Effects of an insecticide on German cockroach behavior

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Virginia Tech

A quantitative and qualitative study of the behavioral effects of an insecticide on various life stages of the German cockroach, Blattella germanica (L.), was conducted. Comparisons between a susceptible laboratory strain (VPI) and a resistant field strain (BP) were made to examine the relationship between physiological resistance and behavioral resistance.

The effects of vapors from a formulation of 1% propoxur in oil were compared with vapors from a mineral oil control. Vapors from the control had little effect on cockroach behavior. Adult males, adult females, and middle instars were repelled from aquaria containing the insecticide vapors. Early instars sought shelter in the pores of water sponges. No differences in behavior due to reproductive state were observed as females with oothecae and females without oothecae were equally repelled. Responses by adult males included increased movement, antennal grooming, and tarsal grooming. Electroantennogram studies showed that the vapors of the propoxur formulation were detected by the antennae.

Adults of the susceptible VPI strain responded more strongly to the insecticide vapors, relative to the controls, than did adults of the resistant BP strain. The negative correlation between physiological resistance and behavioral responses was not due to the development of behavioral resistance. Rather the resistance mechanism of the BP strain was probably responsible for inhibiting the behavioral response of that strain.

Responses to the propoxur insecticide may have been compounded by solvents in the formulation, but differences between the two strains were probably due to the propoxur. The oil base had no effect on cockroach behavior.

That wet sponges provided safe harborage for the early instars indicates the importance of even short range dispersal. Also, the use of repellent barriers to exclude cockroaches from sensitive areas may become less effective if physiological resistance in cockroach populations is accompanied by decreased avoidance responses. Knowledge of the levels of physiological resistance must be supplemented by an understanding of the behavioral characteristics of insect populations for the successful development of pest control programs.