Mr. Morrison, who calls hisself an editor, let me write
up this piece for you about roach bugs and then he wanted to edit
out all the good stuff. Shows you what he knows! He also told me
that I might not want my name published, but I don't care. I'm
Aunt Nellie Kelly. I just won't tell you whose aunt I am, so that
takes care of that!
Roaches. I love the little buggers. Always have. Now,
I'm not talking about the pine roach, as we call them, nor any of
those exotics. I'm talking about the common German cockroach, or
water bug. You either got them, had them, or will have them. If
you like to go out to eat a lot, chances are you shared your
supper with one. They are no respecter of fine digs either. The
sign out front neither narrows or expands your opportunity for an
encounter. They go where they please and have been doing so for at
least a hundred billion years.
Back to why I'm partial to the little shellbacks. When
I was just a little girl way back in the hills, we used to listen
to the radio because TV wouldn't make it through the pines. I had
one in my very own room, as a matter of fact. One day I spied a
little water bug hiding in that radio, right out in the front, of
all places. He, (I thought better of that shortly) was in a little
decorative lip that ran all around the front of the radio. That
lip wasn't more than an 8th of an inch deep, but the little feller
mostly fit and seemed happy enough waving it's friendly little
antennae around and watching the world go by.
Then, one day, to my surprise, I noticed that the
little roach boy had a bunch of little roach babies in that little
cleft with him, er, her. So...I killed them, splat dead. I
learned a valuable lesson right then and there!
The problem with the little torpedoes is that even
though they are as friendly as dogs and as inquisitive as
raccoons, they are basically untrustable, untrainable and live to
do two things...eat and breed.
Take the lowly fire ant. If you could train them to dig
your garden for you, you could throw that Sears garden tiller out
in the weed patch, for no critter alive can dig the soil as fine
as the ant. But, they are sneaky, vicious, and untrainable, so
they are fit for only one thing. Killing!
I've had two basic encounters with Herr Roach. The
first was when I was just getting started in the world on my own.
I moved into a duplex apartment when I was a teenager. The place
was real snuggy and nice and warm, and I had a fine time of it for
awhile. What the landlord didn't mention, though, was that along
with the rent came a case of roach bugs from you know where. You
could turn on the light at night and it was more crowded than the
Calhoun County Fair in 1963, what with the verminous little
buggers having ALL the fun on the sink ride, dish ride, and
leftover hamburger helper ride. It was pretty disgusting. Word was
that some years after we had moved out, and the place sold, it
took the exterminator three weeks of daily visits to get rid of
Later on I got my own digs, and we only saw an odd bug
or two now and again, and it was just a matter of a good stomp or
two and no more problem. Then, a few months ago I happened to
stumble into the worst case of luck imaginable. I brought in this
official NASCAR beverage cooler ice chest and placed it on the
kitchen counter with the intentions of washing it out for service.
It remained there in the kitchen....overnight. Bad bad mistake.
You see, I didn't know it at the time, but a sneaky
little roach mama had laid a nice juicy bug egg right there inside
that fold over handle thing, and it hatched...that night. The next
day when I picked up that cooler it was the Calhoun County fair
all over again. I can only imagine that the little roaches, all
new to the world, thought I was Godzilla come to eat them, so they
just naturally scattered from under that cooler when I picked it
up. Poof! And the race was on!
To my count, I'm in generation number four now. Back to
that in a minute.
Since my first introduction to water bugs, I've had a
natural fascination with them, as you may have noticed. I couldn't
afford to take up college, and none of them would hire me to teach
anyway, so most of what I know I learned on my own. Mind you, I
had a twenty year stretch when I didn't learn much, because I was
that lucky, but my luck wasn't to last. While until
recently I didn't have a problem myself, in the last couple of
years I've seen plenty elsewhere. You do that sort of thing if
you're a light bulb inspector.
By trade, until around 2002 or so, I was a line polisher for
Alabama Power. They say there's a job for everyone.
Have you ever looked up at those high lines running off
in all directions from the power dams? Ever noticed how bright and
shiny they are? Well, that was due to me. For 20 years, 5 days a
week, I'd pick up a ride on a helicopter down at the Anniston
Municipal Airport in Oxford and
they would set me down on top of one of those 500 foot high power
poles. Armed only with an industrial bucket of Pledge, and a
bicycle with no tires, I'd set those rims to spinning and ride
those lines, up and down, and down and up, pulling a towel on a
string behind that bike polishing those lines as I went. By the
time I had polished up the Ohatchee to Cheaha span, it was time to
start all over again. Birds can make an awful mess.
