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Adventure Science Center Blog

Science Educators and guest authors exploring our world and the science and technology that connects us.

 

 

DO COCKROACHES HAVE CEREAL PREFERENCES? by Erin Castellano, Science Educator

As playful and passionate experimenters, our team at Adventure Science Center lives and breathes for the scientific method. We spent the month of November with our guests exploring all things food – from chemistry in the kitchen to how candies get their colors.

Behind the scenes, my inner-mad scientist decided to come out to play.

We have resident Blaptica dubia cockroaches – who are pets, not pests! – in our Education offices that sometimes serve as a composting system for us. They get to enjoy the fruits (sometimes literally) of our labor! We decided to give the Dubias some leftover cereal from a science experiment we conducted. However, after noticing their lack of interest in the cereal, we knew it was time for an experiment!

Using the scientific method, here’s what we’ve discovered…

Summary:

We observed Dubia cockroaches lack of interest in brightly colored sugary cereal. We would like to test to see if the cockroaches would prefer a less sugary, non-artificially-colored cereal.

Question:

Do cockroaches prefer cereal that has no artificial food coloring?

Hypothesis:

We believe that Dubia cockroaches will prefer cereal without artificial food coloring.  

Variables:

  • Independent Variable: Number of cereal pieces in cockroach enclosure
  • Dependent Variables: Number of cockroaches per enclosure, temperature and humidity of enclosure

Materials:

  • 2 plastic critter containers
  • 30 cockroaches total (15 per container)
  • 100 artificially colored cereal pieces (50 per container)
  • 100 artificial-color-free cereal pieces (50 per container)
  • 1 plastic squirt bottle filled with distilled water
  • 2 sections of cardboard (for the cockroaches to have a “hide”)

Method:

  • Separate the two containers for the specimen. (Label the containers “Container A” and “Container B” to help distinguish between the two). Each container was cleaned thoroughly using soap and water.
  • Count out 50 individual cereal pieces from each sample. Place the cereal on opposite ends of the plastic containers.
  • Collect and place 15 adult Dubia cockroaches in each of the containers. Provide them with a piece of cardboard so they may have more surface area available, as well as a place to “hide.”
  • Document what has been placed in the containers. It is always important to record your data during experiments.
  • Spray each enclosure 5-7 times with distilled water, twice per day.
  • Repeat for one week (7 days). Otherwise, do not disturb the enclosure.
  • After one week, remove the cockroaches and place them in a separate container. Count each individual cereal piece, and document your results.

Results:

After conducting this experiment for one week, we collected our data and found that our results supported our hypothesis.

The following chart reflects how much of each cereal remained after one week.

 

Container A

Container B

Artificially Colored Cereal

49

50

Non-Artificially Colored Cereal

47

42

 

Conclusion:

After conducting this experiment, we found that Dubia cockroaches would prefer non-artificially colored cereal over cereal that has artificial coloring.

Ideas for future research:

If we could recreate this experiment, there are several changes we would like to make. First, we would like to reduce our sample size for cereal. Fifty pieces of each cereal was excessive for the experiment, so we’d stick with a sample size of 20 pieces of cereal. Second, we would like to expand our testing by creating more enclosures. We’d prefer having 10 small containers as opposed to 2 small containers, which would help expand our data to form a more conclusive result. Lastly, we would like to experiment with other cereal products to test if the artificial food coloring is the variable that is deterring our cockroaches from chowing down.

Acknowledgments:

We want to thank our guests here at the Adventure Science Center for their interest and curiosity in science. Because of your interest in learning and experiments, we’re able to grow as a community and learn TOGETHER. We’d also like to thank Arthur Leago for the original supply of Dubia cockroaches for the Adventure Science Center’s Education team.

- Erin Castellano, Science Educator

Posted by Molly Hornbuckle at 8:00 AM
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