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Static electric fields are found throughout the environment and there is growing interest in how electric fields influence insect behaviour. Here we have analysed the locomotory behaviour of cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) in response to static electric fields at levels equal to and above those found in the natural environment. Walking behaviour (including velocity, distance moved, turn angle and time spent walking) were analysed as cockroaches approached an electric field boundary in an open arena, and also when continuously exposed to an electric field. On approaching an electric field boundary, the greater the electric field strength the more likely a cockroach would be to turn away from, or be repulsed by, the electric field. Cockroaches completely exposed to electric fields showed significant changes in locomotion by covering less distance, walking slowly and turning more often. This study highlights the importance of electric fields on the normal locomotory behaviour of insects.


Christopher W Jackson, Edmund Hunt, Suleiman Sharkh, Philip L Newland. Static electric fields modify the locomotory behaviour of cockroaches. The Journal of experimental biology. 2011 Jun 15;214(Pt 12):2020-6

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PMID: 21613518

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