August 15, 2005


I have mentioned that I like Las Cruces a whole lot, yes? Good, good. Because I do have just one complaint:

(Pic from the Purdue University Urban Center.)

So I guess in a sense I have not one complaint, but many.

Too many.

The little, and not-so-little, bastards are mostly outside, which is not that much of a problem, except that they've made it known how much they'd really, really like to come inside, and that is a problem. I'm not going so far as to say cockroaches are my Room 101 item, because unfortunately I can imagine fates far worse than being locked into a face-cage full of cockroaches; but would it be fair to say they're up there in the top 10 of things I loathe and fear?

Yes. Yes it would. They don't make me scream and they don't me cry; they make me blisteringly angry and they make my skin crawl. If I see one, dead or alive (though admittedly alive is worse), I will twitch uncontrollably for hours. In fact I'm sitting here right now covered in phantom cockroaches, with every itch making me jump, and if you're sitting there right now thinking "Thanks for sharing, Ilyka" all I can say is YOU'RE WELCOME. If I have to suffer and twitch, you have to suffer and twitch. That's the way things operate around here.

If you are wondering whether I knew about las cucarachas ahead of time, before I moved, the answer is kind of, but no, mostly not. I mean, the boyfriend said his student apartments used to have them pretty bad, but hello? Student apartments. I knew I wouldn't be living in student apartments, so I didn't worry about it.

If you are wondering whether the pests are something of a deal-breaker, i.e., enough to drive me back to Dallas, the answer is a firm but sliiiiiiightly wistful "of course not." For one thing Dallas had, ah, the ones that fly, the kind that wicked lying Southerners try to convince you are not actually cockroaches but merely "water bugs," which, no offense Southerners, is a lie that would not fool a three year-old.

But do I sometimes think back fondly on the militant pest control service my former apartment complex employed, the one that sprayed with such joyful abandon it's a wonder I'm still alive? Do I sometimes wonder how much it would cost to lure them here?

Yes. Yes, I do. Because here is the number of cockroaches I ever had in that apartment over a five-year time span: 0. Before someone brings up the old blog and that post I think I called "Palmetto Ghetto," please recall that the nasty creature was outside. Outside! Not inside.

Anyway, I wish I could say that the number of roaches I have found inside this apartment is 0, but it is not. It is some number greater than 0 and less than 10 and that is as much as I feel like telling you about it.

Here's the thing: I recently enjoyed two weeks 100% cockroach-free, outside AND in, plus one week following that was, say, 92% cockroach-free, during which I only found the occasional belly-up corpse (are they not especially putrid-looking that way? The cockroach wins for Most Disgusting Thorax, definitely) on the patio. The patio, i.e., outside.

But the reason I had those 2-3 weeks of relief is that I am horrible person who deliberately dumps toxins into the helpless, sacred environment. See, I had swept the patio--which you have to do a lot here as it's a very dusty, very windy environment--and then I thought, I know, I'll bleach it too, and then after the water/bleach solution had evaporated I thought, wait, what if I washed off all the pesticides? and then I, ah, sprayed every conceivable surface of my patio with copious amounts of Raid.

So what I'm thinking happened is, the washing of the patio carried off lots of pesticide residue into the ground cover around the patio where it proceeded to kill bugs dead, bugs who would not live even long enough to crawl onto the patio in the first place, hooray. And then, yeah, the part where I applied a fresh layer of poison on top of that, I figure that couldn't have hurt either.

For all my seeming irresponsible disregard for The Environment, however, I'm not actually into infusing the soil with toxins--what happened was more a result of me not being very bright than a result of me being in a murderous rage against cockroaches (though for the record, I generally am in a murderous rage against cockroaches. That is fairly normal for me). I'm just saying, bathing the patio and surrounding areas in pesticides is not my preferred method for eradicating pests; no, not even such foul creatures as cockroaches.

So if anyone has any suggestions for methods that work, I would appreciate hearing them. Before anyone says "Combat traps," though, be advised that I have Combat traps; I'm just trying to figure out a way to deposit them around the patio without making it so that every time I step out for a cigarette I am greeted by a perimeter of Combat traps which in turn have perimeters of cockroach corpses. Also, did I mention that it's windy and dusty here? It is windy and dusty here. If I go the Combat traps route I'm probably going to have to Krazy Glue them to the concrete. You may think I'm kidding, but I'm not. It is that windy and that dusty.

