Is cockroaches chalk can kill people

You can find them in niches and cracks. Whether in the bathroom, in the kitchen or in the pantry, there is hardly a place that the cockroach avoids. A good 300 years ago, omnivores from Asia or Africa started their triumphal march around the world. Today there is hardly a metropolis in the world where the cockroach has not made itself at home.

Nina Alexandrovna Alescho picks up an approximately three centimeters long, rebelliously kicking animal with two fingers. “I have to be careful not to damage it,” explains the fragile woman, “after all, we have a laboratory here and not a first aid station.” The scientist is in her element.

All around it rustles and feels with long, hair-thin feelers. Cockroaches, cockroaches, cockroaches or, as they are called in Russian: Tarakany. They nest between cotton wool in huge, cylindrical jars that seem to have been made for pickled cucumbers. The lids replace light gauze lobes. It would be child's play for the chitin armor of the adult specimen to push the scraps of fabric aside and escape into the open. Nevertheless, one species remains in your glass.

The symbiosis between cockroaches and humans is mostly based on the one-sided striving of the insects. In this room of the Moscow Scientific Research Institute for Prophylactic Toxicology and Disinfection, it takes place for the benefit of the parasites and the happiness of their host.

The laboratory cockroaches raised here aseptically would hardly be able to cope with the struggle for survival in the contaminated urban jungle. For Ms. Alescho, however, life without the cockroaches would have long been unthinkable. As a child, she actually wanted to be a ballet dancer. But the wish could not be realized, and finally the girl with the wasp waist specialized in the field of entomology, insect research.

She has never looked back. Even if she sometimes wades down to her knees in the sewage of the Moscow sewerage system on behalf of the State Committee for Sanitary Epidemiological Supervision in the footsteps of certain cockroach populations. "If you have occupied yourself with a fascinating subject for a long time, you are consecrated to it," says Nina Alexandrovna. On her fine balancing act between the depths and heights of science, this woman manages to keep the research objects entrusted to her within the necessary limits. “Simply”, she says, “by agreement” with them.

On the other hand, the advance of the cockroaches through Russia from the west has not seen any obstacles for 200 years. The most common in the country today is the approximately one and a half centimeter long, reddish-brown German cockroach (Blattella germanica). In Russia they are also called the "Prussians" because they came to the country from 1762 after the war with Prussia.

The always thirsty, nimble specimens whiz up even the smoothest walls on their hydroreceptor-equipped feet. You travel on long-distance trains and by air. Evil tongues rumor that they can even be found in spaceships. Many Russian computer owners know how to sing a lament that the cockroaches prefer to stay in the niches of heat-emitting electrical appliances.

After the Second World War, the animal that came from the warmth conquered the cities of the Russian Far East one by one. The larger, black ones, up to three centimeters long Blatta orientalis, the common cockroaches, also crossed the Russian borders a good 250 years ago. In the last 15 years the "American women" with their yellow-striped bellies have built stable populations in Moscow.

Today the Russian capital is one of the cockroach metropolises in the world. Every third house in Moscow is infected with them, as well as every grocery store and absolutely every dormitory. In the post-war period, the prefabricated concrete slab construction had a strong effect on cockroaching. It causes numerous cracks in the houses. Floor-connecting garbage chutes were the latest craze - nothing but small national parks for cockroaches.

One of Moscow's metropolitan myths has it that the cockroaches swim from floor to floor in the sewer pipes and crawl out of the toilet bowl. “Nonsense”, contradicts Ms. Alescho: “You faint after just twenty minutes under water. The cockroach is not a submarine, but an open system. The water penetrates through the cracks of her chitin armor. "

By the way, the young animals, called nymphs, are particularly permeable because their skin still has to be peeled off. On average, they molt six to seven times Blattella germanica and Blatta orientalisuntil the nymphs turn into adults. The cold also kills cockroaches. The Russian peasants got rid of these uninvited housemates every winter by leaving the windows and doors of their hut open for one night and even looking for shelter with the neighbors.

Entomophobia - the human horror of insects - has always hit the cockroaches inexorably. The observation that these omnivores also feast on carrion and excrement probably contributed to this. Likewise, the experience that a cockroach can quickly turn into thousands does not make them more personable. The cocoon that the female cockroach carries for a long walk under its flattened rump contains one to several dozen eggs from which the nymphs hatch. In their shape the young animals already resemble the adult insects, they are only much smaller.

When the borders opened with human perestroika, the Russian market was flooded with dozens of insecticides from all over the world. Some of them, especially poisonous chalk pens and powders, are highly toxic to humans or damage embryos. In recent years, the Moscow Insect Institute has examined which of these agents could be granted a state license.

Nina Alexandrovna proudly shows a brochure she was involved in: “Sanitary rules for killing insects and mosquitoes in the home and in basements.” This is the first guide of its kind in Russia. In addition to biologists from their institute, chemists, toxicologists and geneticists have worked on it for years.

Fortunately, the trend in modern household insect control suits Nina Alescho's inclinations. The flexible use of poison has taken the place of the all-round blow with the chemo-column, which often also involves adverse health effects for humans - for example at possible nesting sites. Specialists have long considered it utopian to exterminate cockroaches.

Very modern, holistic concepts aim to spoil their lives. It starts with town planning and ends with trash can design. As for Nina Alexandrovna Alescho, she always asks the cockroaches for forgiveness when she has to kill a few of them for a poison test. “This is my bread,” she says to them, “I couldn't live without it.”

The scientist is not ashamed of her behavior: "I have long since changed from an anthropocentric to a zoo-centric view of the world." She drove away her disgust for cockroaches a quarter of a century ago. “If I was disgusted with them, I would starve to death,” says Nina Aleaxandrovna in her laboratory and gleefully chews a chocolate chip cookie: “And you can't cheat cockroaches either. When they don't feel loved, they stop reproducing. But my pigeons already recognize me by the steps. Then they crawl expectantly to the rims of their glasses. "

When the funds for research no longer flowed, Nina Alexandrovna shared her own food with her pupils: fresh meat, quark and vegetables - only quality goods. Bad food falsifies the test results.

In private, Nina has never bent the antennae of a cockroach. “If someone ever gets lost in my apartment, then I throw them out the window and call after her: 'Tell your people that I don't want you to come here.'" And adds with a smile: "The cockroaches and I need each other. "