NYC weather is inspiring giant cockroaches to take to the skies

Cockroac
CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

It’s hot, it's humid, it's oppressive … and the city water bug cockroaches love it so much they’ve started to fly!

Think of a hot misty rainforest; now swap the scent of soil and trees with that of steaming rotten garbage and festering body fluids. That’s New York City right now. Tomorrow we will be welcoming a heat and humidity mash-up to ring in a heat index of 110F. It’s as if someone put a wool blanket over a steam bath perfumed with stench, the air is so thick you can grab it by the handfuls. Summer in the city can be brutal, but ... also a singular sultry thing, and the sweaty stalwarts who haven’t escaped to cooler climes find some wonderful community with the other left-behinds. It’s great, but it’s hardcore.

However, while we humans are slogging through the hot pea soup, the cockroaches are t-h-r-i-v-i-n-g. In fact, they’re spreading their wings and flying. Literally.

This is a story of the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). Not the skittish little ones that live in cabinets and creases, but the giant ones – reaching astonishing lengths of 3 inches or more – that seemingly appear from nowhere. In the south they are called Palmetto bugs, and are elsewhere referred to as water bugs … likely because they revel in city sewers. So charming. They come into our homes in search of food and water. Finding one inside is basically like stumbling across the awful love child or a threesome gone wrong, an unlikely mix of a lobster, an armadillo and a creepy alien.

And in the heat of the summer, add a pterodactyl to that impossible parentage because in weather like this, they fly.

CockroachWikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

“In hot steam tunnels, something with the temperature and the humidity encourages them to fly,” Ken Schumann, an entomologist at Bell Environmental Services, tells DNAinfo “When it's warm and steamy that seems to be what they like."

Louis Sorkin from the American Museum of Natural History says that "with more heat they have more use of their muscles."

As it turns out, in the south and in the suburbs, American cockroaches fly more frequently. But New York City’s smorgasbord of garbage actually has a bright side (for the admittedly cockroach squeamish like myself), it means that the little leggy creeps get their fill without having to resort to flight.

Exterminator Rich Miller explains that with evolution, "their wings became less and less important to them. There’s so much food around, they don’t use their wings like they used to." He says he’s known roaches to soar down an entire city block.

As much of an aversion as I may have to them, I love the creature world in general so much that I’m trying to feel happy for the monstrous things. While we’re turning into limp puddles of humanity in the hard grip of summer, at least something is having a good time, taking joyrides through the air one city block at a time, whooping it up until cooler days arrive.

In the meantime, I’ll be locked in my panic room.

Via DNAinfo

Tags: Insects | New York City | Summer

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