Poverty and Homelessness: Cockroaches 1, Humans 0

Over a year ago, a fascinating study was released about how cockroaches share available shelters:

Researchers offered 50 cockroach larvae their choice of three shelters that could each house more than 50 cockroaches. All 50 tended to crowd into the same shelter.

When the shelters were swapped with smaller versions that could hold just 40 cockroaches, the group would typically split into two groups of about 25, leaving one house unoccupied.

“It’s better, in terms of group benefits, to have a 50/50 split instead of one important, large group and one that’s less robust,” said study coauthor Jose Halloy of the Universite libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

emphasis mine

Roaches have decided that every roach matters. COSTUMES SEXY MILITARY from Costume SuperCenter This study is fascinating, and exciting, and damning for human society.

Before any concern trolls inform me that cockroaches are “designed” to live communally and humans aren’t, I’ll remind you that adaptation is all about what works in the current environment. Roaches have figured out what works, while humans are failing miserably.

Roaches, even immature roaches, understand that everyone does better when everyone does better. Humans can’t seem to grasp this simple fact.


16 responses to “Poverty and Homelessness: Cockroaches 1, Humans 0

  1. Really interesting! But I still think they’re disgusting.

    You are on FI-YAH baby.

  2. Thanks! They are disgusting. I was traumatized when I tried to find that picture of them in the shelters-plenty of closeups of cockroaches. (shudder)

  3. Hah! You want to talk trauma? Try lifting up a flattened cardboard box that you have innocently left out by the trash can and finding a colony of them solving their homelessness problems underneath! Pah! But it’s true, they definitely seem to know there is safety in numbers.

  4. That’s fascinating!!!! Roaches have earned my fear, and my respect for their sheer ability to survive!

  5. OK, Amy, since you’ve challenged me! You want to talk trauma? I was taking a nap several years ago, and something woke me up. I looked down to see a cockroach walking up my right arm toward my face.

    My stomach hopes you cannot top that.

    Rainbow Girl-They are amazing animals, in spite of the revulsion they inspire in most of us. The fact that they top us in allocating resources is something to be ashamed of.

  6. Okay, no, I don’t think I can top that, and I’m hoping DESPERATELY that I never can. Though how big was it? Was it one of the water bug type that we have here, or one of those namby-pamby northeastern ones?

    Damn, euw, now I’m all itchy.

  7. Yo! I grew up in South Florida, where the roaches are as big as birds. When I was about 10, I was reading in bed when a roach fell out of the window blinds above my bed and landed ON MY FACE!

    I had to sleep with my head at the foot of the bed for the next six months. Uh, I can feel the little spiny legs skittering on my skin just thinking about it.

    But, even worse, my best friend in 11th grade woke up one day and hit the shower only to discover that a roach had crawled inside her ear. She had to get it removed by a doctor, after convincing her mom that she wasn’t faking it to get out of school.

    Oh, how roaches have tortured me all my life. And I am happy to say I’ve seen nary a one since I moved to Seattle. Woo!

  8. Beansa “WINS”!

    I’m begging everyone who comes by here and has a horrible roach story to PLEASE NOT TELL IT! I think we’re all sufficiently freaked out and itchy now.

    So it’s amazing that there’s no such thing as a homeless roach. Why can’t we say the same about people?

  9. Way to get the conversation back on track.

    While I really like the comparison you are trying to develop here, I am not sure it really holds–I mean, do you really want to squeeze yourself into a shelter with 25 other humans, sleep atop each other, etc? I know when I hear about four families living in one room, it’s something I think no one should have to deal with–though also the upper-middle-class US standard of everyone isolated in their own McMansion in his/her own bedroom with his/her own TV/iPod/computer isn’t a good model either. Is the difference that roaches don’t have ideas about private property, about profit and loss, etc?

    (God, I sound like Mandos. Someone shoot me.)

  10. Roaches prove that families can be created with others they do not know, yet understand that being alone and standing alone leaves a roach powerless to survive in a cruel world. Groups of roaches find safety in numbers, and shelter as a group. Roaches soon become empowered, and strong. Roaches bother some people in society. Some people want roaches to be banned from make shift homes, and placed completely out of site. Some people want to smash the roaches under their shoes.
    Roaches are fighters, and stronger than small-minded shoe-stompers.
    Rock on roaches!

  11. Amy-No, I don’t want us to live just like roaches do-we are different. Cram people together like that, and violence is going to break out. We’re not cut out for that intensive group living like roaches are.

    Maybe you’re right-if roaches developed capitalism, then you’d see 1 or 2 roaches in each shelter, with all the rest trying to survive outside. Also, the roaches in the shelters would be telling each other how they got those shelters through their own hard work and their natural talent, so the other roaches deserved to suffer.

    Stephany-Well, just a perfect analysis. 🙂

    But the fact that roaches can see to both group needs and individual needs (no splitting into 1 ideal group, and 1 sub-par group) should shame us big-brained primates into doing better.

  12. Sorry for any freak outs or itchyness I may have caused. 😉

    All I can say is I agree, humans can and should do better. I guess roaches don’t go around “othering” each other the way people do.

  13. Beansa-No worries-writing the post caused me plenty of itchiness, although your story was the scariest thing about bugs ever.

    And that’s it exactly-roaches don’t devalue each other like sophisticated humans do.

  14. i remember reading somewhere that they make group decisions according to “simple democracy,” although i’m buggered if i remember where.

    almost makes you feel better about ’em taking over the world, eh?

    or…not so much.

    ick. what if they evolve? what if…never mind.

    “i’m sure they’re beautiful to each other”

  15. interesting blog.

  16. I have a horrible roach story, and I am itching to tell it!!! but I won’t…

    I’m also surprised to learn that other ppl get itchy too when they hear roach stories – wow, I thought I was the only one!

    Thanks for the great story spotted ele!

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