The next time you meet one, before you look away in disgust, you think that cockroaches aren't all that grubby as you think. Indeed, they care a lot about their hygiene, if only for the antennas.

These insects are known for the habit of manipulating sensory bumps pushing them in the mouth with the front legs. According to a group of American researchers, this gesture would serve to remove the secretions deposited on the antennas and which could interfere with the olfactory perceptions, to which the antennas are deputed.

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The antennae of these insects are full of sensory receptors called sensilla, indispensable for the survival of cockroaches. Through the neurons present in them, in fact, these creatures receive information from the outside, such as degree of humidity, flavors, smells and tactile information on the surface on which they are venturing.

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Researchers at the University of North Carolina have observed that on the antennas of the specimens that are prevented from daily cleaning of the sensory organs (a sort of auto-grooming) a glossy substance is deposited in percentages 4 times greater than on those regularly glazed. Analyzes have shown that it is a kind of natural wax made of cuticular fats that serves to regulate water loss in insects. But that has the unpleasant side effect of attracting traces of dust and pathogens. By removing it the insects gain a better perception of the external environment: the proof is that the cockroaches with less clean antennae were, in experiments, less sensitive to odors and pheromones emanating from females.

The "scarrafoni" are not the only creatures with a weakness for clean antennas. Carpenter ants and house flies behave similarly.

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