Saturday, August 06, 2005

Periplanta americana

I hate roaches! Those two-inch angular bodies with twitching antennae…..I absolutely will not tolerate them in my house. The two seasons when roaches invade my great indoors occur about the time of the first freeze in November or December and when it’s hot, which is pretty much May through September. They make themselves at home in the garage, which is next to the kitchen and is the main door of entrance/egress from the house. Then they sneak inside. I don’t know how they do it.

I see at least one and usually two or more when I pull into the garage in the wee hours of morning. That’s their preferred time. They hate light. I’ll see them in my headlights and then the overhead light comes on and they stop in their tracks until I slam the car door and head over to stomp them. Then they scuttle for cover and I’m too tired to chase them. I don’t like using ant&roach spray inside the house because it’s so toxic and smells so bad but the garage is a different matter. I’ve taken to leaving a big red can of Raid on my workbench and now I ease myself quietly out of the car, grab the can, take aim and PSSSSSSSST! Spray hits the roach and it scurries away but it’s probably doomed.

I have a two-stage reaction when I’m in the house and surprise. First I do a karate-style shriek which serves to broadcast my total disgust and also to kickstart my adrenaline. My preferred weapon is a rolled-up newspaper because I can wield it in tight quarters, especially corners, which is where the roaches usually head. I can also strike repeatedly which is a necessity because one blow usually doesn’t finish them off. In a pinch if I don’t have a paper I’ll use a shoe but rubber treads mean I may be striking the roach with only empty space. Stomping is also a possible alternative but you have to be very fast and extremely accurate and it usually isn’t effective on carpeted floors. I hate that crunching noise they make when you schmush them. And I hate their tan guts oozing out. But it’s better than having them crawling around the house. And finally I brush the seemingly lifeless body between pages of a paper and stomp that before depositing it into the trash can. This is a crucial final step because roaches will “play possum” (or maybe they become stunned) and then crawl away.

I used to hear that placing horseapples (fruit of the bois d’arc tree) around the perimeter of your house would deter cockroaches from entering. I did try it once at my old house but I never could find out if you were supposed to leave them whole, or cut them in half, and whether or not you were also supposed to smear the juice on the house’s foundation. I wasn’t able to acquire enough horseapples to encircle the house, as the number of bois d’arcs seemed to have dwindled so I just put them across the foundation where the main door was located. I don’t think it made a difference.

Thomas Henry Huxley (grandfather of Aldous) thought cockroaches were the archetypal bug. Here’s his take on them. And here’s some more fun facts about roaches.

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