Finally, Scientists Explain Why It’s So Hard To Get Rid Of Cockroaches

When it comes to bugs that make our skin crawl, cockroaches rank pretty high on the list. Eek, they can fly! Ick, they make an audible noise when skedaddling across the kitchen counter. Plus, the buggers emerge from dark places and, dare you squash them, you can hear them crunch.

It’s safe to say cockroaches are unwelcome pests in many households. But, if you’ve ever wondered why they’re so difficult to get rid of, scientists are ready to lend an explanation. (Fair warning, it will sound like they ripped a page from the script of a horror film.)

First things first. Cockroaches are survivors. Proof: They’ve been around for millions of years, outliving even the dinosaurs. We even found out last year that cockroaches have personalities, with some being braver than others, according to one university study.

The latest research, though, out of Japan and published in the peer-reviewed “Zoological Letters,” explains that females can breed for years and multiply dozens of times, without ever needing the help of males, explains the Wall Street Journal. For the study, the team tracked a group of female roaches for three years, starting with a colony of 15 virgins. At one point, the roach colony grew to number 1,000, all of them female, study author and entomologist Hiroshi Nishino told the Wall Street Journal.

american cockroach photo
Flickr | justinbaeder

This form of asexual reproduction that doesn’t rely on males is known as parthenogenesis. Scientists have long known that female cockroaches can give birth this way, but the latest study is interesting because it shows that the American cockroach can go years without needing a male to reproduce. They’re independent, to say the least.

Plus, Nishino went on to explain, anti-infestation strategies rely on luring males to one place with synthetic female hormones so they can be exterminated, according to the Wall Street Journal. This approach, though, clearly doesn’t work when roach populations are all female.

The team would now like to determine how to better kill roaches. (We’re cheering them on!)

“Cockroaches have survived for 300 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs, with hardly any change to their shape,” Nishino told the Wall Street Journal. “I’d like to understand better why they are so skilled at adapting to their environment.”

In the meantime, a good DIY approach to rid your home of roaches is by setting out a shallow dish or bowl with equal parts sugar and baking soda. The sugar will lure the roaches, but the mixture is deadly to them, explains CNN.