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Cold-Resistant Cockroaches Found on High Line

By Mathew Katz | December 9, 2013 11:42am | Updated on December 9, 2013 8:15pm
 A male and female Periplaneta japonica roach, which were discovered on the High Line in 2012.
A male and female Periplaneta japonica roach, which were discovered on the High Line in 2012.
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Lyle Buss, Univ. of Florida

CHELSEA — New York City cockroaches are tough, but these roaches are even tougher.

A team of scientists from Rutgers University has identified a new species of winter-proof cockroaches never before found in the United States that have now made New York their home, the school announced on Monday.

Typically found in Asia, the Periplaneta japonica can survive both indoors and in freezing cold temperatures. The unusual-looking roach was first spotted by an exterminator clearing out traps on the High Line in 2012.

Insect biologists Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista positively identified the roach carcasses as belonging to the Asian species.

“As the species has invaded Korea and China, there has been some confirmation that it does very well in cold climates, so it is very conceivable that it could live outdoors during winter in New York," said Ware, who with Evangelista published a study on the bug in the Journal of Economic Entomology.  "That is in addition to its being well suited to live indoors alongside the species that already are here.”

New Yorkers fearing that the new cockroach could breed super-strong offspring with NYC's native roaches, worry not. According to the scientists, there's little chance of interbreeding, since the strains of roaches don't match when it comes to their reproductive organs.

“The male and female genitalia fit together like a lock and key and that differs by species,” Evangelista said in a statement. “So we assume that one won’t fit the other.”

The scientists suspect that the new roach arrived in soil for one of the ornamental plants covering the High Line. According to the High Line's website, the mile-long park has more than 100,000 plants.

“Many nurseries in the United States have some native plants and some imported plants,” Ware said in a statement. “So it's not a far stretch to picture that that is the source.”

Jennifer Pastrich, a spokeswoman for Friends of the High Line, said the new roach would likely not cause much havoc in the park.

“We spotted species Periplaneta japonica last year and, as with all insects and other creatures that inhabit the space, have been monitoring any impact. Fortunately, we do not believe this insect is having a negative impact on the park," the spokeswoman said. 

“Our team of experts will continue to keep an eye on it.”