Cockroach Sex Is Evolving in Response to Pesticides

By Will Sullivan | Smithsonian Magazine |

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE - For decades, humans have set traps for cockroaches and laced them with sugar to attract the insects to their doom. But in response, some populations of cockroaches developed a self-preserving distaste for glucose, which allows them to steer clear of the traps.

As it turns out, though, a glucose aversion can kill the mood during cockroach mating, a ritual centered around a secreted sweet treat the male presents to the female.

In a study published last week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists show that lab-raised German cockroaches have adapted to maintain their sex lives while still avoiding sugary baited traps. Males have tweaked the recipe for their sweet “nuptial gifts,” making their offerings more palatable to females that have been turned off to glucose by human-produced poisons.

The findings highlight how resilient German cockroaches can be. The insects “overcome challenges over and over,” Chow-Yang Lee, an urban entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, who did not contribute to the study, tells the Atlantic. “You cannot help but have a lot of respect.”



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