cockroachComing hard on the heels of problems with mould and mosquitoes, cockroaches are the latest nasty to blight her student flat in Bordeaux.

I’m not sure which variety has invaded her. There are four types which are considered pests: American cockroaches, German cockroaches, Asian cockroaches and Oriental cockroaches. I’m guessing it’s most likely German ones that have come on holiday. Let’s hope so as they’re one of the smaller varieties (15mm). The largest ones are Australian burrowing cockroaches at 9cm long. Eeeuw. Cockroaches, whose name comes from the Spanish word cucaracha, are in the same group of insects as termites and praying mantises.

Cockroaches live in many different environments but seem to prefer nice warm buildings. Which isn’t good because they produce a chemical, tropomyosin, that can trigger asthma. They can passively transport microbes too. They’re as tough as old boots and can survive for over a month without food or water. They can withstand radiation much better than humans, due to their cycle of cell division. Their cells only divide when they moult. So the popular belief that cockroaches will be the only survivors if humans destroy themselves in a nucelar holocaust has some validity.

How to get rid of them. Caiti, pay attention. You can prevent them by keeping all food in sealed containers. Seal off any entry points such as around pipes or windows. For some reason you’re advised to sort out any water leaks from dripping taps. Presumably cockroaches can get in that way too. Once you get one or two in residence, they give off a hormone that attracts others, so can result in a swarm. (Caits, RUN!!!) Diatomaceous earth, which is harmless to humans and feels like talcum powder, is a good at eliminating them. Sprinkle it around where you’ve seen them. Also good is the ampulex wasp at seeing cockroaches off but that may not be a very practical solution for the household!

Insecticides containing hydramethylnon, fipronil, boric acid, deltamethrin or pyrethrin are effective. You can set cockroach traps too. Use a deep, smooth-walled jar with some tempting morsels inside or a few cms of beer. Place the jar so it’s touching a wall or lean sticks up against it to make a ramp so the critters can get to the opening. Once in, they can’t climb out but a smearing of Vaseline around the top of the jar will make extra sure. This method works best with the American cockroach, or so Wikipedia tells me (I guess they like their Bud) but less so with their German cousins. However, it might be worth a shot.

Cockroaches are a particularly popular subject for poems. Chris found some limericks here. They’re from the OEDILF which is the English dictionary in limerick form, by the way!

So there we have it – a quick guide to Caiti’s cockroaches. (Which would be a good title for a book to follow on from my Katie’s Caterpillars, and Katie’s Cake, both published by O’Brien Press.)