Oh, one other thing: Anyone who says "boric acid repels cockroaches" will be flown to Marin County, allowed a brief reunion with his or her former commune mates over a last meal of soy protein and wheatgrass juice, and shot. Boric acid doesn't do diddly-squat dick, so don't even.

Something that works. Please. Thank you.

UPDATE: This really deserves to be promoted from the comments. Ms. Lauren is much braver than I am, and probably braver than you, too:

Hey, I go to Purdue. I'll bet that pic was from one of my old profs, Tom Turpin. When I had to take his class ("Bugs: Friend or Foe?" Foe!) I had to bring home a madagascar hissing cockraoch and keep it alive IN MY APARTMENT for the entire semester. Blugh. I named him Max.

The worst part is that whenever I turned on music, Max would go crazy. He lived in a piece of Tupperware and would crawl all over the thing hissing and cracking up against the side of plastic.

So maybe if I put a little boom box on the patio . . . ? They could listen to Gwen.

UPDATE II: I love Geek Empire because dude's got a way with imagery. Of course, given that the subject is cockroaches, some of that imagery's pretty disgusting; but he backs me up on the uselessness of boric acid against a true infestation, and he's definitely had 'em worse than I do:

This is nasty: one of their primary entry points into our apartment was through a hold behind a broken tile at the far end of the bathtub. This meant that, every once in a while, you'd be taking a shower, the water backing up a few inches in the bottom of the tub, and all of a sudden a giant cockroach appears out of nowhere and does a slide down your bathtub like he's at a fucking waterpark and is swimming around in the water, trying to grab onto something not porcelain, like, say, your feet.
Gaaaaahhh! But do read the whole thing. He's got a Martha Stewart reference in there that just slayed me, and when you can grind fresh material out of a subject as stale as Martha, that's impressive.

My first apartment was like that. I'd tell you all about it but I'd like to be able to sleep tonight without nightmares. For the people who think I'm freaking out over "baby" cockroaches, though--you're right, but you're wrong. These I'm waging war against now are mostly the American cockroach, just under 1" long, exactly like the picture above. In my first apartment, though, my roommate and I had the Yew-nited Nations of cockroaches. We had all kinds, but mainly little German browns and the occasional--but not seldom enough!--big, black, 2-3 inch ones. Those nasty things don't slow down with their size, either.

I didn't have a car at the time; every day after work I'd bike the four miles home, and sometimes by the end of that ride I'd really have to pee. Well, I dashed into the place one evening under just those circumstances and that's how I learned to, ah, look before I leap, so to speak. Because there is nothing like the sudden realization that you're crouching with your nethers exposed maybe all of six inches away from a cockroach the size of a damn hamster. Nothing like shrieking and racing out of the bathroom only to discover your roommate's just got home himself, either.

Before you've pulled up your pants.

Posted by Ilyka at August 15, 2005 12:04 PM in navel gazing | TrackBack

Heh. I live in Florida. That little one ain't nuthin.'

Posted by: Andrea Harris at August 15, 2005 12:41 PM

Hey, I go to purdue. I'll bet that pic was from one of my old profs, Tom Turpin. When I had to take his class ("Bugs: Friend or Foe?" Foe!) I had to bring home a madagascar hissing cockraoch and keep it alive IN MY APARTMENT for the entire semester. Blugh. I named him Max.

The worst part is that whenever I turned on music, Max would go crazy. He lived in a piece of Tupperware and would crawl all over the thing hissing and cracking up against the side of plastic.

I never want to see a "free" one in my lifetime. Eeeee!

Posted by: Lauren at August 15, 2005 05:53 PM

Ignore those typos -- I got so excited from all the cockroach talk that my fingers wouldn't work.

Posted by: Lauren at August 15, 2005 05:54 PM

Get some boric acid. Pour it around the thresholds of the doors. It's nice and environmentally friendly if it blows away. Keep the Combat traps in the house, like under the sink and in the pantry, behind the water heater, etc.

Posted by: caltechgirl at August 15, 2005 07:15 PM

Ok, so I didn't read the last part, but frankly I have to disagree with you. Boric acid worked great for us. You don't use it to repel them. You use it to keep them out. If they get past it, it doesn't work. If they get in, you have to try something else. Like the Combat traps.

