Flatulent cockroaches adapt to climate change

It seems cockroaches are quite adaptable creatures when it comes to climate change according to recent research. The widely loathed insects can hold their breath to save water, a new study has found – a trick that could help them to thrive in the face of climate change.

cockroach scuttling across floor

The research highlighted that cockroaches close the spiracles (through which they breathe) primarily to save water. In dry environments the insects took shorter breaths than in moist conditions. This reduces the amount of water cockroaches will lose. Their nifty breath-holding adaptation has allowed cockroaches over time to colonise drier habitats. It may also allow them to thrive in future climates changed by global warming.

It’s well known that cattle, sheep and even elephants generate the greenhouse gas methane. On average a cow release between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year. Methane is also 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of potential to intensify global warming according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007).

Yet studies have now shown that insect flatulence may account for one-fifth of all the methane emissions on this planet!  Insects such as centipedes, termites and beetles are all major producers of methane. Cockroaches, however, are the only one which is considered a pest in the UK, as they are carriers of harmful bacteria, particularly Salmonella.

cockroach in plugholeCockroaches release more methane in relation to their body weight than any other creature in Britain. The American cockroach for example, can give off up to 35g a year of methane; more than 43 times their average body weight. Even after death they can continue to release methane for up to 18 hours, making cockroaches among the biggest contributors to global warming.

So if you’ve noticed an unpleasant, lingering odour under your sink, behind appliances or in store cupboards it may just indicate you have a flatulent cockroach problem!

Signs of a Cockroach Infestation

  • Unusual smell – An established cockroach infestation produces a lingering and unpleasant odour that taints items they contact.
  • Cockroach droppings – If little water is available cockroaches will produce brown/black cylindrical droppings, approx. 2mm long.
  • Smear marks – If water is abundant cockroaches will produce brown and irregular shaped smear marks. Check for marks on horizontal surfaces and at wall-floor junctions where cockroaches scuttle along.
  • Shed skins – Cockroaches shed ‘cast nymphal’ skins 5-8 times as they mature to adults. These shed skins are usually found close to where the cockroaches are sheltering.

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