Combating Cockroaches and Their ScumBy
Curbing cockroaches and the allergens they leave behind just became easier,
thanks to new strategies and tools developed by
Agricultural Research Service scientists.
Cockroach body parts, feces, saliva and eggs left behind on surfaces contain
allergenic substances that are particularly dangerous to people with asthma
or other respiratory conditions, according to Richard J. Brenner, an entomologist
who heads the ARS Imported
Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Unit in Gainesville, Fla.
ARS is working on various research projects to develop strategies to reduce
cockroach infestations and related human health risks. Cooperators include the
Departments of Defense and Energy, the Food and Drug Administration, the
Environmental Protection Agency and the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research
Institute in Little Rock, Ark.
Brenner's team has confirmed the staying power of cockroach allergens. In
1990, the scientists infested an experimental kitchen with German cockroaches.
They removed the roaches in February 1991. Tests showed the cockroach allergens
were still present 5 years later.
The researchers have come up with innovative tools for combating this
infamous critter. One new device is a highly sensitive cockroach antigen
detection kit. The technique measures as little as 150 "cockroach hour"
units--that's the equivalent amount of antigens left behind from six German
cockroaches spending 25 hours on a four inch by four inch surface.
The scientists have also developed a computerized precision targeting system
that helps determine the location and distribution of cockroaches based on
current trap counts and trap locations. Once trap data are entered into the
computer, spatial analysis is used to construct "contour maps" showing
the population centers needing treatment. This technology helps reduce
pesticides by allowing pest control operators to ignore pest-free areas and
treat only pest-infested areas, instead of spraying or fumigating an entire
An in-depth story on this research appears in the June issue of Agricultural
Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Richard J. Brenner, Imported Fire Ant and Household
Insects Research Unit, Center for
Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Fla.,
phone (352) 374-5855, fax (352) 374-5818, firstname.lastname@example.org.