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Plague of cockroaches leaves Moscow scientists baffled

by at 26/07/2011 19:02

Cockroaches have returned to Moscow while experts were guessing why – and where – the unwanted guests had apparently disappeared.

Residents of Mal. Gruzinskaya Ulitsa were the first to wintess thousands of cockroaches that suddenly appeared in the central area.

“The floor is just covered with them, we’ve got tired of sweeping it!” local flatowner Larisa told Vesti-Moskva TV-channel. “Most of them are on windowsills, look – those guys are just hanging out!”

 

Mystery invasion

The reasons for the cockroach invasion are unclear, and experts say they did expect to see them again after a sudden disappearance but didn’t think it was going to happen overnight.

Professor Dmitry Mukha, the head of the laboratory for biological diversity, thought cockroaches would get used to the latest pesticides in five years time, he told Komsomolskaya Pravda just before the invasion.

“When they develop tolerance to these chemicals, a second wave will appear then,” he said, adding that his laboratory is currently working on the new remedy.

However, cockroaches decided to come back before the arrival of a new pesticide that would help humans win the war “for a long time, if not forever”, as the professor hoped.

 

Endangered cockroaches?

The sudden plague comes after a sharp drop in cockroach numbers, which had led some biologists to propose adding the pests to the list of endangered species.

“Although they are parasites, every species bears a unique gene pool,” Alexandr Logunov, acclaimed ecologist and one of the creators of Russia’s Red Book, told KP.

His “natural modesty” and “people’s dislike” of the most widespread German cockroaches didn’t let him nominate this breed for the list, he said, but soon he was going to do so.

As an endangered species, cockroaches would be protected from angry residents – but for now at least there is no restriction on how to control them.

 

Hardy Germans

However, there seems to have been some ethnic cleansing going on among the cockroach ranks.

Only German cockroaches, who were first brought here by Russian soldiers returning to the motherland after the war with Prussia in the middle of the 18th century, have came back now.

And their oriental brothers – who appeared long before during the Mongol invasion – are still very rare – and not only due to some unknown Chinese pesticide that was widely sold in the end of the 90s.

Mukha believes that the superefficient chemical has nearly eradicated all breeds of cockroaches in Moscow, and Loginov added that the Oriental cockroaches are more vulnerable in general.

Unlike German cockroaches, female oriental cockroaches don’t carry their eggs on them, the biologist said.

“And of course, in premises where both breeds lived, German cockroaches would certainly eat any eggs they found from their neighbours,” he explained.

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