Insects and teenagers have quite a lot in common – they are constantly grooming themselves to attract the opposite sex, a study has found.
According to scientists, the personal hygiene procedure is vital in keeping their sensory organs ship-shape, allowing them to identify members of the opposite sex, the Daily Mail reported.
Grooming - specifically antennae cleaning - removes environmental pollutants and chemicals produced by the insects themselves.
Leaving them dirty effectively blinds insects to their surroundings preventing them from picking up the odour of members of the opposite sex - or finding food or sensing danger.
The findings could also explain why certain types of insecticides work more effectively than others.
Cockroaches clean their antennae by using forelegs to place the antennae in their mouths - they then methodically clean every segment from base to tip.
When American cockroaches were prevented from grooming the surface of one antenna - by having it glued back - a shiny substance collected. Powerful microscopes revealed large amounts of the substance gathered on pores that guide smells to odour-sensing cells.
Much less appeared on groomed antennae, according to the findings. Professor Coby Schal said: “It’s intuitive insects remove foreign substances from their antennae - but it’s not necessarily intuitive they groom to remove their ‘own’ substances.”
Analysis showed the substance was comprised of waxy fats called cuticular lipids secreted by insects to regulate water loss.
The researchers also found ungroomed antennae collected almost four times more of the lipids and significantly more environmental contaminants than clean ones.
And they were less responsive to odours and sex pheromones - chemicals released by all living organisms to attract mates.
The researchers observed similar phenomena in three additional species which uses different antennal grooming methods - the German cockroach, the carpenter ant and the housefly. Flies and ants seem to rub their legs over their antennae to remove chemicals - with ants then ingesting the material.
The findings are published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.