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Distribution of the Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai(Dictyoptera: Blattellidae), in Dothan, Alabama.

ABSTRACT

The city-wide distribution of the Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo, was determined in Dothan, Alabama in 2008. Surveys were conducted in the summers of 2004 and 2008 and consisted of site visits to all city parks and municipal facilities as well as a number of home, business, and municipal landscapes. Asian cockroaches were found at 95.1% of the locations we examined in 2008. Several sites were sampled at most locations for a total of 65 sites. The elevation of sites with Asian cockroaches was 114.00 [+ or -] 5.76 m (mean [+ or -] SD) above sea level. Of the 63 sites with Asian cockroaches, the cockroaches were found in pine straw at 36 (57.1%) sites and in oak leaf litter at 23 (36.5%) sites. Based on this survey, we conclude that the Asian cockroach is distributed throughout the city of Dothan.

INTRODUCTION

Following several reports of "flying" German cockroaches, Blattella germanica (L.), in the fall of 2003 from Alabama Cooperative Extension System agents in southeastern Alabama, specimens were obtained for identification. Using adult male specimens and characters and keys described by Mizukubo (1981) and Roth (1985, 1986), the specimens were confirmed as the Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo. The Asian cockroach was first recorded in the United States from specimens collected in Lakeland, Florida in 1986 (Brenner et al., 1986; Roth, 1986; Koehler and Patterson, 1987). Subsequently the distribution of this species has increased dramatically, and it is now established in all Florida counties (Richman, 2005; Donahoe, 2005; P.G. Koehler, pers. com.). Additional reports of Asian cockroach infestations have included eight counties in Alabama and seven counties in Georgia (Grush, 2003; Snoddy and Appel, 2008a), Charleston and Kiawah Island, South Carolina (Sitthicharoenchai, 2002; Hu et al., 2005), and Houston and Weslaco, Texas (Tucker, 2006; Austin et al., 2007; Pfannenstiel et al., 2008).

The Asian cockroach is very similar in appearance to the German cockroach and a number of other Blattella species (Roth, 1985). Unlike the German cockroach, the Asian cockroach is a peridomestic rather than a domestic pest (Brenner et al., 1988). Huge populations may develop in lawns, mulches, leaf litter, and other warm, humid, and dark substrates (Brenner et al., 1988; Snoddy et al., 2008). Although they do not generally establish populations indoors, Asian cockroaches often enter homes at night because they are attracted to lights, including televisions. Species identification is critical so that control measures are applied to the appropriate locations: indoors primarily in kitchens and bathrooms for German cockroaches and outdoors in heavily mulched areas for Asian cockroaches.

Since the Asian cockroach was first reported in Alabama from several homes in Dothan (Hu et al., 2005), our objective was to determine the distribution of this species within the city limits. Dothan is located in Houston County and is the only major city in southeastern Alabama. Several major highways including Interstate 10, and U.S. highways 82, 231, 331, and 431, connect Dothan with southwestern Georgia, northern Florida, and much of Alabama. These highways have been implicated in the increasing distribution of the Asian cockroach in Alabama and Georgia (Snoddy and Appel, 2008a, b).

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Survey Methods

Sites throughout the city of Dothan, Alabama were surveyed for the presence of Asian cockroaches using several methods. Heavily mulched areas and areas covered with leaf litter were visually inspected. Two to three square meter areas of mulch or leaf litter were probed with the handle of an insect net for no more than 5 min or until flying cockroaches were observed. We also examined outdoor trash receptacles, areas beneath landscape timbers, and around large objects such as fountains and playground equipment.

Cockroaches were collected with sweep nets, aspirators, or by hand. Specimens were sacrificed killed and stored in 70% ethanol and returned to the laboratory to confirm their identity. We relied on adult male characters as described by Mizukubo (1981) and Roth (1985, 1986) to confirm the identification of the Asian cockroach. Specifically, we examined the morphology of the tergal glands located on the 7th and 8th abdominal tergites and the subgenital plate. To examine these characters, slide mounts of the tergal glands and subgenital plate were prepared as described by Roth (1985). In addition, other adult morphological characters (Lawless, 1998) and the behavioral character of adult flight were consistent with the identification of B. asahinai. At least three adult male specimens from each site were prepared as above and identified from specimens collected in 2004.

