Lethal Cocktails: Why cockroaches are more than just a visual pest

Humans have long waged a war against “unwanted” pests. But if evolution has taught us anything it is that insects aren’t going anywhere in a hurry and that cockroaches are now stronger than ever.

In fact Periplaneta Americana has maintained an unhealthy presence in our lives since time in memoriam. They’d been on earth 199,800,000 years before we came along so it’s easy to imagine, given the lack of sanitation and hygiene back in the day, that cockroaches creeped out our ancestors in much the same way as they do us.

Cockroach Pests Disease

Image: The Virtual Fossil Museum

Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder made some of the first pest-control recommendations in the First Century AD. He observed that, “dressing seeds with the ashes of a cat or weasel or steeping the seed in ox-gall” was an effective home defense against cockroaches; he also said that storing grain in airtight containers would prevent infestations, which by modern-day standards seems quite insightful.

Why are cockroaches so tough?

There is a solid basis for saying that a cockroach is one of the most resilient creatures on the planet. They have a tough exoskeleton, incredibly adaptable DNA, they don’t have blood, they have a different immune system to us and they have a primitive nervous system which renders them less susceptible to radiation damage. Couple this with their famed resilience to periods without food and water (some roaches can last more than a month without food and over a week without water) and you have a true SUPERBUG.

Cockroach Pests Disease

Image: Chambers Pest Solutions

However, even super powers have their limitations and weaknesses. According to a study in 2007 by Vanderbilt University the beasts don’t function very well in light and are better able to learn at night; in fact, they seemingly have, “a total inability to pick up anything new during the daylight hours.” So too are they the easy victims of natural predators like frogs and iguanas. Roaches are also susceptible to some fungi, all in all suffering a practical form of karma.

Carriers

As well as their unpleasant look and smell, roaches have the potential to spread deadly diseases through cross-contamination, as well as cause major allergic reactions.

They have disease-ridden bodies because being omnivores they will eat anything. That includes poop, discarded food and rotting meat. All of this organic matter harbors bacteria potentially harmful to humans and it takes just one cockroach to walk across fresh food to contaminate it. It is believed roaches transmit a host of diseases in this way such as dysentery, cholera, leprosy, typhoid fever, and salmonella, all of which can make us either very poorly or can even kill us.

Cockroach Pests Disease

Image: Barfblog

And it doesn’t really make a difference (Pliny) if the food is covered. Agreed, sealing food in proper containers will stop direct infestations but if you have roaches in your house the germs they carry will have been traipsed across floors and furniture. The fact that you can’t see any markings where the critters have been doesn’t mean the surface is clean.

So how is it possible to eradicate them?

Being so resilient to baits and poisons cockroaches are notoriously difficult to eradicate but not impossible. However, shop-bought chemical insecticides aren’t the answer; they kill only the roaches you can find…if you can even find them!

Cockroach Pests Disease

Image: Pest Control Swindon

Antworks’ professionally trained employees use slow acting, non-repellent material or bait for cockroaches but follow up with a cockroach treatment because of their feisty nature. It is imperative that when you first see a roach or smell an odor you call Antworks pest control service straight away because it’s highly likely you already have a problem. What’s more as well as being impervious to most man-made pesticides, roaches have the ability to reproduce quickly.

So don’t delay, otherwise they will take over.

Bugs in Space: Why study insects in micro-gravity?

It has been said that finding a spider in your home symbolizes good health, wealth, and cleanliness. But what if you went to work surrounded by crickets, rodents, frogs, newts, fruit flies, snails, fish, monkeys, dogs, silkworms, carpenter bees, harvester ants and nematodes? Would you holler for help?

Let’s have a quick look at the history and reasons for taking live animals into orbit.

Image: NASA

Over the last 70 years all the big sprinters in the space race have used animals as guinea pigs. Back in 1947 a handful of fruit flies were the first to be strapped to a captured German V2-rocket; they reached an altitude of 68 miles and returned to Earth safely. Then over the next 20 years a succession of higher animals (including an actual guinea pig) became the unwilling participants in research on things like solar radiation at high altitude, the ability to carry out tasks in micro-gravity and the effects of space flight on bodily functions.

In the 1970s with manned spaceflight all the rage, scientists’ focus shifted to more complex problems. For example some tests were carried out on the effects of motion sickness in frogs, others on the regeneration of newt limbs and yet others looked at how spiders spun their webs in micro-gravity. The last 30 years have still seen numerous insects propelled into space including ants, cockroaches and moths but the observations have grown more clinical and ethical.

Image: NASA

One of the most recent large scale bio experiments took place in 2014 when 800 ants were sent to the International Space Station. Astronauts were able to study their foraging behavior in micro-gravity and drew some interesting conclusions about their 150-million-year-old instincts.

On Earth, ants are capable of understanding their community’s population density by counting the number of times they touch each other with their antennae. The higher number of contacts obviously indicates larger numbers of ants in the colony allowing them to be more thorough in their search for food; they move in a tight circular pattern confident that the location will yield something tasty.

As you might have guessed, in the micro-gravity of space, things are a little different. Because each ant finds itself further apart, they perceive the population to be scarce. Consequently, with great presence of mind their movements are much more straight-lined in order to cover more ground to find food.

Image: vox.com

How does this apply to our lives and the cultural evolution going on around us?

NASA believes the way in which ants react to their environment may give developers of AI (Artificial Intelligence) some food for thought. In terms of internet connectivity, Stanford University biology professor Deborah Gordon, an expert on animal collective behavior said in a statement, “Learning about the ants’ solutions might help us design network systems to solve similar problems.” So too would it have some implications for robotics, according to the Administration.

The way ants forage is by way of an inbuilt algorithm (a series of actions to be performed) honed throughout their evolution. Studying the way in which these bio-algorithms alter in space provides valuable clues to the development of our own space robotics. So too will understanding the basic nature of the ants’ working practice allow scientists and engineers to consider new ways of connectivity and improved data networks going forward.