Posted by: caltechgirl at August 15, 2005 07:18 PM

Easy solution?

Move north, and live in a house.

Cold weather in winter + no messy people in the same building = no roaches.

Posted by: Sigivald at August 15, 2005 08:42 PM

Cold weather in winter + no messy people in the same building = no roaches.

You and my father are on the same page, Sigivald. He claims that's why they do so well here: No freezes to kill them off.

Unfortunately I can't drive in snow and can't afford a house, so that's out.

Posted by: ilyka at August 15, 2005 08:51 PM

Start petitioning the complex management. Because, frankly, no matter what you do - those little bastards will just move back and forth between adjoining apartments.

Seriously. Start complaining and don't let up!

Until then, drown the lil' bastards (every one you see) in Raid. That's my solution, as well. Heh.

Posted by: Margi at August 15, 2005 11:23 PM

I had an encounter with a Black Widow in my office today, so now I'm all extra creeped out!

Posted by: Ith at August 16, 2005 12:52 AM

Carburetor cleaner. March thyself down to autozone and pick up a can or two. Cheep. Kills Bugs Dead(and I mean -right now-...instantly). It's good for the bugs you can see. Cleans carburetors, too.

Just don't get any on you...carb cleaner has methyl chloride in it.


Posted by: Hal at August 16, 2005 01:23 AM

The Godfather had an interesting method. Hair spray and a lighter.

Kills bugs dead.

Posted by: Jim at August 16, 2005 01:54 AM

Carburetor cleaner.

[slaps forehead]

Why didn't I just ask you right off the bat, Hal? If anyone would have a clever, economical method, you would.

Thanks. I'll try it.

Hair spray and a lighter.

It's certainly flamboyant . . . but in my uncoordinated hands, equals Crispy Catholic.

Posted by: ilyka at August 16, 2005 01:57 AM

I've been around those things my entire life (I especially love the big flying ones) and I have still never come to terms with them. Andrea's right. That one's a baby.

Posted by: Rob at August 16, 2005 03:13 AM

I used hairspray and matches to fend off a termite swarm inside my house once. Turned out the rental house was infested. That, I think, was my worst bug happening.

Posted by: Ith at August 16, 2005 03:20 AM

Are these the little tiny ones (1" long or so), or somewhat bigger. Because Tucson has plenty of the bigger buggers, but not my house. Any cockroach that has the temerity to enter herein only lasts about fifteen or twenty minutes into a game of hockey. Roach hockey that is. Played by cats.

The scattered pieces on the floor in the morning creep me out, but hey, at least they're *dead* roach pieces.

Posted by: Desert Cat at August 16, 2005 06:17 AM

Roach hockey that is. Played by cats.

Hahaha! That's how I found the first (first of two, i.e., two too many) last night. Saw the cat batting at something by the baseboard and . . . "What's that you got there, kitty? Oh, shit!"

They won't eat 'em, though, or at least my cats won't. They just torture them to death. That takes too long for my tastes, so I always shoo the cats outta the room and then grab for the Raid.

Tucson, huh? I used to live in Phoenix. Wildcats SUCK. :)

Posted by: ilyka at August 16, 2005 07:28 AM

My cat came bounding into the living room once with a roach in her mouth. She was careful not to kill it and had it upside down in her mouth with its little feet going every which way. Naturally, I was eating in front of the TV. She has mo interest in roaches any more. I think I'm thankful.

Posted by: Rob at August 16, 2005 11:17 AM

Things like Raid have no effect on Florida cockroaches. It merely makes them drunk. And they are angry drunks. I learned to have real good aim with things like the Yellow Pages.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at August 16, 2005 12:33 PM

Devil's fan? Raarh!

Not to worry, the Cat's/Devils rivalry infiltrates my own family, with one household of aunt and cousins having split their attendance between the two schools. Reunions can get a little wierd--"WHAT do you mean by serving me iced tea in a SUN-devils glass?!" "Get that Wildcat coffee cup out of my sight!", etc.

Posted by: Desert Cat at August 17, 2005 01:14 AM

Careful with them Yellow Pages, Andrea. They might throw them back at you.

Posted by: Rob at August 17, 2005 02:15 AM