Collections and Collection Sites

We sampled sites throughout Dothan, Alabama on several dates in June and July 2004 and intensively in August 2008. We sampled in late summer and early fall because populations of the Asian cockroach reach peak abundance in southern Alabama at those seasons (Snoddy, 2007).

In 2004, we sampled several parks, municipal facilities, and landscapes surrounding single family homes whose residents had contacted the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. In 2008, using the same sampling methods, we intensively surveyed all parks, recreation areas and municipal facilities (including cemeteries, schools, and hospitals) throughout the city of Dothan (Fig. 1). In addition, we recorded the location (Waypoint) of each site in which Asian cockroaches were found using a Garmin model GPSmap 60CSx (Garmin International, Olathe, KS) GPS receiver. GPS coordinates were downloaded from the receiver and mapped using ESRI[R] ArcMap 9.2 software (ESRI Inc., Redlands, CA).

RESULTS

A total of seven parks and five residences were inspected in 2004, and all had large populations of Asian cockroaches. The cockroaches were always found in association with organic refuse: near and under park dumpsters and behind residential trash cans. The cockroaches were also present in leaf litter (holly, magnolia, oak, and pecan) and pine straw mulch. We also visited a number (15) of additional locations throughout Dothan, including parks and schools, and did not find Asian cockroaches. Therefore in 2004, Asian cockroaches were present in 44% of the locations sampled.

In 2008, we conducted a thorough systematic survey of Dothan for the Asian cockroach. A total of 41 locations were selected and sampled throughout the city. We detected Asian cockroaches at 39 of the 41 locations (95.1%). At most locations, several sites were sampled and geographic data for a total of 65 sites were recorded (Fig. 1, Table 1). The elevation of sites with Asian cockroaches ranged from 104.85 to 123.75 m with a mean of 114.00 [+ or -]5.76 m (Table 1). Of the 63 sites with Asian cockroaches, the cockroaches were found in pine straw at 36 (57.1%) sites and in oak leaf litter at 23 (36.5%) sites (Table 1). At two sites (Waypoints 28 and 29), populations of Asian cockroaches were found in mixed oak leaf litter and pine straw together with trash such as paper cups, cardboard boxes, and aluminum soda cans all atop asphalt in a parking lot.
Table 1. Geographical location, elevation, and substrates on which
Blattella asahinai populations were sampled in Dothan, AL in August
2008.

Waypoint Position (WGS 84) Elevation above Site, type of
 sea level (m) stustrate

