Asian cockroach able to survive cold colonises New York's High Line

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 December, 2013, 3:28am


The High Line, a park that turned a dilapidated stretch of elevated railway on Manhattan's West Side into a New York tourist attractions, may have brought a different kind of visitor: a cockroach that can withstand harsh winter cold and has been never seen before in the U.S.

Rutgers University insect biologists Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista said the species Periplaneta japonica was well documented in Asia but never confirmed in the United States until now.

The scientists, whose findings were published in the latest Journal of Economic Entomology, say it is too soon to predict the impact but that there is probably little cause for concern.

"Because this species is very similar to cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment, they likely will compete with each other for space and for food," Evangelista said.

That competition, Ware said, would likely keep the population low, "because more time and energy spent competing means less time and energy to devote to reproduction".

The newcomer was first spotted in New York last year by an exterminator working on the High Line.

The scientists suspect the creature was a stowaway in the soil of ornamental plants used to adorn the park. "Many nurseries in the United States have some native plants and some imported plants," Ware said. "It's not a far stretch to picture that that is the source."

Periplaneta japonica has special powers not seen in the local roach population: it can survive outdoors in the freezing cold.

"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," Ware said. "I could imagine japonica being outside and walking around, though I don't know how well it would do in dirty New York snow."