In the centuries-long war between humans and cockroaches, the most bitter blow was dealt roughly 40 years ago. Tired of chasing after the pests with noxious sprays and bombs, researchers started to infuse their poisons with delicious flavors that could compel roaches to approach of their own accord, and then feast upon their own demise. The secret was sugar: Cockroaches, like us, simply couldn’t resist their sweet tooth.
The advent of these baits “revolutionized pest control,” says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University. Manufacturers were sure that they had, after centuries of strife, gained a decisive upper hand. And victory was sweet.