Invasive cockroach found in NYC can take the cold (Update)

Dec 09, 2013 by Frank Eltman
In this Jan. 9, 2013 photo provided by the University of Florida, the male Periplaneta japonica is shown. The new strain of cockroach that can withstand harsh winter cold. Although, it has never been found in the United States before, the hardy insect has invaded New York City. Scientists believe that it's too early to speculate, but they believe there is probably little cause for concern. (AP Photo/University of Florida)

The High Line, a park that turned a dilapidated stretch of elevated railway on Manhattan's West Side into one of New York's newest tourist attractions, may have brought a different kind of visitor: a cockroach that can withstand harsh winter cold and never seen before in the U.S.

Rutgers University insect biologists Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista said the species Periplaneta japonica is well documented in Asia but was never confirmed in the United States until now. The scientists, 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.

"Because this species is very similar to cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment," Evangelista said, "they likely will compete with each other for space and for food."

That competition, Ware said, will likely keep the population low, "because more time and energy spent competing means less time and energy to devote to reproduction."

Michael Scharf, a professor of urban entomology at Purdue University, said the discovery is something to monitor.

"To be truly invasive, a species has to move in and take over and out-compete a native species," he said. "There's no evidence of that, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about it."

The newcomer was first spotted in New York in 2012, by an exterminator working on the High Line.

In this Jan. 9, 2013 photo provided by the University of Florida, both male, left, and female Periplaneta japonica are shown. The Periplaneta japonica is a new strain of cockroach possessing powers to withstand harsh winter cold. The species has never been seen before in the United States, but has invaded New York City. Scientists say that while it is too soon to predict the insect's impact, there is probably little cause for concern. (AP Photo/University of Florida)

The scientists suspect the little critter was likely a stowaway in the soil of ornamental plants used to adorn the park. "Many nurseries in the United States have some native plants and some imported plants," Ware said. "It's not a far stretch to picture that that is the source."

High Line said in a statement it sources its plants through mostly northeastern U.S. nurseries, which go through USDA inspections, and that no issues were raised with them.

"Our team of experts will continue to keep an eye on it," the statement said. The statement said High Line does not believe the insect is having a negative impact on the park.

Periplaneta japonica has special powers not seen in the local roach population: It can survive outdoors in the freezing cold.

In this Jan. 9, 2013 photo provided by the University of Florida, the female Periplaneta japonica is shown. The Periplaneta japonica is new strain of cockroach that is hardy enough to withstand harsh winter cold. It has never been found in the United States before, but it has invaded New York City. Scientists believe that it's too early to tell, but but they believe there is probably little cause for concern. (AP Photo/University of Florida)

"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," Ware said. "I could imagine japonica being outside and walking around, though I don't know how well it would do in dirty New York snow."

The likelihood that the new species will mate with the locals to create a hybrid super-roach is slim.

"The male and female genitalia fit together like a lock and key, and that differs by species," Evangelista says. "So we assume that one won't fit the other."

Explore further: The invasive Turkestan cockroach is displacing the oriental cockroach in the southwestern US

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alfie_null
not rated yet Dec 09, 2013
Ask someone from, say, Minnesota, or even upstate NY, if winter in NYC can be considered cold.

I wonder to what extent our penchant for eliminating all indoor bugs has affected the success of pests like cockroaches. The first time I encountered a house centipede, for instance, I was not very welcoming. It is pretty creepy looking. I've since come to understand house centipedes predate on cockroaches as well as a bunch of other troublesome invaders, and for all their appearance, aren't troublesome to humans.