Build Your Swarm: Control Cockroaches for Under $30!

Have you ever wanted to control an army of cockroaches? We’ve all seen remote control cockroaches before — and they really are quite a fascinating specimen to work with — but did you know you can control one for about $30 worth of components, with a Arduino Micro?

It’s actually pretty simple. By stimulating a cockroaches antenna with variable frequencies (to mimic neural signals) you can convince the cockroach that they’ve hit a wall and should turn the other way. What results is a remote-controlled roach. How cool is that!

The setup consists of a mini backpack that contains an Arduino Micro wired into the cockroach. There is some minor surgery required, but it’s nothing that an anesthetic ice bath and some deft fingers cannot accomplish easily. And don’t worry — the cockroach can regrow his limbs and antennae. Besides, it’s for science!

While the experiment may seem a bit silly, it’s actually an excellent way to teach about neuroscience. The actual experiment is very similar to a cochlear implant, which allows a deaf person to hear sound again.

Of course, mind controlling cockroaches is nothing new, but it’s always fun to see it pop up again.

40 thoughts on “Build Your Swarm: Control Cockroaches for Under $30!

      1. Especially as puppies later grow to big dogs which shit onto all sidewalks…. :-) Of course we differentiate between different kind of animals. Some for eating, some as pets and some as pests.

    1. People also don’t mind when you stomp cockroaches to death. There’s really no convincing argument that this is unethical unless you are concerned about the genocide of cockroaches that pest control agencies perform every day.

        1. Of course that’s what underlies it, but that is highly arbitrary and I’ll bet most of those that feel that way have no issues eating meat from animals just as complex a nervous system. Look the reason I brought this up is that when you start experimenting with living creatures this way, you should at a minimum be aware that you have crossed a line. I don’t mean that no one should do these things, but everyone should understand there is now an ethical component that needs to be considered, and not resolved by metrics like cuteness.

          1. that metric is widely understood to be the capacity for pain and suffering that a given neurology allows.
            this means that the ethical concerns in any realistic scenario of a cockroach vs a dog being used are fairly clear, even if the arguments are far from being well fleshed out.

    2. Puppies are put to death all the time, as are a number of creatures we keep as pets when they are unwanted, We also experiment on these same animals in labs (to say nothing of the ones we kill for food) That’s not the point. The ethics of these things do not bother me, but for sure if this project involved even a mouse or a rat, both which can be vermin, there would be those that would be, I just think it’s hypocritical.

        1. I remember seeing a successful monkey head transplant not long ago. The monkey was put to death 72 hours after the surgery or something on ethical grounds. prolong suffering stuff…

          So there, a monkey story.

          1. No, no, it wasn’t “put to death.” it was “sacrificed in the name of Science,” very different (except of course from the two monkeys’ point of view.)

    3. Meh. If done right, the cockroach would not be harmed. Their antennae are hollow, so the electrode should not hurt anything going in. As for the roach, it just thinks it brushed against a wall. It would be similar to stimulating a cats whiskers.

  1. Micro is not the smallest Arduino board out there. Perhaps Mini, or even better – some minimal custom made board with Atmega or even smaller ATtiny (there are arduino cores for them) would make lighter, less bulky kit and be less burden for animal.
    Why someone coming up with such an idea would even care is another subject

  2. Snark snark. As a typical enlightened HaD commentor, with many years of experience of real-world politics, which I got from watching the Colbert Report while sitting on an armchair, it is my comment duty to remind everyone that politicians are less than human, and I do this by making a connection with “cockroach” in the title, with politicians, because we can all agree that cockroaches are repulsive beings in need of crushing. Snark snark. I am important.

    1. and yet…….. your comment is even more annoying and snarky. Its like you are one of those people who have to “one up” another person displaying behavior that you inherently possess.

  3. I am willing to pay some serious $$$, you know, cashito, to the first person who can remote control a spider. There is this biatch I know, Ms. Muffet, all high and mighty sitting on her tuffet. Get the spider to distract her and send the roach into her curds and whey.

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