Cockroach note breeds another
Re: The letter from Neil Fiertel, SB’64,
as heavy breathers” (April/03): In 1945, as WW II
was coming to an end, the section of the University of Chicago
Toxicity Laboratory I worked in as a “research assistant
in anatomy” was switched from evaluating potential poison
gases, protective ointments and clothing to doing some early
research on insecticides such as DDT. The work on poison gases
and insecticides was funded by and operated for the Chemical
To carry out our insecticide research
we required the Periplanet americana cockroach. We
discovered that large colonies were available in the Zoology
Building. We then employed “cockroach bounty hunters”
to scour the basement for roaches, for which we paid $.50/roach.
As our research progressed we found
that this supposed endless supply of roaches was in fact running
out. We luckily found a massive roach supply at ARGO (corn products)
and began importing from there.
One main conclusion of our research
was that DDT in acetone, placed on the roach’s chitinous
exoskeleton, was as toxic as when injected underneath the body’s
outer surface. We thought it unlikely that the absorption occurred
through the spiracles as the acetone solution was placed a considerable
distance away. I don’t recall our being aware of the heavy
breathing described by Mr. Fiertel. As the DDT became a dust
when the acetone evaporated, the breathing could have been a
factor worthy of our consideration.
I was not surprised that cockroaches
still abound at the U. of C. We know they are heavy breeders
as well as heavy breathers.
Joseph Savit, SB’42