1 N31 18.314 W85 21.210 104.24 Park, pine bark
 mulch2

2 N31 17.767 W85 22.190 104.55 Park, pine bark
 mulch2

3 N31 17.344 W85 22.202 104.85 Park, in pine
 straw mulch

4 N31 17.369 W85 22.196 105.16 Park, in oak
 leaf litter

5 N31 16.053 W85 22.849 105.46 School, in oak
 leaf litter

6 N31 16.068 W85 22.840 105.77 School, in oak
 leaf litter

7 N31 16.026 W85 22.816 106.07 School, in oak
 leaf litter

8 N31 15.642 W85 22.362 106.38 Park, in oak
 leaf litter

9 N31 15.648 W85 22.366 106.68 Park, in oak
 leaf litter

10 N31 13.894 W85 25.855 106.98 Shopping
 center, in pine
 straw

11 N31 13.905 W85 25.846 107.29 Shopping
 center, in pine
 straw

12 N31 14.182 W85 25.457 107.59 Park, in mixed
 hardwood leaf
 litter

13 N31 14.192 W85 25.453 107.90 Park, in mixed
 hardwood leaf
 litter

14 N31 14.393 W85 25.280 108.20 School, in pine
 straw / holly
 leaf litter

15 N31 14.391 W85 25.290 108.51 School, in pine
 straw / rose
 leaf litter

16 N31 14.513 W85 25.288 108.81 School, in pine
 straw / pecan
 leaf litter

17 N31 14.526 W85 25.270 109.12 School, in pine
 straw

18 N31 14.514 W85 25.276 109.42 School, in pine
 straw

19 N31 15.171 W85 25.464 109.73 Shopping
 center, in pine
 straw

20 N31 15.158 W85 25.465 110.03 Shopping
 center, in pine
 straw

21 N31 16.301 W85 25.910 110.34 Rehabilitation
 center, in oak
 leaf litter

22 N31 16.311 W85 25.820 110.64 Rehabilitation
 center, in oak
 leaf litter

23 N31 14.364 W85 26.396 110.95 Recreation
 center, in
 magnolia leaf
 litter and pine
 straw

24 N31 14.266 W85 26.372 111.25 Recreation
 center, in pine
 straw

25 N31 14.327 W85 26.314 111.56 Recreation
 center, in pine
 straw

26 N31 14.625 W85 26.953 111.86 School, in pine
 straw

27 N31 13.597 W85 24.161 112.17 Shopping
 center, in oak
 leaf litter and
 pine straw on
 asphalt parking
 lot

28 N31 13.587 W85 24.162 112.47 Shopping
 center, in oak
 leaf litter and
 pine straw on
 asphalt parking
 lot

29 N31 13.554 W85 23.501 112.78 Civic center
 parking lot, in
 palm and oak
 leaf litter and
 pine straw

30 N31 13.475 W85 23.402 113.08 Civic center
 parking lot, in
 holly leaf
 litter

31 N31 13.483 W85 23.320 113.39 Museum, in
 weeds next to
 building

32 N31 13.323 W85 22.506 113.69 Cemetery, in
 pine, not
 juniper, straw

33 N31 12.838 W85 22.525 114.00 Park, in oak
 leaf litter

34 N31 12.709 W85 22.530 114.30 School, in pine
 straw

35 N31 13.036 W85 21.812 114.60 Medical center,
 in pine straw

36 N31 11.742 W85 22.336 114.91 Mental health
 center, in pine
 straw

37 N31 11.752 W85 22.352 115.21 Mental health
 center, in pine
 straw

38 N31 11.759 W85 22.358 115.52 Mental health
 center, in pine
 straw

39 N31 11.655 W85 22.457 115.82 Farm center, in
 pine straw

40 N31 11.372 W85 23.986 116.13 Shopping
 center, in pine
 straw

41 N31 12.424 W85 23.684 116.43 Park, in oak
 leaf litter

42 N31 12.423 W85 23.694 116.74 Park, in oak
 leaf litter

43 N31 12.481 W85 23.668 117.04 School, in pine
 straw

44 N31 12.469 W85 23.676 117.35 School, in pine
 straw

45 N31 12.319 W85 24.080 117.65 Stadium, in
 cherry and oak
 leaf litter

46 N31 12.570 W85 24.879 117.96 School, in
 azalea leaf
 litter

47 N31 12.328 W85 25.870 118.26 Cemetery, in
 pine straw

48 N31 12.307 W85 26.083 118.57 School, in
 holly leaf
 litter and pine
 straw

49 N31 12.286 W85 26.100 118.87 School, in pine
 straw

50 N31 11.384 W85 25.346 119.18 Cemetery, in
 oak leaf
 litter

51 N31 11.380 W85 25.321 119.48 Cemetery, in
 pine straw

52 N31 11.380 W85 25.309 119.79 Cemetery, in
 pine straw

53 N31 13.839 W85 24.291 120.09 School, in oak
 leaf litter

54 N31 13.851 W85 24.286 120.40 School, in dogwood
 leaf litter

55 N31 14.158 W85 24.110 120.70 School, in monkey
 grass litter

56 N31 14.262 W85 24.045 121.01 Cemetery, in oak
 leaf litter

57 N31 14.251 W85 24.020 121.31 Cemetery, in
 deciduous leaf
 litter

58 N31 14.138 W85 22.475 121.62 School, in pine
