NC State Research: Staying Ahead Of The Mutating Cockroach

Jul 5, 2013

Some German cockroaches have mutated to become averse to glucose, which is used in many household roach baits.
Credit Sarah Camp / Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at N.C. State are trying to pinpoint mutations that have allowed some cockroaches to avoid sugar-based insecticides. 

Many household roach baits use sugars to lure the insects toward the poison.  But recent studies have shown some German cockroaches have adapted to be genetically averse to glucose and therefore the insecticides within the bait. 

N.C. State entomology professor Coby Schal says gene mutations move quickly through their generations as they can produce offspring every few months.

"Most of these mutations are not beneficial to the insect and are purged from the insect, but sometimes a mutation arises that is beneficial, as in this case," Schal says.

"That mutation is then selected upon and becomes common in higher frequency in the population. So we know there's a physiological change, we know there's a genetic change, and our task now is to understand what the underlying genetic change is; what specific mutations have taken place in these cockroaches."

Schal says he and his colleagues hope isolating the genes responsible for the roaches' adaptations will allow bait producers to come up with new formulas to fight the pests.