The quick evolutionary change has made glucose, a form of sugar that is a sweet attractant to countless forms of life, taste bitter to the roaches, they said.
The change, researchers wrote in the current issue of the journal Science, is an elegant example of quick evolutionary change in behavior that could offer the multibillion-dollar pest control industry valuable insights into the roach's secrets.
The findings could also have an impact far beyond roach control, perhaps helping to explain the behavior of mosquitoes that spread malaria, Coby Schal at North Carolina State University, one of the study authors, said.
"The mosquito changed its behavior," Schal told The New York Times, "and no longer rests on walls that are treated with insecticide. Instead it tends to rest on the ceiling, or it tends to rest on the outside walls that are not treated with insecticide.
"We still don't understand the cellular, the neural mechanism responsible for this change in behavior of the mosquito," he said, suggesting the study of changes in cockroaches could offer useful insights.