Chemical Signals are Involved in the Detection and Preference of Food Sources in Blattella Germanica

Xoana Magalí Santa Cruz, Valeria Sfara


The German cockroach (Blattella germanica) is a cosmopolitan omnivorous species which can take nutrients from a wide variety of sources. Its condition of pest generated interest in the study of its biology, and while there are many works regarding its feeding behavior, few approaches have been made to the relevance of the chemosensory system during foraging. Objective: In this work we studied the role of chemical stimuli in the detection and preference of food sources in B. germanica using behavioral observations. Methods: Adult males were placed in a circular experimental arena where different diet types were presented individually. Parameters associated to the detection of odors (latency to the food source, number of visits to the source) were measured in an experimental time of 15 minutes. We also measured the total amount ingested determining the weight gain of each individual, as an indicator of taste evaluation of food. Findings: Insects showed a lower latency when the source emitted a larger amount of volatile compounds, so peanut butter was detected faster compared with the other diets studied. Regarding ingestion, insects spent significantly more time on the peanut butter, indicating the presence of phagostimulants such as sugars or lipids. When sugar solutions were used as food sources, the number of visits, the time spent on the source and the amount consumed was higher when increasing sugar concentration. Insects also showed preference for the solution of higher concentration, when two sugar solutions were presented simultaneously. Latency increased and the amount of sugar ingested decreased when insects´ mouthparts were chemically blocked with N-Ethylmaleimide, a general inhibitor of chemoreception. Novelty/Improvement: These results describe how cockroaches use odors to locate food sources and chemoreceptors in their mouthparts to identify diets of higher energetic value, from information regarding the concentration and quality of the food source. Understanding the feeding behavior of cockroaches allows the design of more attractive and palatable toxic gel baits enhancing their efficacy for cockroach control.



Blattella; Feeding; Chemoreception; Odors; Phagostimulants.


Kojima, W. “Attraction to carbon dioxide from feeding resources and conspecific neighbours in larvae of the rhinoceros beetle Trypoxylus dichotomus”.PLoS ONE (November 2015). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141733.

Barrozo, R. B. “The Response of the Blood-Sucking Bug Triatoma Infestans to Carbon Dioxide and Other Host Odours.” Chemical Senses 29, no. 4 (May 1, 2004): 319–329. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjh035.

Lauprasert, P., Sitthicharoenchai, D., Thirakhupt, K., and Pradatsudarasar, A. O. “Food Preference and Feeding Behavior of the German Cockroach, Blattella germanica (Linnaeus)” Journal of Scientific Research Chula University, Vol. 31, No. 2 (October 2006): 121-126.

Sugawara, R., S. Kurihara, and T. Muto. “Attraction of the German Cockroach to Cyclohexyl Alkanoates and n-Alkyl Cyclohexaneacetates.” Journal of Insect Physiology 21, no. 5 (May 1975): 957–964. doi:10.1016/0022-1910(75)90107-9.

Wileyto, Paul E., and Mallory G. Boush. “Attraction of the German Cockroach, Blattella Germanica (Orthoptera: Blatellidae), to Some Volatile Food Components.” Journal of Economic Entomology 76, no. 4 (August 1, 1983): 752–756. doi: 10.1093/jee/76.4.752.

Silverman, J., and Bieman, D. N. “Glucose aversion in the German cockroach Blattella germanica”. Journal of Insect Physiology, Vol. 39, No. 11 (November 1993): 925-933.

Wada-Katsumata, A., Silverman, J., and Schal, C. “Differential Inputs from Chemosensory Appendages Mediate Feeding Responses to Glucose in Wild-Type and Glucose-Averse German Cockroaches, Blattella germanica” Chemical Senses, Vol. 36, No 7 (September 2011). doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjr023.

Wada-Katsumata, A., J. Silverman, and C. Schal. “Changes in Taste Neurons Support the Emergence of an Adaptive Behavior in Cockroaches.” Science 340, no. 6135 (May 23, 2013): 972–975. doi: 10.1126/science.1234854.

Fore, Sara P., H. P. Dupuy, and J. I. Wadsworth. “Correlation of Volatile Components of Peanut Products with Flavor Score I. Shelf Life Studies on Peanut Butter1.” Peanut Science 3, no. 2 (July 1976): 86–89. doi:10.3146/i0095-3679-3-2-9.

