Immigrant Cockroach from Asia Found in New York City

By Marcia Anderson

RoachThere has been a lot of talk about immigrants entering the U.S. lately, but did you know that there are two new international species of cockroach: one in New York City, the other in the Southwest?

New York City is home to eight million people and countless cockroaches, so what’s a few more? That’s right. Better make room in the apartment for a few cousins from across the Pacific.

The new roach is Periplaneta japonica, a petite Asian relative of the common American cockroach. The species was first spotted in New York in 2012 by an exterminator checking a roach trap on the High Line, an elevated walkway and park on Manhattan’s west side. The Asian immigrant was positively identified by two Rutgers University insect biologists: Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista, through its DNA. It was documented in the Journal of Economic Entomology “Using DNA Barcodes to Confirm the Presence of a New Invasive Cockroach Pest in New York City.”

The biologists suspect that one or more of the ornamental plants that adorn the High Line arrived in soil that contained the new pest. Despite the fact that the High Line’s gardens focus on native plants, many nurseries grow native plants alongside imports. The roaches, commonly found in China and Korea, may have traveled to the U.S. in the soil of the imports.

Time to call the Mayor and the National Guard? The Rutgers researchers say there probably is no reason for New Yorkers to panic because this species is very similar to the cockroaches that already exist in the city. The new roaches may thrive in the northeast and out-compete their local American cockroach cousins, due to a unique ability to survive freezing temperatures and to tolerate snow. So what? It is not like there is a shortage of cockroaches in New York City or in any other urban area.

Roaches are the real survivors. Think about it. Cockroaches have been around for 300 million years, long before the dinosaurs, and have survived multiple global extinction events. They are built to survive and have a well-earned reputation for the ability to live in the worst of conditions, including scant food or even no air for a time. It is often said that if humanity succeeds in destroying itself, roaches will inherit the Earth.

What about interbreeding and creating a super roach?  That’s an unsettling thought! Remember the super roach in “Men in Black”? Will it soon be time to call in Agents K and J to save Manhattan, again? Not to worry. It is highly unlikely there will be any crossbreeding because of physical differences.

Is the Asian cockroach an invasive species? To be truly invasive, a species has to move in, take over and out-compete a native species. That does not appear to be the case here because this species is very similar to the multiple cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment. However, the Rutgers scientists believe that it will likely compete with other species for space and for food. Competition is a good thing. The roaches may spend more time and energy competing and less time and energy reproducing.

Health Concerns: Indoor cockroaches are a leading causes of allergies, asthma and other bronchial disorders in humans. In fact, cockroaches are one of the main triggers for asthma attacks for children living in inner cities, and the higher rate of asthma in kids. Additionally, cockroaches are capable of carrying disease organisms and bacteria on their bodies and in their fecal material. The presence of cockroaches in and around urban structures is an indication that cockroach food, moisture and harborage resources are present. These conditions allow them to proliferate.

Still concerned about roaches invading your neighborhood? Until recently, efforts to control cockroaches in the urban environment have relied almost exclusively on repeated pesticide applications. This approach to cockroach control has become increasingly less popular, primarily due to roaches developing resistance to pesticides and increased public concern about pesticide use in their living environment, especially around children. These two issues emphasize the need for a more holistic approach to cockroach management and for a way off of the pesticide treadmill.

Here’s how to prevent roaches from taking over your home, school, or office: There is a lot that you can do to prevent a roach invasion by following a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  Roach control is most easily accomplished by exclusion (keeping cockroaches out) and sanitation (eliminating food, water and shelter). Not only will these measures reduce an existing cockroach problem, they will prevent future infestations. In addition to preventative measures, cockroach traps and insecticide baits and gels may be needed to control an active infestation. In the case of infestations, having a professional provide advice and on both IPM and pesticides is a wise decision and may save time, money and reduce unnecessary exposure to pesticides.

Look for more on smart, sensible, and sustainable ways to manage cockroaches in an upcoming blog.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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West Nile Virus and Reduction of Mosquito Habitats – Part 1

By Marcia Anderson

I have been following the “Worst Outbreak of West Nile Virus (WNV) since 1999” reports in newspapers and on the Internet for days. So far there are 1,118 reported cases and 41 deaths.  Companies have been hired to spray insecticide by plane over Dallas, Texas since August 16. The pyrethroid insecticide selected is said to kill adult mosquitoes by direct contact. In addition, New York City began ground-based spraying on August 24, also to protect people from West Nile Virus. However, spraying is only a temporary answer to the problem, as only adult mosquitoes are killed. Mosquito larvae still reside in bodies of water and will emerge as adults one to five days later.

