Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


Cockroaches don't give you flu

Electric New Paper
By Siva Choy
February 12, 2007

IN all my life, I've never met anybody who's had a nice thing to say about cockroaches.

Instead, I've met hundreds of people who would be happy to squash a cockroach with a slipper or spray it with insecticide or (if their conscience forbids them to kill) ask somebody else to do it.

The sad thing is that cockroaches are not fierce creatures - they can't hurt us like bees or scorpions can. In fact, they're terrified of us.

Maybe that's why we're so brave about whacking them with folded newspapers. (If you saw a cobra, would you whack it with a newspaper?)

Most people say they don't like cockroaches because they're dirty and spread germs, but hey, that last bout of flu you caught didn't come off a cockroach. It came off some neatly dressed accounts clerk next to you in the office, so maybe you ought to go and flatten him with your shoe.

And when a pretty, perfumed young woman coughs in your face on your bus ride home, maybe you'll remember that the worst epidemics have been spread by human-to-human contact.

I personally don't like cockroaches, but that's probably something to do with childhood dislikes that have continued into adult life (like cod liver oil, peppermint cure and school prefects).

I've tried to understand cockroaches better lately but it has been impossible to get a dialogue going.

I don't squash cockroaches any more (they mess up the floor), and I don't gas them anymore (it messes up my breathing) and I don't put cockroach bait out anymore (it kills crickets).

But I haven't seen any cockroaches lately, and I think they're being eaten by the big spiders in the house (which I don't kill either).

The spiders in turn are attracting birds, which is good news, but the birds seem to be attracting local cats, which is not good news.

You can't treat cats as pests (though you're welcome to chop spiders to bits, use vicious traps on rats in spite of their invaluable contribution to laboratory science, and carry out ethnic cleansing on entire colonies of ants).

I could get a dog to discourage the cats (that's permitted) but dogs expect long-term personal commitment and I'm already married.

But I'm glad I've got a symbiotic, sustainable system of pest management going by allowing nature to take care of itself.

So okay, the cobwebs can look a bit spooky and the occasional spider taking a short-cut through the living room can frighten guests, but the house is feeling less like a slaughterhouse now.

I compare my house with that of my friend David and his wife Davidia, whose home is totally pest-free. It's that way because they kill everything that doesn't belong in their house (except relatives and friends).

There is a lingering whiff of insecticide in the whole house. All nooks and corners are sprayed, cupboards are booby-trapped with pest poisons, wardrobes stacked with enough naphthalene balls to blow the flat apart, mouse-traps permanently set to terrorise mice and odour-killers applied regularly to camouflage the mass murders.

The cockroach is a hardy creature. If insecticides can knock it out, insecticides can knock out anything over time.

So watch it, Dave & Dave - the cockroach might have the last laugh if the two biggest pests in the house get zapped.