Roaches, roaches everywhere! And even here in Adelaide, South Australia
Urbandictionary.com definition: "A pest-bug with an ability to rebound from danger, and famous for being a sign of a dirty house, and being able to withstand a nuclear war."
They are everywhere. From Sydney all the way up the east coast from Byron to Brissy to Airlie and Cairns; they were right up the top in Darwin, down the bottom in Melbourne and of course, they are here in Adelaide. The degree of infestation and proliferance has varied but they have been omnipresent.
There are actually more than 400 species of cockroach in Australia. The great majority of these are not associated with human habitation and cause no problems; only a handful of introduced species are responsible for their terrible reputation as PESTS! (Most significantly the large American and smaller German species)
My cockroach experience began in Thailand. I had never seen a cockroach in the wild before so it was a novel experience to sit on stools in the street in Khao San Road (the backpacker drag) drinking Mai Tai's with these 2.5inch monsters galloping around our feet. Even more of a novelty was the barrow selling Deep-Fried cockroaches, for the amusement of brave and culinarily adventurous tourists; I didn't see anyone eat one but had the guy charged for photos, he would have made a mint!
Their presence in the dirty, pungent streets of Bangkok fit perfectly my English view of them as being found in only the most unhygeinic, cesstuous places (cultivated at least in part by my mother, who used to tell us "your room is such a PIGSTY if you're not careful you will get COCKROACHES in there!"). I was never convinced that this was a serious threat as their hangouts in England are usually quite a bit dirtier and more cluttered than my bedroom ever was (think the houses of hoarders, rubbish tips and really really dirty kebab shops).
My first nasty encounter with a cockroach was living in a large, scuzzy share-house in Surrey Hills in Sydney. We had seen the odd few little bodies on the landings and in the bathroom, but one evening there was a cockroach of collossal preportions in our bedroom, by the sink. We tried to catch it to chuck it outside by they are very fast and it disappeared behind a cabinet so we had to give up (cockroaches can run at speeds of up to 3km/hr and apparently are fast enough to detect the AIRWAVE that preceeds a predator and scuttle away thus avoiding capture).
Later that night we were in bed with the lights out when suddenly Grace gave an enourmous SHRIEK and lept out of her bed, batting herself all over with her hands, twitching and shaking her limbs in what shall henceforth be known as the "cockroach caper". Sophie quickly followed and with the light on we located this beast of a cockroach, in amongst the bedclothes, where it had ventured into bed with them, to run up Gracie's leg! None of us slept very well for the rest of the night.
A week or so later, in the same house, a roachie appeared on the landing outside our bathroom, lying on its back with its legs in the air (typical dead pose, you'd have thought, right?) Wrong! After stepping over it for five days I finally decided to bite the bullet and deal with the carcass. I scooped it up in a piece of paper towel, chucked it in the toilet and flushed, upon which the feisty thing came back to life, scrabbled up the side of the toilet bowel and out into the bathroom! I had to recapture it, put it back in the toilet, bury it with sheets and sheets of toilet paper and flush about six times before the damn thing was finally gone.
Lesson number 1: Even if it looks dead, DO NOT assume that it is, it has most likely made an error in its orienteering and without muscular co-ordination or nearby debris to aid in righting itself it is unable to escape from that position without help. Help usually comes in the form of a human, thrilled to see what appears to be a dead cockroach, who rights it and inadvertantly saves its life.
It is commonly known that cockroaches are hardy little insects; they are able to survive without water for up to one month, and for up to THREE without food; some species can go without air for 45minutes. They can survive on limited resources, such as the glue on the back of postage stamps and a cockroach can live for up to a month without its head, before it dies of dehydration. They are not easy to destroy!
My next slightly traumatic roachy experience was in Surfer's Paradise, of which location the less that is said the better. I stayed in a hostel called "Backpackers In Paradise" although it is hard to imagine a hostel less deserving of that title. It was FILTHY. The carpets were stained and sticky and looked like they had never seen a hoover. There were holes in the walls and more stains ON the walls. The bunk-beds were ricketty with wafer-thin, sagging matresses with the stuffing coming out. Mould, grease, insects, malodour. As I was about to get into bed one night (in the third room I had stayed in, having refused to sleep in the previous two on the grounds of them being just TOO dirty and overcrowded), a lovely little cockroach crawled out of a knot and trotted merrily along the wooden strut of my bunk bed, which was full of such now ominous knots. Sometimes you just have to man-up and get through these things; I hunkered down in my sleeping bag, pulled the drawstring tight at the top to close it completely and spent a hot, sweaty, stuffy night acutely aware of every itch and tickle about my body.
