The parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa hunts cockroaches Periplaneta americana, stinging them first in the thorax and then in the head, the sting penetrating towards the subesophageal ganglion. After being stung the cockroach grooms almost continuously for approximately 30 min, performing all the normal components of grooming behavior. This excessive grooming is only seen after the head sting and cannot be attributed to stress, to contamination of the body surface or to systemic or peripheral effects. This suggests that the venom is activating a neural network for grooming. We suggest that the venom induces prolonged grooming by stimulating dopamine receptors in the cockroach, for the following reasons. (1) Reserpine, which causes massive release of monoamines, induces excessive grooming. (2) Dopamine injected into the hemocoel also induces excessive grooming and is significantly more effective than octopamine or serotonin. In addition, the dopamine agonist SKF 82958 induces excessive grooming when injected directly into the subesophageal ganglion. (3) Injection of the dopamine antagonist flupenthixol greatly reduces venom-induced grooming. (4) Dopamine, or a dopamine-like substance, is present in the venom.

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