On The Trail Of The Cockroach

A nasty little story your exterminator will never tell you because either he just doesn’t know or is afraid to tell.

Cockroaches have been around for millions of years (or, if you don’t buy the theory of evolution, about 6,000 years). Either way, they are here and that’s a fact.

There are many different species of cockroaches and they are found almost everywhere. Some species of cockroaches live outdoors in the woods and in the fields and don’t usually end up inside our homes…..but others really like our homes and those are the ones I want you to think about right now.

It’s funny how we are so in denial about cockroaches. It’s true. In Florida, for instance, they are called “Palmetto Bugs”. That sounds so much nicer and cleaner than cockroach, doesn’t it? How often have I heard someone say, “I saw one of those big brown ugly bugs….you know….the kind that flies…… the….well, you know, like those Palmetto Bugs, the ones in Florida.”

“That would be a Smokey Brown Cockroach, Mrs. Smith. Periplaneta fuliginosa”

“Oh no….It wasn’t a cockroach….it was one of those big brown….you know….like the ones……..”

“Face it Mrs. Smith…..it’s a cockroach Deal with it!”

The fact is…..Cockroaches are found in ALL homes! That’s right. Cockroaches are in ALL homes. Maybe not all the time, and certainly some homes have more than others, but, if you live in a home in the Southeastern United States, YOU HAVE COCKROACHES IN YOUR HOME FROM TIME TO TIME! You might not see them, but they are there just the same, hiding in cracks and crevices, in the attic, in the basement or crawl space, in the garage or on the screened porch, in wall voids, in the gutters, behind the fireplace, under the dishwasher, in the pantry, or one or more of a hundred other places. Yep…..you’ve got roaches whether you like it or not. Don’t worry….I’m not going to tell your neighbors. (They’ve got’em too you know!).

FACT: Cockroaches need food and water so, when they come inside, they are more likely to end up in the kitchen than any other room in the house.

FACT: Cockroaches enter homes through cracks and crevices in most cases, although the German cockroach….the one that is a major problem in restaurants and grocery stores, is usually brought into your home from somewhere else. They don’t live out in the woods….only in places where people live.

FACT: Roaches, like the very large Smokey Brown Cockroach, or “Palmetto Bug”, live out in the woods and mulch and in the ivy growing around your house. (by the way, you won’t like hearing this, but that gorgeous ivy growing all over the side of your house is a virtual ROACH FACTORY!). They enter homes through spaces around door thresholds, windowsills, pipes, vents, cracks, louvers, and eaves. The ONLY WAY TO KEEP THEM OUT is to use weather-stripping, caulking and sealing all of the areas where they can get in!

“Why my home?”

Good question. You have lights on at night and that attracts lots of bugs to the windows and doorways. Try leaving a porch light on at night and go out there and see how many bugs you count. Pretty amazing. There is actually light coming out from underneath the doorway from inside and that light attracts them also. And then they feel the warm temperature of the air coming out from under the door and that also attracts them. Bam….they’re inside!

MYTH: If you see one roach, you’ve got ten. If you see ten, you’ve got a hundred. Nope. It could be just one.

So…. you understand why you have roaches in your home from time to time…..right?

Now let’s take a look at what happens when that roach gets into your home and how he survives. Let’s follow him…into the kitchen!

The typical Smokey Brown Cockroach (The really big, ugly, dark brown ones we like to call Palmetto Bugs) likes the kitchen because there is plenty of food and water there.

“But I keep my food in containers and I keep my floors and countertops clean. I am a clean person. My kitchen is clean. No roach would ever find food there. I’m a clean person and a neat housekeeper. Please…you are insulting me and I don’t like it one bit!”

O.K. Calm down…Let me explain it to you this way. As a matter of fact, it would probably be best for me to just put it in the form of a list for you, but I like telling stories so here’s one for you. After you read it, you tell me if a cockroach could possibly survive in YOUR kitchen!

There’s this big ole’ nasty looking cockroach. We’ll just call him “Smokey.” He has entered your home through the gap underneath the door to the patio. He has decided to take up residence underneath your dishwasher because it is warm from the heat generated by the motor when it is running and there is moisture from condensation. Dark, damp, warm…ah, the good life. What a great place to spend a vacation if you are a cockroach!

The first night, Smokey decides to check out all of the restaurants…you know…find out all of the good places to eat so he doesn’t have to waste a lot of time every night going from place to place. He wants to be able to focus on more important things, like finding that cute little female he bumped into a couple’a nights ago out by the gas grill!

Smokey loves the night life, so, as soon as all of the lights are off and you have gone to bed and everything is quiet, he is off to the races!

