also still have some of those, apparently. Does anyone have any other thoughts about setting up a nice semi-professional rack? I do have some money I can spend. Thanks for your thoughts!
  13. varnon

    Bees and roaches

    I have bumble bees now. They are very messy. I would love to have some roaches clean up after them, but I don't have a setup that will allow that. I do have a hive that is on its last few weeks (bumble bee hives only last a season). I think I will give it to my orange heads when the last bees expire. They can clean it out for me.
  14. I love it. I'll have to show this to some of my students. I'm dying to get into computer vision with roaches, but I still haven't had the chance.
  15. varnon

    roach racks

    I don't have anything published with the roaches yet, but I will be happy to share stuff when I have some papers out. I have a handful of other papers linked on my website: http://cavarnon.com/publications/ I'm working on an orange head cockroach learning project right now. I think they are my favorite bug. The bumble bees are being difficult and end up being so much more work than the cockroaches. They are also much messier too. I am still finishing up the shelf unit. I added top vents without any anti-fruit fly netting. It was just much easier to drill in the lids than the side. I measured and drilled pilot holes for one bin, then used that as a guide for all the other bins. Everything came out perfectly. I highly recommend it. Surprisingly it is the bumble bee hive (the waste) that attracts fruit flies. It is very hard to clean up after them (they don't like it when you mess with their stuff). I haven't installed any heating for the roach rack yet. The room temperature in the lab was routinely in the high 70s without any heat source from me, so I have been hesitant to add more heat. I think some of the buildings temperature regulation is resolved now, but I'll still wait to see how warm it gets when I have the turtle lights on. The hissers and orange heads still breed fine at room temperature. I have actually lost a few orange heads from over heating, so I think they are fine. The hissers just grow very slowly without heat.
  16. varnon

    American cockroaches as predators?

    I fed banana roaches to my orange heads once. It was very interesting. The attack does seem to be very predatory in nature. They do actually pounce and chase a little. Any banana roaches escape the initial attack seem to be "safe." I think after a point they smell like other orange head roaches.
  17. I saw this on another site. I am pretty skeptical about what the AI actually does. For example, I wouldn't call turning the temperature down when it gets hot AI. I would call that a thermostat. I really can't think of what an AI would do in this context. It seems like very simple programs could handle everything.
  18. varnon

    Roach Etymology - Help Please!

    I don't have any suggestions, sorry. But I wanted to say, can we keep this thread going? It is very interesting!
  19. varnon


    I wasn't able to find a good link for you, but honey bee queens are frequently marked in this manner. You can purchase numbered stickers to glue to them, or you can mark them with a tiny dab of paint. It is relatively easy to do, and does not seem to be harmful in anyway. I would look into something like this. As for limiting fighting, good luck. They are territorial, so if you have enough space, they each might eventually settle on their own territory. With only a few individuals, this should be possible. You will have to experiment with adding hides, rocks, and branches until they each have a territory they hang out in, but don't mess with the others. They also may be less aggressive if there are no females to fight over.
  20. I've noticed my orange heads react to my red flashlight, mostly when it is moving. They react much more strongly to a white light of course. Other species I have kept do not react to this light. Has anyone noticed this with other species? I'll have to try some other red lights too. Perhaps this one just has a little bit of yellow in it.
  21. varnon


    Thats awesome! I got a copy for my personal library. Its a nice reference.
  22. Yeah, I really like them. I love having a rack of consistent bins! Do you have hissers or orange heads in these bins? Actually, CodeWilster, I think I saw you sell these species, do you keep them in the gasket bins too? Any recommendations for how many vents for these species? They are both pretty low maintenance, but now that I'm setting everything up, I have this odd desire for everything to be perfect. I'm sure that doesn't happen to anyone else. (sarcasm) Looking at other setups, and ptanner's suggestions, I think I will go with the top mounted vents. Seems much easier to install too.
  23. varnon

    roach racks

    I am fairly competent with electronics, so I can handle any water-related risks. Although you are right, it is a major issue to contend with. I originally had the turtles on the bottom shelves, but moved them up one shelf so I could use gravity to siphon out the water. Immediately after I moved them, the siphon broke. I have a non-gravity powered siphon now, so I'll move the back to the bottom two shelves. Water should then be less of an issue. I think you are right about the temperature, I'll check to see how much heat I get just from the turtle lights. It may be plenty. The temperature in this building is unpredictable, so I will definitely be monitoring it constantly. I have smaller colonies of hissers and orange head roaches right now. I don't need to fill up all my bins, but I do need extra bins in order to do research. Essentially, I take adult roaches from the main colony, let them participate in learning experiments, and then put them in an empty bin. Once they have participated in one experiment, I can't use them again. But, I can let them live out their life in comfort (more than most lab animals get unfortunately), and their offspring can go back to the main breeding colonies. When I am collecting data I go through bugs pretty fast. In the last experiment I used up all my adult hissers and orange head roaches in just a few weeks. They got to taste sugar water with small doses of ethanol. They liked some of the drinks pretty well, but there is a point where it gets too strong for them. Later, when I have more new adults, I will see if the "mixed drinks" affect their learning and behavior.
  24. varnon

    roach racks

    Hi all, it has been a while, but I am making progress. It took forever for my lab to be ready. They had to pull out carpet, add tile, and paint the walls. The space is nice, but a little small and oddly shaped. I searched hard for a rack to jam in this weird little corner, and I found one that fit perfectly! I found a website (https://www.webstaurantstore.com/search/regency-wire-shelves.html) where I can order wire shelves at many dimensions, and get the individual pieces, not just the kits. I have 6 bins reserved for aquatic turtles on the second and third shelves. These shelves will have light units. I don't have them all installed yet. Wiring everything together is going to be tedious. Aside from that, it is bins to the ceiling! I probably won't have all 9 roach bins filled at once, but it is nice to have the space. I still have to install vents on the bins. Any thoughts on front vs top mounted vents? And then the heat source. The turtle lights may create enough ambient heat, or I might still need to do something different. I won't have space for a light in front of the rack like allaboutinsects suggested. The ventilation and temperature in this room is erratic, so everything will have to be thermostat controlled no mater what I do. I'm really looking forward to finishing this. Thanks to this forum for all the inspiration.
  25. I just finished setting up my rack and bins. Will be adding vents to mine soon. On checking this thread again, I realize we ended up with the same plastic tubs! They are the only tubs that have a really good fit for my rack. Any thoughts (from anyone) on top vs front mounted vents? How much space should I have between one lid and the next (wire) shelf to keep good ventilation?