A great sage once said that New York City is a concrete jungle where dreams are made. So which demented mind dreamed of the cockroach that can survive the freezing cold? That's what scientists want to know after a discovering a new non-native species of cockroach roaming the wilderness of Manhattan's west side.
"Periplaneta japonica has special powers not seen in the local roach population: It can survive outdoors in the freezing cold," the Associated Press reports. Periplaneta japonica is the scientific drag name that the super cockroach goes by, better known in circles in Asia as "That's disgusting."
The eater of dreams was first spotted on the High Line , the renovated railroad-turned-park on Manhattan's west side and popular tourist destination in 2012. It's first time the Asian species was spotted in the United States. Scientists surmise that a critter tucked itself in the soil of some of the plants found in the park, where it has proven to be especially hardy.
Though it is a foreign invader, researchers are trying to ward off fears that it will wipe out the natives and take over the country. "The scientists [Rutgers's Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista], whose findings were published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, say it is too soon to predict the impact but that there is probably little cause for concern," the AP adds. "Little cause for concern" is of course a lot easier said when you're not actually living near the periplaneta japonica.
For New Yorkers, winter has traditionally been a time of respite from cockroaches. When it gets cold during the days, cockroaches slow down and make themselves scarce while humans stock up on traps and sleep with ease. It's a shaky truce. Japonica threatens that balance since it can apparently endure the bitterest of colds. Less than 23 °F to be exact. The Zoological Society of Japan studied its freezing tolerance and found that the roach has no qualms about being cold :
In the temperature range from -5 to -8℃ [ 23 °F to 17 °F], a significant proportion of cockroaches could tolerate a 12 hr period of tissue freezing. The freeze tolerance capacity differed between nymphal instars, but the supercooling capacity was similar for all nymphs. In a freezing trial at -6 and -7℃, none of the first instar nymphs recovered after tissue freezing, whereas many mid (from 3rd to 5th) and final (8th) instar nymphs survived freezing.
There is no city-wide call to destroy this hellbeast (yet). And of course, New Yorkers are accustomed to roach warfare. But there is actually one defense New Yorkers have in addition to our battery of exterminators, traps, sprays, and those weird bug repellers you plug into the electric socket: Our filthy snow.
"I could imagine japonica being outside and walking around, though I don't know how well it would do in dirty New York snow," Ware, one of the Rutgers scientists, told the AP. Dirty snow, the High Line, the super roach. God bless this circle of life.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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