Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Birmingham, AL: Roaches


Louisiana, July 2015.

Trigger alert for the squeamish. (Hell, I'm squeamish.)

They don't pay rent, take out the trash, or engage in entertaining conversation. They are squatters in my quarters.

Since being rootless, I've become familiar with these characters. Different sizes and shapes, different colorations. Some can fly, some are grounded.

But roaches, every one.

The first time I saw a roach in my Birmingham apartment was when the landlord showed the apartment to me as a prospective tenant. I gasped. The roach was big, it was fast, and it projected attitude. The landlord remarked placidly that his daughter had similar reactions as I when she encountered a roach like that. In negotiations about the apartment, the landlord agreed to one pest control application. 

After I moved in, I discovered two populations living rent-free in my place: the American and, most likely, the German

There were two communities in my Tucson apartment also. Their skittery populations surged and receded like high and low tides of the sea, dependent on the ins and outs of adjacent tenants and regular sprayings by the apartment management. The Tucson arthropods were small and swift. I never knew when a singleton would dart out from under my dishcloth as I lifted it from the sink edge first thing in the morning. So startling. But both varieties succumbed quickly to an assertive spray from my bottle of Clorox Clean-Up All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach Spray. (I may be lethal, but I'm no sadist.)

I can deal with the Germans. The Clorox spray is effective for spontaneous responses. And in Birmingham, with a landlord who doesn't care about pests in their tenants' apartments, the Hot Shot Ultra Liquid Roach Bait seems effective for ongoing, passive (to me, not the to roaches) control. 

But the hulking Americans! They laugh at the Clorox spray! They don't fit into the roach traps because they are too big. Finding the right shoe or other blunt weapon for a more personal, shivery kill takes too long in response to a sudden assault by one of these behemoths. So I bought a can of roach spray, which, if applied with vigor, ends them almost immediately. 

Thank goodness, I've never seen an American roach up on my kitchen counter or in my cabinets. Doesn't mean they didn't (don't) go there, I've just never seen one there. Consequently, my brain can deploy the "not seen, so doesn't happen" wash, and I can move about my kitchen in blithe serenity.

The Birmingham American roach prefers to loiter in the bathtub, so I have learned to open the shower curtain briskly, look quickly for an encroacher, and be ready to jump for the spray. 

I was not ready to see what I saw one day, something my brain can never un-see. 

Be prepared to be as grossed out as I was. 

In my self-care regimen, I strive for baby-smooth heels. To aid in this, I have a foot file. It has a steel grater on one side and sandpaper on the other side. 

I kept it on the side of my tub. 

Until .... 

 .... that one morning when I walked into my bathroom and I saw a GIGANTIC AMERICAN ROACH GRAZING ON THE DEAD SKIN REMNANTS ON THE FILE!!!!!!


Gross, gross, gross. 

I killed the beast and then sanitized the file. 

These days, I wrap my file in plastic. 

But I have wondered, what else do they eat? Do they eat soap? 

Yes, apparently they do. 


Other stories about roaches and me

2011: Ethiopia: Nazret: Introduction and a Brush With Fame

Later, I walked into the bathroom just in time to see a cockroach skittering toward me, the size of which I've only seen in a museum with a pin in it. I screamed.

2011: Ethiopia: Nazret: Saturday in Nazret

Oh, and evidently Azeb's absence was noted by Those That Creep In the Dark. When I turned the bathroom light on and counted to my usual 10 to allow furtive creatures time to scoot out, I encountered TWO of the gigantic cockroaches. Furthermore, they CHALLENGED me in such a way that I got out the broom to let them know who was (sort of) boss...... I considered several lethal options.

2011: Ethiopia: Hyenas, Fresh Goat, and a Crispy Roach [on my pizza] in Harar

Decided to lunch instead at the reliable Fresh Touch down the street. Ordered the vegetarian pizza. When it arrived, I dressed it with their wonderfully spicy chili sauce. Oh. Wait. I did order the vegetarian pizza, right? So what's with the crispy-curled roach sitting so perkily atop a pepper? Waiter! 

 2012: New Mexico: Roaches and Other Unpretty Neighbors 

Now that I'm in my apartment, it seems I see one roach per evening scuttling through my place, each a different brand. I've smashed all but one of the unwanted pests.

2013: New Mexico: Insect Life


2013: New Mexico: Arthropod Museum 

There were a couple of live Madagascar hissing roaches and Graeme was willing for me to hold one in my hands. I wanted to be willing, but I couldn't guarantee that once it was placed in my hand, I wouldn't immediately fling it across the room in squealy fear. Ryan had the good idea for me to place my hand on the table and let the roach creep crawl walk on it. I did do this, all the while giggling in the way one does when one is actually scared and not amused.

2013: New Mexico: Cup o' Roaches

2014: Louisiana - A general note about the insect situation: 

"South Louisiana is a giant sponge. That's why we keep in constant motion. If you stand still, you'll either sink or be eaten alive by giant insects."  Dave Robicheaux, Pegasus Descending, by James Lee Burke

2015: Louisiana: Creepy Crawly Day at Chico State Park  

Why do I feel compelled to look at things that make me go "ewww"?

2019: New Mexico: The Jump

The first time I walked through the passageway ..., I saw the enormous, segmented exoskeleton of the arthropod above, and I jumped like a cat surprised by a cucumber. 




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