Cockroaches: Temper Loathing With Admiration.
"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" The Cockroach.Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Blattaria: Some of Life's Most Durable Creatures
Whatever you might think of cockroaches, they are undoubtedly some of the most adaptable creatures on the planet. One of the reasons for this is they can eat practically anything, even soap or the glue from the back of postage stamps! Another is they can move very fast on long legs; become very small and flat, squeezing in impossible places; they rely mainly on defence, so humans don’t fear them, merely dislike them; and although we try to rid our homes of them, we may even conceal a sneaking admiration even…affection? Yes, for the cockroach, he is so timid and humble, man, in his munificence, often lets him be.
In South Baja, Mexico, for example, the low-income dwelling are infested with cockroaches. The people there take no notice of them, and if you protest, or try to squish them, they probably won’t say anything, but the atmosphere will drop a couple of degrees…yes, it’s the crazy Gringo again, trying to fine-tune his life at the expense of all else, and swimming against a current which he will not overcome. (For a start, you need insect-proof windows, doors and a proper roof to keep them out, luxuries denied to many of the city and rural poor of Baja California).
Disliked more than the cockroaches in many places, including much of Mexico, are insecticides. They often exacerbate the problem they are designed to relieve. Continuous use spreads a patina of dangerous substances over every nook and cranny in the house. Although vigorous, daily use will finally get rid of a cockroach infestation, they can even poison the occupants at the same time and also kill many beneficial predators, such as spiders, which are trying to do what you are, keep the pests down. I personally hate the smell of these chemicals and they make me cough and wheeze, it’s obvious they are deadly for all life.
Another vexing worry is that insects soon develop a resistance to insecticides: the Anopheles Mosquito, for example, the malaria vector, is now resistant to most control substances currently being used. More and more other control methods are being used (Please see my hub on Screwworm control).
What you do need to do when entertaining ‘roaches, is to keep all your food in places they can’t get to, like the ‘fridge, and in plastic, screw-top containers. When they find there is little to eat, the numbers should drop, although they never leave completely, there is always something for an ambitious cockroach to snack on. (pet food is a popular attraction). Don’t forget the trash: rubbish to you is like MacDonald’s to a hungry roach. They need water, too, so don’t leave bowls of water around or dripping taps unfixed. You can trap them: the well-know “’Roach Motel,” was one such…”You can check in, but you can’t check out!” Remember? Or you can put food in a glass jar with a wooden ladder or some sort to the top, Mr Roach can get in, but “He can’t check out” of that one, either.
There are at least 4,000 species of cockroach, about half a dozen of which are pests to man. Some of these are the American Cockroach, the German Cockroach, the Asian and Oriental cockroaches. All these are frightened of light and will hide to escape it, except the Asian, which is attracted by light…Go figure!
Cockroach ownership is not all sweetness and light. A heavy infestation will leave a smell in the air. They do sometimes carry bacteria bad for us, which is why they are extremely unwelcome in hospitals. Roaches can also be allergenic, especially for asthma sufferers.
Cockroaches do have predators. Spiders will take them if they land in the web, but the little household centipedes really go after them, Trouble is, not many folks like centipedes in the house, either. Several wasps predate on them. One, the Ampulex wasp, seems so cruel, you might want to rescue the roach from its clutches. It first paralyzes its victim by a sting in the throat, then, when the roach is comatose, another sting in the section of the brain controlling the “escape” mechanism. Then the wasp neatly clips the antennae and drags the roach off to its nest where the babies can snack on live cockroach. As I mentioned in another hub, this wasp - or one of its brothers which preys on spiders - was the reason Charles Darwin said he couldn’t accept the idea of an all-seeing, all-powerful Creator. Darwin said no supreme being could allow such a mindless and cruel death. Go figure!
Cockroaches are one of the oldest creatures appearing in the fossil record and are seen as occurring in the Carboniferous Period, which began 354 million years ago. As they have evolved, they have changed quite a lot and giant species have appeared up to a foot long…“heck, Marlon, let him have the doggone hamburger if he wants it!” There are a couple of large species around today. The largest is the Australian Burrowing Cockroach, which can be about 4 inches long. Others can hiss or chirrup, and there’s even one which can play a standard harmonica…No? Just seeing if you were paying attention!
They can live up to a year or so; can live without food for three months and without water for weeks on end. They can also live without oxygen for up to one hour and are 15 times less susceptible to radiation than we are. This is why it has been popularly said they will outlive us and inherit the planet in the advent of a world-wide nuclear disaster.
It’s become more and more obvious to me as I study these successful, simple creatures, that they are the true tenants of this world, not us. They have been here for nearly all of worldly time - we have been here a couple of minutes. I am sure they will still be here for the even longer haul when we finally disappear - to an early demise, or to outer space somewhere, the jury is out on that one. This is why I am hard-put to kill them, even though they can be harmful in many cases. But the roaches, well, I do admit to having a very soft spot. Unfortunately, er, fortunately, I have, for long periods, shared my life with the female of my own species who rarely understand my devotion to cockroaches. “You get rid of those little bleeders or I’m calling mother again to pick me up!” Sigh…Maybe I’ll come back as a cockroach in the next life, must be a lot more peaceful.