Friday, July 20, 2012
Close Encounters of the Roach Kind
One insect that invades homes has probably set more women to screaming and more children to sobbing without actually harming them than any other: The American Cockroach, often referred to as simply the roach.
Despite its name, the American Cockroach is not native to the United States of America. It originally invaded the shores of America by stowing away on ships from Africa, colonizing the southern part of the United States less than two centuries after the earliest human colonists came from Europe.
In its new habitat, it thrived, becoming a pest that creeps into houses to search for food and sometimes even swarms in large numbers in the dark places of a house. Today, it yet lurks in houses, usually roaming about after nightfall, bringing terror to many.
What is it about this insect that frightens people so? It doesn’t have fangs like a spider. It doesn’t have a stinger like a wasp or a scorpion. It can't spray a foul-smelling odor like a stink bug. What it does have are its relatively large size, its strangely hideous looks, and its apparent fascination with tormenting humans.
Where roaches are numerous, it is not uncommon for them to appear to attack humans by flying and landing on them, running up their legs, dropping from the ceiling into their hair, diving into their cups, or crawling on their faces as they sleep. Roaches assault people so regularly that it seems as if they take devilish delight in this contact.
Roaches also perpetrate other dark deeds. Sometimes roaches make eery scratching noises as they crawl about, which might bring to mind the sounds in a supposedly haunted house. Sometimes they cause a foul odor to fill a part of a house. Sometimes they spread diseases as they roam.
Defensive measures are taken against these domestic scavengers by exterminators who spray poison and homeowners who put out roach traps. Yet roaches still often manage to establish themselves in houses and other buildings, and continually prove hard to get rid of.
While insect spray from cans will kill them, perhaps the most common method of using lethal force against the invaders is to crush them with a shoe, sometimes while the shoe is being worn, and other times while the shoe is held in a hand. This method, while quite messy if the roach explodes, can be done with delicacy so that there is little mess to clean up afterwards.
However, since roaches are notoriously hard to kill, it may be preferable to flush such delicately smashed roaches down the toilet rather than tossing them into the trash. Often the water revives a wounded or merely stunned roach and causes it to swim desperately until sucked into the vortex of death. Had the roach been tossed into the trash, it might have awakened and crawled out to terrify a second time.
Some people have wilder methods of killing roaches than smashing them, and turn it into a sort of hunt: Rubber band guns can be used to take out roaches if the shooter is accurate. If one wanted to get really creative, a grasshopper mouse could be unleashed, since this ruthless rodent likes munching on roaches.
The roach has supposedly been around for 350 million years, and in spite of all the attempts to eradicate it, it is still thriving. This infamous insect is certain to terrify, disgust, and be violently slaughtered for years to come.
Have you ever had a close encounter of the roach kind?
(c) 2012 Jonathan Garner