Do Cockroaches Have Brains? Are They Smart?

Cockroaches might not seem like the brightest bugs as scavengers. They eat all types of decaying foods and organic matter other bugs don’t.

Cockroaches are still sufficiently-intelligent to survive in adverse conditions and multiply. They are an adaptive behavior and they are known for always finding new ways of getting to the food. Cockroaches aren’t smart enough to avoid simple roach traps, on the other hand.

Cockroaches have a small brain located at the back of the head. This brain allows them to have basic memory, mate, or run away from danger. Nerves in the body of cockroaches serve as a second brain and they assist in movement, flying, and eating.

Cockroaches also have a secondary smaller brain for supportive tasks. These tasks include movement. Cockroaches can crawl and climb, actions controlled by the secondary smaller brain. It was also believed cockroaches excreted in an uncontrolled manner.

However, the smaller brain of cockroaches controls excretion. While poor at flying, cockroaches can still fly short distances. Flying and wings are controlled by the secondary smaller brain.

Roaches are bugs at the bottom of the food chain. They appear in damp conditions and often feed on excrement, decaying organic matter, paper, hair, nails, and even on other dead cockroaches. This doesn’t mean they don’t have a brain.

Do cockroaches have brains?

Cockroaches have a brain just as most other bugs and animals. This is a simplified brain without the capacity for long-term memory, communication, or other complex tasks such as friendship connections.

Roaches can still do a lot with their brains. They can move, they can mate, feed, and move around the nest and outside of the nest to find food. Roaches can also fly to a lesser extent than other species. The brain is also used in courtship.

american cockroach close up

Do cockroaches have 2 brains?

Cockroaches have a basic brain that functions similarly to the brain of other animals and bugs. They also have a secondary basic brain or a simplified brain lower in the body which aids with basic nerve function. Both brains are shaped similarly to mushrooms with a larger top part.

Cockroaches can still move around without a head and the main brain. They eventually starve, but cockroaches can survive without their heads up to a few weeks.

This means that while these 2 brains work together they can still work separately as well, albeit without much success in the survival rates of the species since roaches need their head to eat and their antennae to move around.

How smart are cockroaches?

Cockroaches aren’t smarter than other bugs. However, they are smarter than some species that cannot show defensive techniques such as walking next to walls or using antennae to distinguish the ground they’re walking on.

Cockroaches have short-term memory

Short-term memory or the most basic type of memory is characteristic of cockroaches. This type of memory allows them to find the same food source they know about for a few days. They enter their nest during the day and return to the same food source the following night as nocturnal species.

The memory of cockroaches isn’t as developed as it of pets such as cats and dogs. They cannot distinguish other members of their species or even the opposite sex without relying on pheromones.

The limited memory cockroaches have is known to have only limited space for memories. Roaches eventually forget about a location or the location of food within days if they don’t visit it daily.

Cockroaches like to live in groups

It’s believed cockroaches use their brains and pheromones to stay together in groups. While not extremely social, cockroaches don’t like living on their own.

Living in groups comes with higher survival rates for cockroaches as they aren’t as exposed in case of a predator’s attack. It also allows them to mate easily and discover new food sources together.

german cockroach

Cockroaches are believed to distinguish between a medium-sized group and a large-size group. They tend to separate into different groups whenever their initial group gets too large.

Cockroach development is impacted by the size of their group. Cockroaches living in small groups take longer to molt. Cockroaches living in extremely-large groups also take a long time to molt.

As a result, cockroaches hate groups that are either too small or too large and make a conscious decision to avoid any of these extremes and to find a new group that’s better suited and that isn’t overcrowded. This is a decision made based on how their brain perceives space.

Cockroaches use their brain to mate

Cockroaches have a natural mating instinct. This is an instinct of bugs. However, it does involve simple tasks of the brain for the process itself. Females know to lower their abdomen before the mating process while males know females need to do this to mate.

The mating process of cockroaches is then followed by laying eggs. This process also involves minimal brain function to find a suitable place to lay eggs in. Cockroaches always lay eggs in areas with food, areas they live in as adults.

Cockroach brains make natural antibiotics

While not a conscious process that requires brain power, the brain of cockroaches exists and it has an important role beyond cognition. It has been shown that the brain of cockroaches makes natural antibiotics.

These antibiotics allow cockroaches to survive in the dirtiest bacteria-rich places such as garbage cans and sewage. Cockroaches don’t get sick from eating decaying or fermenting food. They can eat carrion without any health side effects. Cockroaches live in sewers and are known for the organic matter with bacteria.

Their natural antibiotics protect them. These antibiotics are made by the main brain of cockroaches. These antibiotics are produced as soon as cockroaches are born.

Cockroaches have adaptive behavior

Adaptive behavior is an evolutionary trait partially relying on cognition. In other words, cockroaches have limited learning abilities that allow them to stay away from danger or a certain situations.

This function is limited, to a serious extent, by their need for food. Cockroaches might even try to make it through the water to get to the food they smell, even if they risk drowning. This risk might be perceived by the brain, but it’s overruled by their need to eat. This is why most roach traps with bait work.

Cockroaches distinguish night from day

Cockroaches are nocturnal species. They only come out to feed at night. The capacity to distinguish night from the day is characteristic of most cockroaches. Furthermore, this capacity is what sometimes helps them survive as a species.

Most predators can’t see them in the dark. This means cockroaches can move freely at night. Roaches are so good at hiding during the day that some people don’t know they have a pest invasion until surprised by cockroaches in the house at night. These small bugs prefer to retreat to dark areas out of sight during the day.

This simple cognitive process allows cockroaches to be one of the most prominent pests. They know where to hide so they don’t become a target.

Cockroaches are very good at finding the darkest places they can hide and lay eggs in. Female cockroaches prefer to crawl into smaller or tighter spaces for this specific reason. Smaller spaces get more light which means offspring are better protected from potential predators.

Cockroaches can move along walls

Not known for their excellent vision, cockroaches rely on antennae to find immediate dangers such as walls and rocks in front of them they need to avoid while crawling.

Cockroaches have long antennae they use to identify surfaces such as soil, tarmac, or water. They use antennae to survive and not walk into a dangerous situation. For example, cockroaches can drown if they enter the water they cannot escape from.

cockroach on ceiling

Cockroaches are also among the few pests that know to move along walls. Their brains always make them move along walls whenever possible, especially indoors. This is believed to be an evolutionary trait as roaches don’t like to feel exposed.

Cockroaches like corners and walls for nesting as well. This provides at least one protective wall for them. When it comes to laying eggs, they often prefer crawling under different objects such as rocks or furniture when it comes to indoor living. This is all planned by their small basic brains.

What is a cockroach brain called?

The main brain of cockroaches is called Supraoesophageal ganglion. This is the most important part of the nervous system of insects.

What does the cockroach brain do?

Cockroach brains work on a basis of chemical signals for moving, mating, and eating. These are survival characteristics controlled by the brain.

Secondary cockroach brains are more primitive. Shaped like a mushroom similarly to the main brain, the secondary cockroach brain is known for helping movements, excretion, and breathing. It works in conjunction with the first brain but it can also have limited individual benefits, especially when it comes to responding to stimuli such as light, smell, and vibrations.

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