Critters

High Line Park “Welcomes” Winter-Ready Cockroach

A new breed of visitor is frequenting the High Line park.   

Last year an exterminator at the popular park found an unfamiliar critter in a trap and sent it off to an insect lab. Researchers from Rutgers and the University of Florida have determined that the roach was an Asian species of cockroach - Periplaneta japonica – never before seen in this country that, unlike other cockroaches, can survive outdoors in freezing temperatures. 

Male (left) and female Periplaneta japonica were found on New York City's High Line (Photo: Lyle Buss, University of Florida).

Male (left) and female Periplaneta japonica were found on New York City’s High Line (Photo: Lyle Buss, University of Florida)

“About 20 years ago colleagues of ours in Japan reared nymphs of this species and measured their tolerance to being able to survive in snow,” said Jessica Ware, co-author (with Dominic Evangelista and Lyle Buss) of a study just published by the Journal of Economic Entomology, in an announcement from Rutgers.

“As the species has invaded Korea and China, there has been some confirmation that it does very well in cold climates, so it is very conceivable that it could live outdoors during winter in New York.”

The study authors suspect that the pest arrived in the soil used for certain ornamental plants at the High Line, but, while still too early today, noted that the citing is no need for alarm – in fact, it could act to subdue the overall cockroach population.

“Because this species is very similar to cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment… they likely will compete with each other for space and for food,” meaning that “their combined numbers inside buildings could actually fall because more time and energy spent competing means less time and energy to devote to reproduction,” the researchers noted.

While the roaches did survive in the snow in the Japanese studies, Ms. Ware said, “I don’t know how well it would do in dirty New York snow.”  

In addition, interbreeding into a “hybrid super-roach” is impossible, because different species have different genitalia. 

“The male and female genitalia fit together like a lock and key and that differs by species,” Mr. Evangelista said. “So we assume that one won’t fit the other.”

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