Cockroaches are hated just about everywhere, and in the very few regions of the planet where cockroaches are not hated, it is only because they provide a steady food source or a means for reducing garbage waste. However, cockroaches may provide another important benefit that virtually nobody on earth is aware of, even many scientists. According to Japanese researchers, both crickets and cockroaches provide a rare plant with its only means of pollination.
Associate Professor Kenji Suetsugu of the Kobe University Graduate School of Science has found that the unique Mitrastemon yamamotoi plant relies on crickets and cockroaches as its only means of propagating. This plant exists only on a small isolated island located off the coast of Japan where typical pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are not abundant. Since this flower is unique for blooming just barely above the ground’s surface, only soil dwelling insects, in this case roaches and crickets, are capable of pollinating the plant. Surprisingly, this is not the first time that researchers have stumbled upon a plant species that relies on cockroaches for pollination.
While cockroaches are considered a scourge upon mankind by urban dwelling peoples, the insects provide many ecological benefits. Surprisingly, 99 percent of all cockroach species exist in unpopulated tropical and desert areas, such as in Brazil and Saudi Arabia. For example, the cockroach species known as Moluchia brevipennis may pollinate plants in Chile’s vast regions of scrubland. It is known that cockroaches in this region feed on flower pollen, but now researchers believe that these roaches also pollinate several different flower species. This particular cockroach species can be found hanging from numerous flowers within this region, and this sort of behavior is exceptionally rare for cockroaches. At the moment, only four cockroach species are known for pollinating plants. The first two in Chile and Japan have already been mentioned, but French Guyana and Malaysian Borneo are also known for being home to pollinating cockroaches.
Do you known of any other pollinating insects that are not commonly known for pollinating flowers?