By the way…..did you know that over 42 types of bacteria have been identified on the feet of cockroaches, including the germs that cause serious diseases such as Salmonellosis, Gastroenteritis, Dysentary and Poliomyelitis? Airborne contaminates from their feces (poop) can also trigger respiratory symptoms including Asthma attacks is sensitive individuals! Certainly not all types on all cockroaches, but enough to say truthfully that everywhere a cockroach travels he leaves behind a trail of bacteria with every footstep. The types of bacteria vary according to where the cockroach has walked recently. He also picks up new bacteria and transports it from one place to another on the bottoms of his feet, just as you and I would track mud into the house. He walks on dog and cat poop because he just loves the little snacks he finds there. He lives underneath the dishwasher or around the pipes underneath the kitchen sink or refrigerator, and years of scum and food scraps and mold and mildew and crud have built up there and it is a seething mass of bacteria and germs and who knows what other types of contamination…..and all of that junk is all over Smokey’s feet and he tracks it around everywhere he goes! Are you with me so far?

While you are asleep at night, Smokey is on the move. He is hungry and so he visits the buffet you have unknowingly provided.

First, he stops off at the toaster. He crawls down inside the toaster and licks the crumbs off of the wire grate and basket that supports your bread when you make toast! It doesn’t take long, however, before he is tired of toast. He has crawled all throughout the toaster and it all tastes the same, so he moves on. (Did I mention the bacteria on his feet?)

Next, he goes to the can opener on the countertop. Ah yes…here is a real assortment of exotic foods, all blended together into a form of crud on the little round blade that cuts into the can and goes around the rim when it turns. Each time you open another can, it not only picks up more food from that can, but it deposits the crud and bacteria already present into the can you just opened! Sure…I know you wash it, but you just can’t get into all of those hard-to-reach places…not like Smokey can! No Sir. Smokey can lick the crud from that can opener wheel when you didn’t even know there was crud on it. As a matter of fact, he crawls all over that can opener until he has licked off every last morsel. Oh, it doesn’t matter if you use one of those small, hand operated can openers and leave it in the drawer, because that’s his next stop!

Kitchen drawers have no lid on them. They are simply a tray that slides on a track back into the cabinet. All Smokey, (or a mouse or rat for that matter) has to do is just crawl over the top and into the drawer. Now you might ask….why would a big, nasty cockroach want to stop off in the drawer where I keep my silverware and cooking utensils? The answer is really very simple. Those things are not as clean as you think they are. Nope. There is food residue on your spoons and forks and knives and other utensils that you are not even aware of. Not on all of them, but on some of them….and Smokey knows its there. You see, he has a very sensitive nose. He can detect things that you and I can’t. I guess that’s one of the reasons he’s been around for so long. Anyway, he crawls all over everything in the drawer and, even if he can’t find anything good to lick, he has tracked his nasty feet all over the spoon you will use tomorrow morning to eat you cereal or stir your coffee!

Oh…I think I forgot to mention…Smokey “poops” a lot too. Everywhere he goes, he “goes”…if you know what I mean. And by now he has pooped all down inside your toaster, all over your can opener, and all over the inside of your silverware drawer.

Of course he will eventually visit the cabinet where you keep the pots and pans and cookie sheets, and bowls and dishes and cups and glasses and, before the night is over, he may wind up just taking a break from his wanderings and resting for awhile to top of a can of Chicken Noodle Soup or taking a little snooze on the surface your everyday dishes.

Eventually, the long night comes to an end and, on his way back to his hiding place underneath the dishwasher, a tired Smokey makes one last stop to crawl all over your apples, bananas, or whatever else you might have that’s worth a nibble or two.

One thing’s for sure…Smokey isn’t picky about food. (Although he is quite fond of the cheesy residue that is found on your toddler’s pacifier) But then again, that thing is never just lying around at night, is it?

Oh…I almost forgot to mention your gas grill out on the patio or deck. Smokey just loves the grease and leftover food that’s all over the cooking surface of your grill. He and all of his buddies like to hide down in the bottom of the grill and, at night when you aren’t grilling out, they come up and spend the night feasting and partying all over the exact spot where you just slapped that big sirloin last weekend. If you have one of those vinyl covers over your grill, that’s even better. As a matter of fact, many times I have lifted one of those covers and seen dozens of cockroaches scurrying in all directions. When those folks invite me over for a cookout, I always make it a point to bring a casserole for myself!

So…the next time you see a “Palmetto Bug” on the porch or patio, or find one on the kitchen floor and you don’t think it’s anything to be concerned about, just remember this…they don’t always end up in the kitchen. Nope. Sometimes they end up in the bathroom. After all…they do love the taste of the toothpaste residue on your toothbrush and around the edges of the lid to the toothpaste tube!

And that’s a fact

P.S. If Smokey actually turns out to be “Smolina”, she may produce up to 300 offspring over the next 6 months to one year…all in your kitchen. Think about that!