DEC 09, 2015 08:14 AM PST

Gut Bacteria Help Cockroaches Communicate

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
1 14 1932
Animals aren’t the only organisms with complex microbiomes.  Like humans, insects house a variety of bacteria in their guts.  Nitrogen-fixing bacteria live in the guts of termites, honey bees carry around lactic acid-producing bacteria, and species of Wolbachia actually determine the sex of some insects.

Researchers at North Carolina State University knew that gut bacteria influence the production of pheromones in insects such as Drosophila, grass grub beetles, and locusts.  They also knew that German cockroaches aggregate together in response to pheromones in feces.  So, they hypothesized that gut bacteria might help cockroaches produce aggregation-inducing pheromones.
 
Cockroaches aggregate in response to pheromones.

The pheromones produced by the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, contain volatile carboxylic acids (VCAs). The researchers, led by Ayako Wada-Katsumata, identified 40 VCAs in roach feces that contained gut bacteria, whereas roaches without bacteria lacked 12 of these VCAs.  This suggested that the bacteria were somehow responsible for producing the roach pheromones.  

To determine if the bacteria contributed to VCA production and thus to aggregation, the group isolated and cultured aerobic fecal bacteria from the roaches.  Then, they inoculated germ-free roaches with the bacteria.  The roaches aggregated more effectively in response to feces containing bacteria than to control, germ-free feces.  They also aggregated more effectively when germ-free roaches were inoculated with six bacterial taxa as opposed to just one.

It’s still not clear how the VCAs are produced.  The bacteria may produce them, or the roaches may produce them in response to the bacteria.  Either way, these results could help pest control experts design better traps and bait to treat roach infestations.  

Sources: Eurekalert, PNAS
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAY 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
MAY 08, 2018
Advances in the Study of the Oral Microbiome
Scientists are learning more about the microbes that we carry in and on our bodies, and how they impact our health.
MAY 09, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 09, 2018
What we can Learn From Viruses that Infect Bacteria
Phages are viruses that infect bacteria; scientists have found that the same phage can have a markedly different effect on different kinds of bacteria.
MAY 29, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 29, 2018
Environmental Factors Drive Belly Fat Buildup
Abdominal fat is a major risk factor for disease. New work could help find those at risk for increased belly fat, and help reverse that trend.
JUN 09, 2018
Videos
JUN 09, 2018
Infectious Microbes Lurk in Hotel Pools
With thousands sickened, the CDC is concerned about hotel pools, even treated ones.
JUL 04, 2018
Videos
JUL 04, 2018
How Did Viruses Originate?
There is still a debate about whether or not viruses are a form of life, and we really don't know where they came from.
AUG 05, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 05, 2018
The War Beneath Our Feet
The bacteria living in the soils of Earth seem locked in battle with the fungi there.
Loading Comments...