Manyi-Loh, C.E., Ndip, R.N., and Clarke, A.M. “Volatile Compounds in Honey: A Review on Their Involvement in Aroma, botanical Origin Determination and Potential Biomedical Activities”. International Journal of Molecular Science, Vol. 12 (December 2011): 9514-9532. doi: 10.3390/ijms12129514.

Friend, W G, and J J B Smith. “Factors Affecting Feeding by Bloodsucking Insects.” Annual Review of Entomology 22, no. 1 (January 1977): 309–331. doi: 10.1146/annurev.en.22.010177.001521.

Chapman, R. F. “The insects. Structure and function”. Edited by Simpson, S. J and Douglas, A. E., Fifth Edition (1998). Cambridge University Press, 929 pp.

Lihoreau, M. and Rivault, C. “Local enhancement promotes cockroach feeding aggregations” PLoS ONE 6(7) (July 2011): e22048. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022048.

Durier, Virginie, and Colette Rivault. “Path Integration in Cockroach larvae,Blattella Germanica (L.) (insect: Dictyoptera): Direction and Distance Estimation.” Animal Learning & Behavior 27, no. 1 (March 1999): 108–118. doi:10.3758/bf03199436.

Durier, Virginie, and Colette Rivault. “Effects of Spatial Knowledge and Feeding Experience on Foraging Choices in German Cockroaches.” Animal Behaviour 62, no. 4 (October 2001): 681–688. doi:10.1006/anbe.2001.1807.

Ko, A. E., Jensen, K., Schal, C., and Silverman, J. “Effects of foraging distance on macronutrient balancing and performance in the German cockroach Blattella germanica. Journal of Experimental Biology, Vol. 220 (2017): 304-3011. doi: 10.1242/jeb.146829.

Young, Clyde T., and Allan R. Hovis. “A Method for the Rapid Analysis of Headspace Volatiles of Raw and Roasted Peanuts.” Journal of Food Science 55, no. 1 (January 1990): 279–280. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1990.tb06078.x.

Chestchik, I., Granvogl, M., and Schieberle, P. “Quantitation of key peanut aroma compounds in raw peanut and pan-roasted peanut meal. Aroma reconstitution and comparison with commercial peanut products”. Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry”, Vol. 58, No 20 (2010): 11018-11026. doi: 10.1021/jf1026636.

Karimifar, N., Gries, R., Khaskin, G., and Gries, G. “General food semiochemicals attract ominvorous German cockroaches, Blattella germanica”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 59, No 4 (January 2011): 1330-1337. doi: 10.1021/jf103621x.

Saerens, S. M. G., F. Delvaux, K. J. Verstrepen, P. Van Dijck, J. M. Thevelein, and F. R. Delvaux. “Parameters Affecting Ethyl Ester Production by Saccharomyces Cerevisiae during Fermentation.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74, no. 2 (November 9, 2007): 454–461. doi: 10.1128/aem.01616-07.

Eder, M., Sánchez, I., Brice, C., Camarassa, C., Legras, J-L., and Dequin, S. “QTL mapping of volatile compound production in Saccharomyces cerevisiae during alcoholic fermentation” BMC Genomics, Vol. 19 (March 2018): 166. doi: 10.1186/s12864-018-4562-8.

Giurfa, M., Núñez, J. A., Chittka, L., Menzel, R. “Color preferences of flower-naive honeybees”. Journal of Comparative Physiology A (Sensory, Neural, Behavioral Physiology), Vol. 177, No 3 (January 1995): 247-259. doi: 10.1007/BF00192415.

Alzogaray, R. A., A. Fontan, and E. N. Zerba. “Repellency of Deet to Nymphs of Triatoma Infestans.” Medical and Veterinary Entomology 14, no. 1 (March 2000): 6–10. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2915.2000.00213.x.

González, P. V., González-Audino, P. A., and Masuh, H. M. “Behavioral Response of Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae) Larvae to Synthetic and Natural Attractants and Repellents” Journal of Medical Entomology, Vol. 52, No 6, (November 2015): 1315–321. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjv136.

Full Text: PDF

DOI: 10.28991/esj-2018-01150


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Valeria Sfara