How Cockroaches Are Proving to Be the Unlikeliest of Heroes
Cockroaches are very clearly considered to be household pests. The mere sight of these insects flying into a room can turn the bravest of men and women into putty. However, not everyone has a low regard for these insects. In some cultures like Cuba, roaches are weaved into their myths and folktales. In one of these stories, these insects actually play a vital role in choosing one’s lifetime mate.
Another fun fact is that not all roaches are going to be pests. In fact, only four types of cockroaches are actually pests to humans. The rest avoid getting into human homes and prefer other environments where they play a crucial role in the ecology, thriving on dead and decomposing matter.
Cockroaches and Science
A lot of scientists are also interested in these insects and a lot of their works have been inspired by this much reviled organism. Take Professor Robert Full of the University of California, Berkeley; he is credited for creating a six-legged robot that can easily maneuver different types of terrain. According to Full, he drew inspiration from a roach’s anatomy—specifically its legs, body shape and exoskeleton—in designing and fabricating his robots.
Robert D. Howe, head of the Biorobotics Laboratory over at Harvard, on the other hand, has drawn inspiration from the legs of roaches in designing new prosthetic legs and hands for humans. According to Howe, his goal is to mimic the mechanics of the insect’s legs in designing new prosthetics that offer greater functionality.
Researchers at the Texas A&M University have successfully attached mini-computers to cockroaches, allowing them to be directed by humans. Potential applications include getting these insects into hard-to-reach and dangerous areas to collect data.
Researchers from Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University, on the other hand, have found a way to control roaches using brain waves. The insects can then be directed to move into tight and inaccessible spaces.
Cockroaches and Medicine
Apart from making waves in the field of robotics, these insects are also helping specialists in medicine make new discoveries.
For instance, scientists have long known these insects to be among the toughest animals, thriving in inhospitable environments. It was only lately discovered that one of the main reasons for that is that these insects are capable of producing their own antibiotics. Now, scientists are looking at ways to mimic this special capability of cockroaches in order to solve medical riddles.
Some experts are also looking into tapping these insects as a potential food source. Currently, roaches are being sold as delicacies in China.