A new surface coating could mean the end of roach traps as we know them. The plastic-like material, called a polyimide resin, is like a Slip ‘n Slide for the normally sure-footed roaches. Insects naturally secrete a fluid that’s an emulsion of oily and watery liquids that helps them stick to almost any surface. The scientists’ polyimide coating absorbs the watery part, cutting bugs’ friction on vertical surfaces by about 40 percent [Popular Science].
In an experiment, a rod with an apple on top was painted with a number of different chemicals, including the polyimide resin. Scientists observed roaches climbing to reach the apple, and measured the friction between the roaches feet and the rod. They found that roaches effortlessly shimmied up rods coated in PTFE, a non-stick coating commonly found on cooking pans. But when the rods were covered in polyimide resin, the creatures lost their grip [New Scientist].
The material could theoretically be painted on surfaces to prevent roaches from scuttling up them. The scientists say the coating is more environmentally friendly than common pesticides, but they also say that they need to test further its effects on wildlife. Insects like flies and earwigs use different kinds of glue to climb, and scientists are not sure if the polyimide coating will work against them. The study will appear in the journal Journal of the Royal Society: Interface in November.
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Video: Vimeo / Cambridge University