We think we can outsmart nature.
But we are wrong, so terribly wrong. Nature wins every time. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about floods, erosion or even the smallest things like cockroaches.
Yes, that ghastly insect we all love to hate.
They make women scream, men stamp on them at every turn, we poison them and try to eradicate them, but they are still with us; and Mother Nature is making sure they will be with of us for a long long time yet.
Cockroaches lose their ‘sweet tooth’ to evade traps
A strain of cockroaches in Europe has evolved to outsmart the sugar traps used to eradicate them.
American scientists found that the mutant cockroaches had a “reorganised” sense of taste, making them perceive the glucose used to coat poisoned bait not as sweet but rather as bitter.
A North Carolina State University team tested the theory by giving cockroaches a choice of jam or peanut butter.
They then analysed the insects’ taste receptors, similar to our taste buds.
Researchers from the same team first noticed 20 years ago that some pest controllers were failing to eradicate cockroaches from properties, because the insects were simply refusing to eat the bait.
Dr Coby Schal explained in the journal Science that this new study had revealed the “neural mechanism” behind this refusal.
Jam v peanut butter
In the first part of the experiment, the researchers offered the hungry cockroaches a choice of two foods – peanut butter or glucose-rich jam [known as jelly is the US].
“The jelly contains lots of glucose and the peanut butter has a much smaller amount,” explained Dr Schal.
“You can see the mutant cockroaches taste the jelly and jump back – they’re repulsed and they swarm over the peanut butter.”
In the second part of the experiment, the team was able to find out exactly why the cockroaches were so repulsed.
The scientists immobilised the cockroaches and used tiny electrodes to record the activity of taste receptors – cells that respond to flavour that are “housed” in microscopic hairs on the insects’ mouthparts
“The cells that normally respond to bitter compounds were responding to glucose in these [mutant] cockroaches,” said Dr Schal.
“So they’re perceiving glucose to be a bitter compound.
“The sweet-responding cell does also fire, but the bitter compound actually inhibits it – so the end result is that bitterness overrides sweetness.”
Highly magnified footage of these experiments clearly shows a glucose-averse cockroach reacting to a dose of the sugar.
“It behaves like a baby that rejects spinach,” explained Dr Schal.
“It shakes its head and refuses to imbibe that liquid, at the end, you can see the [glucose] on the side of the head of the cockroach that has refused it.”
So, we’re not about to be rid of these horrid creatures anytime soon.
Mother Nature is winning the battle.