Why is mosquito control important? About 1 percent of the people that contract WNV usually get either meningitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, or encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. People with suppressed immune systems and older people are the most vulnerable to contracting the disease and there is no human vaccine for WNV.

Hungry mosquitoes are attracted to body warmth and exhalation of carbon dioxide. They also find their victims by sight and by chemical sensors. They are especially attuned to ammonia and lactic acid typical in human sweat. The sensors work best in humid air. Only the female mosquitoes require a blood meal which is necessary for making eggs. Did you know that women are bitten more often than men, as women have slightly higher body temperature than men?

What can you do to protect yourself? Follow the 4 Ds:

  1. Use an insect repellant for deterrent.
  2. Dress wearing long sleeves and long pants.
  3. Avoid being in mosquito prone areas around dusk and dawn.
  4. Make sure all standing water is drained.

The fact is that all mosquitoes need water to breed. Many mosquitoes living in urban and suburban settings prefer to breed in standing water rich in decomposing organic material and will not lay eggs in clear water. Dead leaves, grass clippings and algae, quickly begin to break down in moist habitats and produce an infusion that is highly attractive to the females. They are particularly abundant in areas where sewage leaks into drainage systems, catch basins and storm drains. Others will only lay eggs in clean water. The peak time some mosquitoes to bite is just following sunset and just before sunrise, so cover-up or use repellants if you are going to be outside at these times, however, there are some mosquitoes that are 24- hour feeders.

What else can you do? The best  non-chemical mosquito management approach is to reduce/eliminate breeding habitats through the following steps:

1. Identify locations and sizes of all stagnant water bodies, including basins, storm drains, blocked roof gutters, and all water retaining containers. These are all important mosquito larval habitats.

2. Remove or destroy domestic breeding sites. By eliminating all standing water and water collecting containers, you can reduce the number of mosquitoes in your neighborhood. Sites include discarded appliances, car parts, plastic bags, tarps, food containers, tires, pet water bowls left out for days,  saucers, potted plants, and birdbaths, kiddy pools, children’s play equipment left outside to collect water, and garbage cans and dumpsters without proper drainage or lids.

If you live in an area with swales, open stormwater culverts or trenches, they need to be maintained to prevent them from becoming filled with sediment and plant debris. This will cause ponding or puddles of water that may soon become a mosquito breeding habitat. Clogged gutters and flat roof tops with poor drainage are commonly overlooked mosquito breeding habitats.  Thus, if there is standing water close to you, that you cannot do anything about, please call 311 in New York City.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Keeping the Pests Away

By Lina Younes

Recently, I had a bug infestation in my pantry. Nope. I’m not talking about cockroaches, ants or rodents. There were numerous small beetle-like bugs attacking foods like flour, dry cereals, and even boxed pasta products. I was surprised to see the infestation given the fact that I’ve always strived to abide by integrated pest management practices. Didn’t think that this was happening in our household!

My husband’s immediate reaction was to suggest spraying the whole place with an insecticide to get rid of the bugs. I agreed with discarding those products that seemed to be the focus of the infestation, but I didn’t want to spray an area that would be in contact with food. I didn’t want insecticide residues to remain in my pantry long after the spraying. So, I set aside several hours to empty the pantry completely. I discarded all the cereals and flour-based products in bags and boxes. I cleaned the pantry thoroughly to get rid of any crumbs or remnants of those unwanted critters. Then, I put the canned goods back in. Any new cereals or flour-based products were placed in plastic or glass containers before going in the pantry.

There are simple tips on how to prevent pests from entering your home. If you’ve eliminated the sources of food, water and shelter first, it is unlikely that they will seek refuge in your home. However, if you’ve taken preventive measures and they still become a nuisance, then you should apply low-risk pesticides properly. Remember that using more is not always better, Cleanliness and these simple steps can go a long way to keep your home pest-free.

So, it’s been several weeks since the get-rid-of-the-bugs operation. I’m happy to report that the pantry is still bug-free. Have you had a similar bug attack? How have you eliminated these unwanted creatures? Send us your comments. We would like to know.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as the Multilingual Communications Liaison. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.