Pretty in print, cockroaches are disgusting in reality
[ The second in a series of articles about the vermin of Perth, with gratuitous literary references thrown in as light relief from the ickiness ]
COCKROACHES get a better run in literature than they deserve.
A sympathetic portrayal of these revolting little nuisances is perhaps the ultimate challenge for a writer. The greats can do it.
Don Marquis – a sadly underrated writer – once managed to create a lovable cockroach. His archy and mehitabel stories amused readers of New York newspapers throughout the 1920s and 30s. ‘archy’ was a former poet, reincarnated as a cockroach, who threw himself headfirst at the keys of a typewriter to compose his verses. He couldn’t operate the shift key, so typed everything in lower case, hence the name ‘archy’.
If you can convince New Yorkers a cockroach is charming, you’ve got talent.
Then of course there’s Franz Kafka, who made a giant cockroach the narrator of his 1915 masterpiece ‘The Metamorphosis’.
Bookworms must face sickening facts about cockroaches
But outside the printed page, in real life, when you see a cockroach scuttling across the kitchen floor, the truth hits home …
These things ain’t pretty at all.
Too tough to nuke, too ugly to live
They’re repulsive, and they’re hard to kill. The urban myth that they can survive a nuclear explosion is true, to a degree.
They’ve been around hundreds of millions of years. And they’ll still be here long after you and I have departed this life, o gentle reader.
What ARE these creatures? And what exactly is it that makes them tick?
Call in the ‘roach experts
Well, according to the experts at the WA Department of Agriculture and Food, cockroaches spread all sorts of diseases.
Let us quote the agro-boffins directly:
“…some species can carry disease organisms like Salmonella, which may cause gastroenteritis, dysentery, tuberculosis, hepatitis and typhoid fever. Cockroaches can also carry viruses and eggs of worm parasites …”
(Ewwww! Even reading that made me feel kind of unclean.)
So, female cockroaches lay tiny egg cases, each containing dozens of eggs. These are either glued somewhere for safekeeping, or laid immediately before hatching.
When the eggs hatch, lots of little nymph cockroaches crawl out. These look like miniature versions of the adults but without wings.
Cockroach eggs + cockroach nymphs = cockroach horror
The lifespan of a cockroach depends on the species, as does the number of eggs laid. The agro-boffins reckon four species of cockie can be found creeping around the suburbs of Perth:
- German cockroach:
The fastest breeder. Can develop into an adult within 45 days of hatching. Rarely flies. Loves to live around humans. Its love is not reciprocated.
Appearance: Light brown with a pair of dark stripes just behind its head. About 12mm long when fully grown.
- American cockroach:
The biggest, growing up to 50mm in length. Likes hiding in warm places during the day. Flies around light bulbs on hot summer nights. Can often be found behind hot-water pipes on chilly days.
Appearance: Brownish-red with a creamy yellow band behind the head.
- Native Australian black cockroach:
Prefers to live outside but sneaks inside houses during summer to take advantage of the air-con. Never offers to chip in when the power bill arrives. Thankfully, it lives mostly on leaf litter so isn’t too disease-ridden.
Appearance: Black with white edges. Adults lack wings and grow up to 35mm.
- Brown banded cockroach:
A pale and scrawny geek. Tiny enough to crawl inside a computer keyboard or microwave oven. Unlike other species, it doesn’t mind daylight or dry places. Like Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver, it will work “anytime, anywhere”.
Appearance: Small. Light brown with pale bands.
Now we’ve met the culprits, let’s do some maths.
Firstly, just for the hell of it, let’s assume a worst-case horror-movie scenario with a nightmare cockroach species that doesn’t even exist. This terrifying critter has the worst possible combination of attributes. It lays heaps of eggs but has a rapid turnover of generations:
30 egg cases during a lifetime,
x 40 eggs per case,
= 1200 offspring per female,
x 1/2 (because odds are that half those 120 offspring will themselves be female),
= 600 female nymphs produced over the lifetime of each mother cockroach.
The mother of all cockroaches
Next, let’s make an even more crazily unrealistic assumption: every single one of those nymphs survives to breeding age. Over four short generations, the population of horror cockies would grow like this:
600 x 600 x 600 x 600 = 129,600,000,000.
In other words, almost 130 billion cockroaches have infested your home within less than a year.
Thankfully the actual problem never gets that bad. Still, you get the general idea – cockroach infestation can get out of hand within a matter of months.
Waiting, waiting, waiting – night-time the right time for cockroach frolics
Cockroaches usually hide together during the day and wait until night-time to explore. If you see cockroaches during the day, it generally means their hiding place is getting too crowded. That means overpopulation.
Seen a cockie by daylight recently?
Might be a good idea to get in touch with Alex.
Do it pronto before the infestation worsens.
You can either call Alex on 0419 800 237, or fill out our booking form.
And remember, this guy can SMELL bugs.