To speed up reproduction, there's no substitute for the tender touch of a live cockroach.
That's the major takeaway from a North Carolina State University study examining whether artificial antennae – in this case, duck feathers – can mimic a cockroach antenna's capacity to hasten reproduction in cockroach females.
Female cockroaches that get "touched" – by other female cockroaches and, under certain conditions, even by duck feathers that mimic roach antennae – reproduce faster than female roaches that live in isolation or without tactile stimulation.
Pairing two cockroaches together – even roaches of different species – speeds up reproduction the most.
"To understand the mechanisms behind tactile stimulation and reproduction, we devised a motor-driven system using duck feathers as stand-ins for cockroach antennae. We found that these artificial antennae worked to stimulate certain hormones that speed up reproduction in the female German cockroach," says Dr. Coby Schal, Blanton J. Whitmire Professor of Entomology at NC State and the senior author of a paper describing the research. "We also found that the shape of the artificial antenna doing the 'touching' and the speed and duration of the stimulation were key factors that influenced reproduction speed."