Well, this is just fabulous news, if you are a cockroach. A study published in Scientific Reports demonstrated how a common species of cockroach, the German cockroach otherwise known affectionately as Blattella germanica L., is becoming more and more resistant to different insecticides. In other words, it is getting harder and harder to kill them. Unless you have antennae and three pairs of joined legs or are really longing for companions, I am guessing that this isn’t very encouraging news for you.
For the study, a team from Purdue University (Mahsa Fardisi, Ameya D. Gondhalekar, Aaron R. Ashbrook, and Michael E. Scharf) visited some low-income apartments in Danville, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana, caught some B. germanica specimens, tested them for resistance to various insecticides, and returned to the apartments to try three different insecticide strategies against the cockroaches:.
- Rotating: Using a single type of insecticide at a time and then rotating these type used over time.
- Mixture: Using a mixture of different types of insecticides throughout
- Single type after testing: Using the one type of insecticide that the roaches were least resistant to, based on testing.
The first two strategies flopped like the 2011 Green Lantern movie. The German cockroach populations became resistant to the insecticides within months. In fact, testing revealed that the roach populations were able to develop resistance chemicals that they hadn’t even been exposed to yet. This means that roach populations must be evolving mechanisms or strategies that confer cross-resistance, that is, work on multiple different types of insecticides.
This is yet more evidence of how adaptable cockroach populations are and how they can survive seemingly everything that’s thrown at them. This is apparently why roaches or anyone who resembles roaches don’t seem to worry about climate change. The Earth could turn into a giant flambé and they and Keith Richards may still be around.
The only strategy of the three that seemed to work somewhat was the third, testing the roaches first for resistance to different insecticides and then using the one to which the roaches were most susceptible. This strategy makes sense and suggests that such pest control needs to be more organized and strategic. Rather than flinging around different pesticides like they were Kardashian social media posts, pest management efforts may want to be more judicious, do more testing, and reserve different insecticides for when they are most appropriate.
The roach situation may be somewhat similar to the bad bacteria situation. For years, many doctors, dentists, and farmers used antibiotics rather indiscriminately, helping wipe out good bacetria and allowing various nasty bacteria populations develop resistance to previously effective antibiotics. At the same time, new antibiotics haven’t been developed fast enough, in big part because investment in research has not kept pace with either the economy or the need. Now our world is running out of antibiotics to use against some of the most dangerous bacteria.
As a result, there have been pushes to be more judicious about antibiotic prescribing and establish ways to track antibiotic-resistance among bacteria. There have also been lobbying efforts for more funding towards antibiotic development. Perhaps analogous efforts may be needed in battle against cockroaches.
Speaking of bad bacteria, having cockroaches around your home and office is bad not only because of the ickiness factor but also because they are potential human health hazards. They can serve as little Ubers, carrying and spreading many different disease-causing pathogens such as bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, and parasites. They also poop, slobber, and leave body parts all over the place, which are general marks of bad house guests. These things can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks in humans as well.
Hard to Kill was a 1990 action-thriller movie about battling a corrupt Senator. It also seems to apply to cockroaches, the name of the movie, that is, and not necessarily the Senator part. In the battle against cockroaches, roaches appear to be winning, and not in the Charlie Sheen way. There is no census on cockroaches, because they are terrible at filling out forms. So, it is difficult to know how much their populations are expanding. But this latest news doesn’t bode well for the future, unless of course you are a cockroach.