Close Encounters of the Cockroach Kind


by Vicki Nunn

I fear that I have become too well acquainted with cockroaches over the years. What is it about these insects that cause so many of us to shriek with terror at the mere sight of them?

Looking back over the years, I recall that I have had four styles of encounters with the dreaded little beasties, but before I share more about those occurrences, let me explain why I developed such an aversion in the first place.

As a young child, I remember my grandmother regaling us with a horrifying tale about a cockroach that had crept inside her ear while she was sleeping – and had died in there!

My little eyes opened wide with revulsion and horror, and for years afterwards I imagined that cockroach kicking its legs in its death-throws inside my grandmother’s ear canal, while she frantically tried to dig it out!

Then there was my father who loved to entertain us with stories of his adventures, including the period when he worked as a signalman in the railway.

At the time he was required to stay overnight in the tiny signal cabin. In between trains he’d catch a nap on the floor. In fact, one night he managed to catch more than a few winks.

The hordes of cockroaches that lived there would scurry about at night, and dad spent most of his sleep flicking them off when they crawled over his skin.

He recollected one night when he woke up from a sound sleep and found he was chewing on something, just as he’d been dreaming about eating something delicious!

This may help you to understand my dread of the horrible things and the way that I reacted the year I turned twenty.

1. The sadistic cockroach that wouldn’t die

In my flat one night, an enormous cockroach that I swear was almost the size of a volkswagon, flew in through an open window and immediately honed in on me. No matter where I went running, screaming, with my arms flailing about in revulsion, the wretched creature would fling itself off the wall and aim itself directly at me.

In the vast expanse of that large, two storey flat where I was the only occupant that night, it persisted in trying to land on me!

Eventually, I managed to bravely run past it and snatched a can of insect killer from the kitchen cupboard and went over and sprayed it.

I stepped back, waiting for it to fall down and die. Instead, it clung onto the wall as if enjoying the view, and so I sprayed it again and waited… and again… and again, until it was coated with white foaming liquid.

I reckon if I’d been courageous enough to step in for a closer look, the rotten thing would have been grinning sadistically at me.

I wondered why it was still alive, and when I glanced at the can I was holding, I realised I wasn’t using insect killer but it was instead a tin of air-freshener.

While I hadn’t managed to kill the cockroach, when it returned home, it sure was going to smell nice to its friends and family.

2. The hallway through hell

One of the flats I rented years ago was in a dilapidated old Queenslander  that hadn’t been bug-sprayed for probably half a century. Consequently it became cockroach central for a vast breeding crowd of the vile critters.

I used to dread having to use the old bathroom at the back of the building at night. Not only was it completely dark with no lights down that long, LONG corridor, there was always at least thirty huge cockroaches between me and bladder relief.

Sometimes they would join me in the bathroom, just in case I felt lonely.

3. Toilet rule number 1

In another rental property, an enormous fig tree overhung the residence, from which cockroaches used to dive in for regular visits.

I developed a very important rule while I lived there which I still observe to this day:

ALWAYS check the black toilet seat for cockroaches before sitting down.

Yes, I personally learned that lesson the hard way, and no amount of scrubbing made me feel clean.

4. A unique, scientific find

At one time I rented a flat in a lovely old house that unfortunately was home to a plague of small, brown cockroaches.

They emanated in their dozens from the flat next door where the resident had lived for more than twenty years. From what I understand, he had likely never thrown anything out and possibly may never have cleaned it either.

It didn’t seem to matter what cockroach baits or repellents my flatmate and I placed around our home, the creatures seemed to be breeding faster than we could manage to kill them.

After termites were discovered in the building, the place was treated for white-ants, and for six glorious months, we were cockroach-free!

Then slowly they began to reappear.  The next wave of the bugs though were seriously messed up, with mutated, shrivelled up, useless little wings.

One night we received a visit from an albino cockroach. As it skittered down the wall beside me, I thumped the wall-panel next to it. The creature received the fright of its life, and flung itself off the wall, preparing to fly away because in its tiny cockroach brain, it was engineered to believe that it could still fly. Instead, after leaping from the wall, it immediately fell to the floor.

I realised at that moment that I’d discovered a rare albino, mutant, kamikaze cockroach! I’m sure there are few other people who can make that boast!