Escape to an Island in the Sun

Is Your Home Fit for a Cockroach? - Part 1 - In the Beginning…

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I have to confess that I have given precious little thought to cockroaches in the past, but that changed as soon as we moved to Spain and the Canary Islands. You have only to mention the word “cockroach” to some of our expat friends and neighbours when a look of panic shows on their faces. I have seen grown men sweat as they recall their earlier meetings with these entertaining little creatures. I have also noticed that dinner table conversations suddenly become much fun and greatly animated when the dreaded word is mentioned. I am not sure that the words “rat” or “snake” have anywhere near the same effect. At least it gives a topic of conversation for those difficult times when an awkward dinner guest has little to say at the dinner table. Just the mention of the word “cockroach” tends to liven them up considerably, although it can tend to put them off their dessert.

Until I looked them up on the Internet for a newspaper advertising feature that I was asked to write, I did not know that there are American, German, Wood and Brown-bellied cockroaches. My task was to write a series of articles about cockroaches that would terrify readers sufficiently to contact one of our new advertisers who offered a cockroach de-infestation service - a sort of cockroach version of Rentokill in the UK, I guess. I the end, I wrote three articles that, I have to admit I was rather proud of, although they seemed rather less popular with some of our fainter hearted readers. I recall one elderly lady who, having met me at a local charity function that I was covering for the newspaper, implored me not to write anymore. “I just have to read them, but I wish I hadn’t afterwards,” she told me wincing as she recalled the offending articles.

I even discovered Oriental and Tropical cockroaches on the Google reference pages - all fascinating stuff. Did you know that cockroaches even have their own website where you can watch them play? No, I thought not. If so inspired after reading this chapter, you can even buy a Madagascan Giant Hissing cockroach as a pet. Wherever they come from, they have a few things in common. They are nocturnal and live in groups. They seek cracks and crevices that are warm, dark and moist; they also live inside cardboard and paper bags. Cockroaches eat anything that is organic – even cardboard and the glue that binds books together. They need water, although for some species, and there seem to be many, can live for several weeks with minimal quantities. Cockroaches prefer to remain near their food sources and shelter. Take away both and the cockroaches will almost certainly seek a more hospitable home.

Did you know that in some parts of the Far East, cockroaches are considered a fine delicacy? Fried, stewed, boiled or roasted they can cost a lot of money. I also heard a tragic but true story of an American lady who had a meal in one of those not so clean American ‘diners’. Sadly, she must have eaten cockroach-infested food – without knowing it at the time. A few days later her gums began to swell and bleed and she rushed to the dentist. After a thorough examination the dentist told her that her gums were totally infested with a huge number of growing cockroach eggs. The dentist asked where she ate and he nodded wisely and then called the police. They went to the restaurant and found both live and dead cockroaches in the meat. Just also think what would have happened if the eggs in that lady’s gums had actually hatched!

Experts recommend immediate action if you find that you are being visited by them. Of course, our advertisers would prefer that they be called in to sort out the problem, but the best thing is to try to find the source of the infestation and use “sticky traps” to capture the cockroaches. I also discovered that it is best to use a flashlight and dental mirror to peek behind or under cabinets. Search for living or dead cockroaches, shed exoskeletons (”skins”), egg cases and faeces. You can also find their hiding places by quietly entering a dark room and watching where they run when you turn on the lights. Oh, such fun!

On a more serious note, cockroaches are known to carry disease-causing bacteria, although their ability to transmit diseases to humans is under study. They’re still a significant health concern because they trigger allergies that contribute to asthma. Finding even one cockroach warrants alertness. All cockroach problems start small, but they reproduce rapidly, so early intervention is highly recommended.

A few months ago, our good friends flew from the Costa Blanca to spend a few days in Gran Canaria - a mother and daughter. When we met up the following day it was clear that something was wrong. “It’s the bungalow,” they said anxiously, looking very pale. They had hired a small bungalow in one of the less well-maintained holiday complexes in the south of the island. When they arrived during the early evening they were greeted by a family of cockroaches scurrying around the living room. Our friends took to standing on chairs until there was a lull in cockroach activity. When they finally managed to contact the night porter in the reception, he greeted their concerns with a shrug saying that they could do nothing until the following day. Our friends spent a sleepless first night in their holiday bungalow watching and listening to the cockroaches having a party with family and friends around them.

I am also told that it is a real “no, no” to stamp on a cockroach – you may just carry their eggs on your shoe into your home. There they will hatch – and you already know the rest of the story! Apparently, cats love to eat them, but that the eggs pass through the cat and, once again, they may later hatch. The same expert also told me that extreme temperatures will kill cockroaches – but a flame thrower is going well over the top!

We do get our own occasional cockroach visitors in our present home. Usually they do not last long because Barney and Bella worry them to death, although fortunately they do not eat them. In the UK there is an expression that you are never more than a hundred yards from a rat, or is it feet? Similarly, I guess the same could be said of cockroaches in Spain. Finally, the de-infestation man told me that if we had a nuclear explosion, cockroaches would be the only living thing to survive. I am not sure if this is based upon scientific fact, but it does give some food for thought and maybe just a little admiration for these much maligned creatures?

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: http://barriemahoney.com and http://thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ (ISBN: 9780995602717). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions.
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