 straw

59 N31 14.027 W85 22.298 121.92 School, in oak
 leaf litter

60 N31 14.031 W85 22.315 122.22 School, in pine
 straw

61 N31 13.616 W85 21.542 122.53 Rehabilitation
 center, in pine
 straw

62 N31 13.611 W85 21.586 122.83 Rehabilitation
 center, in pine
 straw

63 N31 14.566 W85 23.316 123.14 School, in pine
 straw

64 N31 14.567 W85 23.341 123.44 School, in pine
 straw

65 N31 14.997 W85 23.294 123.75 Shopping
 center, in
 mixed organic
 debris

(1) Waypoint numbers correspond to the location number markers in
Figure 1.
(2) No cockroaches were observed.


DISCUSSION

Present in several (44%) locations in 2004, the Asian cockroach is now distributed throughout Dothan, Alabama. Although we sampled only public areas such as parks and schools in 2008, given the wide area of distribution (Fig. 1), it is reasonable to assume that the city of Dothan is generally infested with the Asian cockroach. The two locations where we could not find Asian cockroaches were the northernmost surveyed. It is possible that we did not detect cockroaches that were present or that Asian cockroaches had not yet been transported to those locations. Snoddy and Appel (2008a) found that the distribution of Asian cockroaches followed major highways and interstates northward from Florida into Alabama and Georgia and concluded that this species may be carried to new locations by human transportation. Similarly, Tucker (2006) and Austin et al. (2007) found Asian cockroaches in Houston, Texas adjacent to a major East-West interstate (I-10) and Pfannenstiel et al. (2008) reported this species from soybean fields approximately 394 km south of San Antonio, Texas and Interstate 10. Since there are no obvious geographic or macro-climatic differences between locations in Dothan, Alabama with and without Asian cockroaches, it is likely that either the cockroaches had not been transported to those locations, or that micro-climatic conditions (Snoddy, 2007) or resources were insufficient to support a population.

Asian cockroaches were found in leaf litter (primarily oak) or pine straw in all locations in Dothan where they were detected. Asian cockroaches have been associated with both living and dead plant material. They are most often associated with these materials when these materials are used as mulches or occur as leaf litter. It is likely that these cockroaches harbor in covered areas because they are darker, provide higher levels of humidity, and potentially contain food. Even though adult Asian cockroaches will readily fly when disturbed during the day and are attracted to bright lights at night, they are generally repelled by light during the day (Snoddy and Appel, personal observations). Loose pine straw mulch and leaf litter covering soil provide darkness and a large surface area for harborage. These materials also retain moisture, resulting in high humidity within the harborage. In laboratory experiments with other peridomestic cockroaches, Appel and Smith (1996) found that Periplaneta spp. preferred the most humid mulch material even though it did not have the smallest relative interstitial spaces or the lowest light intensity.

At several locations Asian cockroaches were found at one or more sites, but not at others, even 1-2 m nearby. We found that areas with tightly packed pine bark, red colored wood mulch, or juniper leaves did not support Asian cockroaches. It is possible that tightly packed moist mulch, particularly in direct sunlight, becomes too warm for cockroaches to inhabit. In the case of juniper mulch, we not only observed tightly packed leaves, but large numbers of juniper cones (berries) and detected an obvious cedar odor to the mulch. Juniper flake board was significantly repellent to the closely related German cockroach in laboratory studies (Appel and Mack, 1989) and may also be repellent to Asian cockroaches.

