We have all seen movies that feature cockroaches, but how do directors and producers go about selecting the right cockroach for a particular role? Believe or not, this question is not as absurd as it sounds, as cockroach trainers do exist, and they do work on film sets in order to make cockroaches behave in particular ways. Recently, a cockroach was featured in the popular television drama called Orange is the New Black. One particular scene in a recent episode called for a cockroach to deliver a cigarette to a prisoner by carrying it on its back. This scene seems to have shocked audiences around the world, as there is now an online debate concerning whether or not cockroaches can really be trained to perform such acts. It would likely come as a shock to most people to learn that the roach in the particular scene was, indeed, a real roach that had been trained to perform the cigarette-delivery stunt.
Considering the amount of insect experts who have entered into the online debate concerning what roaches can and cannot be trained to do, it is surprising to learn that the roach in the scene was actually acting. According to the show’s propmaster, Rachael Weinzimer, a lot of planning went into the scene featuring the roach. An abundance of both freeze-dried and live cockroaches were on set in order to find the right roach for the role. The roaches were professionally trained by crawling through a maze numerous times. Eventually, Weinzimer built her own maze in order to train a roach to move in the directions that the scene called for. Both the trainers and Weinzimer adjusted the maze several times as needed, while a cigarette-carrying roach slowly but surely learned to move in the desired directions. If there was an emmy award for cockroaches, then the cigarette-lugging cockroach from season six of Orange is the New Black should certainly be awarded one.
Do you believe that any other types of insects are mentally sophisticated enough to learn through conditioning?