We’ve all heard that cockroaches can survive nuclear blasts. That, alone, was enough to earn them the title of Super Cockroach. Over the years, however, cockroaches have proven more resistant than ever. At first, the pest control community assumed they’d become immune to the pesticides. And then we found out more…
Covering the Basics
For some pests, convincing them to eat pesticides is fairly simple.
- Find out what they like to eat
- Disguise the pesticide as their favorite food
- Place the bait
This used to be the case with cockroaches but then it stopped working. Scientists and pest control professionals assumed that cockroaches had developed resistance to the pesticides used to eradicate them.
That happens, and it’s one of the reasons that hiring an experienced and educated pest control company is so important. Experienced pest control professionals stay on top of the latest research and adjust their strategies accordingly. The pest control profession works closely with scientists to develop practices that are both safe and effective.
But when scientists took a look at cockroaches and the chemicals used to keep them from infesting our homes, they were surprised. Cockroaches had not developed immunity to the chemicals. So why weren’t they working?
Researchers at North Carolina State University decided to dive in and find out exactly what was happening. They took their test subjects and baited their cages with the normal pesticides. Something amazing happened: the cockroaches ignored the pesticides, even when there were no other food sources available!
The mystery deepened. Everyone knows that cockroaches love to eat and that they have a mighty big sweet tooth. That’s why, for ages, pesticides had been hidden in glucose sweetened liquids and gels. And that’s when the light bulbs flashed in the researchers minds. If it wasn’t the pesticides, could it be the glucose?
The Truth, Exposed
It didn’t take long for researchers Ayako Wada-Katsumata, Jules Silverman, and Coby Schal to figure out that cockroaches hadn’t completely lost their sweet tooth. Instead they’d changed the way they perceived the taste of the glucose used in pesticides.
Instead of using taste buds, cockroaches use “taste hairs”. You know all of those hairs on their legs? Yeah, they taste with those. And somehow, through the marvel of the natural world, cockroaches’ taste hairs had stopped perceiving glucose as sweet. Instead they tasted it as bitter. Cockroaches hate bitter.
This new trait, they found, was passed from one generation to the next. Even cockroaches that had never been exposed to pesticide laden glucose refused to eat it. You have to admit: that’s pretty incredible!
Incredible = Super
So, in this case, the cockroaches hadn’t become immune to pesticides; they’d just changed the way they tasted glucose.
Fortunately, researchers didn’t stop there. They developed new sweet bases for the pesticides so that we, your favorite pest control company, could continue to keep these pests at bay.
So maybe they weren’t super because they developed a new immunity. But any creature that can change sweet to bitter is still pretty super.