One morning last week over coffee, Sentinel staffer, Rachel Parks mentioned to me her discovery of cockroaches in Texas. Rachel is new to the Lone Star State, bless her heart, and has had a couple of unnerving cockroach encounters that to most Texans is just part of the norm around here.
“They’re huge and they fly,” she said.
“Well, yes. They are and they do,” I said, not quite sure what the issue was.
“They don’t do that where I am from,” she said. I could tell she was disturbed by the experience.
It was then that it occurred to me that we need to warn y’all about our cockroaches when you come to Texas.
We make a point of warning you about our fire ants, scorpions, snakes, mosquitoes, ticks, spiders and a whole mess of other animals. Somehow, the lowly cockroach gets forgotten.
The most common roach in Texas is the American cockroach. It’s reddish-brown in color and is about 1-2 inches long. Texas also is home to the Cuban cockroach (quite populous in Houston), the oriental cockroach and the wood cockroach.
If it is true that cockroaches can survive a nuclear holocaust, then Texas is the perfect place for them to live.
One or two cockroaches in your house do not mean that your house is dirty. In fact, some of those bugs will show up precisely because your house is clean. They’re coming in for the free food and water. They will, by the way, eat anything. My father called them the goats of the bug world. Roaches will eat meats and grease, starchy foods, sweets, baked goods, leather, wallpaper paste, book bindings and sizing.
And, yes, they fly. Or rather, they seem to fly. The adults can manage a gliding flight when the occasion calls for it. Be prepared.
You probably already know that it is wise to shake out your boots in the morning before you put them on because of spiders and scorpions. Cockroaches love footwear too. Dark, stinky places make great bug hidey-holes. While cockroaches are fairly harmless (to my knowledge, they don’t bite), they will scream if you put your foot in your shoe and stand on them.
I have personal experience with that.
Cockroaches get in places you least expect, even in the most immaculate environments. I recall when I was a child and visiting my grandmother in Greenville, my father and his brothers were sitting in her backyard on the patio on stools made from steel tractor seats, drinking iced tea as Texans are known to do. The seats were welded to industrial pipe, which was hollow. I vividly remember them getting a look on their faces like they were plotting something truly evil, and lifting up the stools to release a gusher of roaches reminiscent of a scene in a horror movie. Then they commenced to stomping the bugs in the fashion of flamenco dancers.
And they laughed. They laughed like fiends.
Understand that my grandmother was an excellent housekeeper. Her backyard was something of a lovely personal arboretum, and she hosted her garden club at her home frequently. Cockroaches most certainly were not invited. But this is Texas, and bugs practically own the state.
Cockroaches definitely are considered pests. The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension reports that, “Although not shown to be direct carriers of disease, (cockroaches) can contaminate food and kitchen utensils with excrement and salivary secretions and leave an unpleasant odor.”
For obvious reasons, their continued cohabitation with humans is not a good thing. You could call an exterminator and get an annual spraying, but know this: cockroaches are the food critters of many animals including some birds of prey. Think about what a pesticide might do to the species, and consider going “green.” Get a cat.
I have one cat now, but awhile back I had two. Of the two, my neutered blue-point Siamese tomcat, Bear, was the Great White Roach Hunter at my house. Frankly, I had no idea the bugs existed anywhere near my home until their little half-eaten bodies turned up all over my place. I think he actually brought them in from outside. Crickets, geckos and roaches would end up piled on the porch in front of my kitchen door. I knew one of the cats was responsible, and I erroneously believed it was my female cat, Salome’, until I saw Bear with a live roach, the bug turned upside down and kicking, in his mouth.
He ate the thing – the whole bug – in front of me.
Cats are the best pest control in the world. I don’t recommend letting them roam the neighborhood; cats are sport killers and will significantly impact your neighborhood’s ecosystem. But release one or two cats in your home and you will be virtually pest free. At least, that’s been my experience.
Salome’ is not the hunter that Bear was (he’s gone now), but she is an accomplished gecko killer. She left one for me on my pillow one morning. That’s cat-speak for “you are a lousy hunter, and if I don’t feed you, you will starve.” Mummified gecko bodies, complete and dismembered, have begun to turn up in strange places in the house, but no bugs, much to my relief. Since geckos are pretty good pest control, too, we’re relatively insect-free in the Zepp house.
If you’re new to Texas, you’d best get used to the bugs. Don’t let them freak you out. Just grab a glass of iced tea, turn on Tito & Tarantula’s song “Angry Cockroaches,” and commence to stomping. You might find it’s a pretty good cardio workout and as much fun as Zumba.