Asian cockroaches are clearly present throughout the city of Dothan, Alabama (Fig. 1). They are associated with outdoor organic materials including mulches, leaf litter, and other debris. This species was likely transported into Dothan, possibly on cars and trucks carrying mulch and plant material from Florida (Smith, 2006). Since its introduction into Florida in 1985 (Roth, 1986), this invasive species has spread throughout Florida and into at least four additional states. Further research on the behavior, ecology, and physiology of this species will lead to the development of a comprehensive integrated pest management system for this rapidly spreading peridomestic pest.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We thank Dr. J.T. Vogt, USDA, ARS, Mid South Area, Biological Control of Pests Research Unit (BCPRU), Stoneville, Mississippi for creating Figure 1 and for reviewing the manuscript. We also thank Dr. Charles Ray, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University for reviewing the manuscript.

REFERENCES

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Appel, A. G., and L. M. Smith II. 1996. Harborage preference of American and smokybrown cockroaches (Dictyoptera: Blattidae) for common landscape materials. Environmental Entomology 25: 817-824.

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Donahoe, M. 2005. New cockroach invades northwest Florida. Weekly Extension Newsletter: #041505

Grush, W. 2003. Exotic pests in not-so-exotic locations. Pest Control Technology 31(11): 78, 80.

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Koehler, P. G., and R. S. Patterson. 1987. The Asian roach invasion. Natural History. 96: 11, 28, 30, 32, 34-35.

Lawless, L. S. 1999. Morphological comparisons between two species of Blattella (Dictyoptera: Blattellidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 92: 139-143.

Mizukubo, T. 1981. A revision of the genus Blattella (Blattaria: Blattellidae) of Japan. I. Terminology of the male genitalia and description of a new species from Okinawa Island. Esakia. 17: 149-159

Pfannenstiel, R. S., W. Booth, E. L. Vargo, and C. Schal. 2008. Blattella asahinai (Dictyoptera: Blattellidae): a new predator of lepidopteran eggs in South Texas soybean. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 101: 763-768.

Richman, D. L. 2005. Asian Cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo (Insecta: Blattodea: Blattellidae). Entomology and Nematology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Document ENY-277.

Roth, L. M. 1985. A taxonomic revision of the genus Blattella Caudell (Dictyoptera, Blattaria: Blattellidae). Entomologica Scandinavica. Supplement 22: 1-221. Roth, L. M. 1986. Blattella asahinai introduced into Florida (Blattaria: Blattellidae). Psyche. 93: 371-374.

Sitthicharoenchai, D. 2002. Ecology and behavior of the Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo (Blattodea: Blattellidae), in Charleston County, South Carolina. Clemson University dissertation, Copyrighted.

Smith, S. A. 2006. EDIS document FE688. Coordinator of Economic Analysis, Food and Resource Economics Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/document_fe688.

Snoddy, E. T. 2007. Distribution and population dynamics of the Asian cockroach (Blattellia asahinai Mizukubo) in southern Alabama and Georgia. Masters Thesis, Auburn University.

Snoddy, E. T., and A. G. Appel. 2008a. Distribution of Blattella asahinai (Dictyoptera: Blattellidae) in southern Alabama and Georgia. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 101: 397-401.

Snoddy, E. T., and A. G. Appel. 2008b. Distribution and population dynamics of Blattella asahinai in southern Alabama and Georgia. In W. H. Robinson and D. Bajomi [eds.], Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Urban Pests, 129-137. Budapest, Hungary.

Snoddy, E. T., X. P. Hu, and A. G. Appel. 2008. ANR-1322, Asian cockroach: A new pest in the urban environment. Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Tucker, J. 2006. Asian cockroaches invade Texas. Pest Control Technology. 34 (9):22.

Arthur G. Appel, Marla J. Eva, and Edward T. Snoddy

Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University, 301 Funchess Hall, Auburn, AL 36849-5413, USA

Correspondence: A. G. Appel:appelag@auburn.edu
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Author:Appel, Arthur G.; Eva, Marla J.; Snoddy, Edward T.
Publication:Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U6AL
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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