Friday Fellow: American Cockroach

by Piter Kehoma Boll

ResearchBlogging.org Celebrating the end of the world, there would be no more suitable creature to be featured in our FF than the american cockroach, Periplaneta americana, so famous as a probable (or possible) survivor after a global cataclysm and, of course, as one of the most conspicuous house pests.

Despite its name, this species is not native from the United States or any country in the Americas, but was introduced from Africa and is nowadays common worldwide, especially in tropical climates. It favours dark and humid sites, like pipes, sewers, basements, etc. Even though more common in restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, they can sometimes be found inside residences, usually coming from sewers via the plumbing at night.

American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). Photo by Wikimedia user Termiteman. Extracted from commons.wikimedia.org

American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). Photo by Wikimedia user Termiteman. Extracted from commons.wikimedia.org

What makes it so easy do adapt to many environments are its generalistic and opportunistic diet. American cockroaches can feed on almost everything, from all kinds of human food to paper, hair, cloth  and even shoes.

As this species moves from places  where human waste is disposed to food-storaging areas, it can become a public health problem, spreading more than 20 species of pathogenic organisms, including bacteria, virus, fungi, protozoans and helminthic worms. However, from another perspective, it’s ecological paper as a scavenger may be helping human sewers and other waste-conducting ways to stay functional by consuming detritus and preventing them to get obstructed.

Several management methods are known to reduce cockroach infestations, including insecticides or biological control through parasitoid wasps which lay their eggs inside the cockroach eggcases. Reducing moist areas around and inside buildings can also prevent infestations by removing sites that are attractive to these pests.

There are many divergences about the lifespan of american cockroaches, but it seems that it can live more than a thousand days since hatching and may survive more than a month without food and water.

Considering such aspects, it’s logical to assume that the american cockroach could easily survive a worldwide catastrophe and go on very well, maybe even getting advantages by the sudden increase in food availability from the corpses all around.

– – –

References:

Barbara, K. A. 2011. American Cockroach, Periplaneta americana (Linnaeus) (Insecta: Blattodea: Blattidae). University of Florida, IFAS Extension, 5 p.

Jones, S. C. 2008. American Cockroach. The Ohio State University, 3 p.

Vianna, E. E. S.; Berne, M. E. A. & Ribeiro, P. B. 2001. Desenvolvimento e longevidade de Periplaneta americana Linneu, 1758 (Blattodea: Blattidae). Revista Brasileira de Agrociências, 7 (2), 111-115

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