Once present and without treatment, cockroach populations increase in number rapidly. The average cockroach lifespan is twelve months. A female can produce up to 30 batches of eggs in her lifetime, with 10-40 eggs in each batch, that's 300-400 offspring. In some cases, females need only be impregnated once to produce eggs for the rest of their lives!
Cockroaches like moist, humid conditions, so it was no wonder that they were a common sight up in the tropics; Hog's Breath in Airlie Beach was surprisingly bereft of those little beasties, owing to crazy boss-lady having something close to an obsession with keeping the place free of them (one of her finer qualities). She told me that when they took the restaurant over, it was infested. They closed for three days to completely fumigate the building and knock down and rip out all the old plyboard and wooden walls in which they were hiding; she described ripping out sheets of 2x4 and the cockroaches literally POURING out of the walls. Like something out of a horror movie!
Hog's in Adelaide is not quite the same. Although the place is pretty clean, the kitchen is disinfected regularly and we scrub and mop and scrape and spray, the little critters are everywhere! Pest control visits from time to time; the evening after they have been, the place is littered with tiny cockroach corpses to be swept up. They are absent for a week or so but swiftly return. The fact that my manager at Hoggies is afraid of them has made for much hilarity; I was sweeping one evening when he came running out of the office, pale and sweating with a terrified look on his face and pleaded with me to "go sort out the cockroach in the office; it's the size of a horse!" To be sure it was a big'un, perhaps 1.5inches and boy was it fast! I swept it into the dustpan and mindful of my past failures at destroying them, gave it to one of the chefs to sort out. He smooshed it with his shoe outside the back door. I was horrified: urban legend has it than when you step on them and kill them, their egg sacs burst, the eggs stick to your shoe and are thus spread even further throughout the building. Apparently this IS only a myth.
Females either carry their eggs in sacs on their bodies prior to hatching (incubation is about 30 days), or stow them in a suitable crevice to mature. By standing on one, IF it was a female and she was carrying eggs, it IS likely that the sac would split but unlikely that the eggs would not also be smooshed and destroyed in the process.
We have roachies in our flat and they are thankfully usually moderately small specimens, of the not-so-large German species. They scurry quickly out of sight when I switch the light on in the kitchen at night and several times have frightened the life out of me as I took a knife or spoon out of the cutlery draw by emerging from underneath the utensils and running at me. I have had two in my bedroom, which leads off of the kitchen. We have some spray with which to kill them but it is an aerosol and produces along with the chemicals a jet of air that propels the cockroach AWAY from the canister; the best approach is to chase them into a corner and spray them there. It also leaves a pool of white stuff, with a spasming cockroach in the middle, which must then be cleaned up and binned.
The reason for this roachiness is in our location. Gouger street is a street of restaurants, with three food courts and china town right next to it; perfect cockroach territory. If one building exterminates its cockroach population they will rapidly colonise through the walls from the adjacent one; I suspect our roaches come up in cracks and crevices in the walls from the chinese restaurant below.
A few fun roachy facts:
- Cockroaches have been on earth for up to 400million years!
- The Cockroach Racing World Championships are held every Australia day at a hotel in Brisbane; cockroach races also take place in other locations accross the country on this day.
- RE: the 'withstanding nuclear fallout' issue... It is true that cockroaches have radiation resistance many times higher than that of humans and could potentially survive the levels of radiation resulting from a thermonuclear explosion, but they are not alone as other insects such as the fruit fly are even more resistant than the roachies
- The worlds largest cockroach is the Australian Giant Burrowing Cockroach, which can reach up to 9cm/ 3.5inches in length and weigh up to 30g!
For further reading (you know you want to) and my sources:
http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/kunkel/cockroach_faq.html#Q43 (The Cockroach FAQ)
http://www.thaibugs.com/Articles/roach.html (Amazing Cockroach Facts)