Well, the job played out when the stock market went
under, awhile back. The salary men up top decided that the lines
could just tarnish. They said the helicopter was using too much
gas and decided to only get it out for company picnics and such.
They called me in one day and said they had another
important job...light bulb inspector. Well, I knew the man in that
position, and though I never thought much of him as a human being,
I couldn't see taking his job, for there is only the one for this
area. So I said so.
They said to me not to worry. So, while I was sitting
out there in that little waiting room, they taken the inspector in
from his break and said plenty loudly that they were going to
replace him. He said, "How come? I never done nothing!" And they
told him that was the precise reason. That's how I got that job.
As light bulb inspector I must visit homes and
businesses all around the Calhoun county area to make sure that the
bulbs are functioning properly. Nowadays, with the high price of
power, it's important to minimize faulty and power wasting bulb
events whenever possible. At least it seems like it's more
important than keeping those 737,000 volt high lines shiny,
anyway. That's what they told me, and some of those managers have
been to college, so they know what they are talking about.
You know, I have a list of bulbs as long as your arm
that I have to check. The ones that give me the most problems are
the ones under the refrigerators. I have been in homes where not
only was there not a place to lay for the roach bugs scurrying
around, but not even a place to stand.
Most often I use a mirror on a long pole. In a place
like that there are so many roaches that they don't even mind that
compressor light. Normally roach bugs will shy away from light,
you know, preferring dark places. That's why you mostly see them
only at night unless you see them in the day, and if you see them
in the day you have a REALLY big problem.
And there is that smell. It's the smell of poverty.
It's a sickly sweet odor, and if you ever smelled it, you won't
ever forget it. Most often you run into it in homes where the
folks can't afford bug control, and in a few where they can, but
don't seem to mind it.
I was in one house where I smelled that smell. It was a
nice brick house in a nice neighborhood at that. The owner had a
nice job at the depot too. Over the dining room table, hanging
from the chandelier, was an uncoiled and slightly old and crunchy
roll of fly paper. There wasn't a place for a new fly to land for
all the old ones on that thing. I never understood that.
One day on my institutional rounds I had cause to stop
by a hamburger joint to cite them for a blinking exit sign light.
Blinkers actually use less power, but they are irritating. So
while I was inside checking out the light event, I had occasion to
see the behind the scenes portion of the operation. There was a
really neat chain drive system for cooking the burgers. Fresh meat
would plop down on one end, run through some sort of oven, and
come out all cooked and juicy on the other end. Unfortunately, on
the back end of the process, the roach circus was going at full
tilt as the little rascals practiced their high wire act running
up and down the framework as the burgers passed within an inch of
their inquisitive little feelers. I never understood that either.
Now, I've seen more than my share of those german roach
boys and girls in eateries. Most places work real hard to get rid
of them, and some even come close, but, they are inevitable, and,
since you can't kill them with a palm sized neutron bomb, you
might as well get used to them. I still frequent restaurants where
I've seen them in small numbers. I even visit that hamburger bug
heaven establishment from time to time, especially since they tore
the old place down and built a new one. Light bulb inspectors get
to eat for free. But I still wonder....... I think when it becomes
so bad enough that the newspaper reports it as "presence of
insects..." I have no way of knowing...It could be spiders or
grasshoppers, but I'm thinking they are mostly talking about you
In my own case, I've been fighting the exploding bug
menace for the last few months. I'm lucky. I live in a house. If
you live in an apartment...well, you're doomed. Sorry. Unless you
can get everyone to agree to an aggressive control program...and
all it takes is one loafer...you'll never get a thing done on your
own. But if you live in a house, you have a chance...
Like I said earlier, I've had the chance to study the
little buggers up close and personal for 4 hatches. From egg to
new generation can take as little as 2 months. They are in
breeders, and they'll eat each other as quickly as your chicken
fried steak. They are cute...but nasty. That sickly sweet odor I
mentioned is produced by them. It's a thing called pheromones. You
have probably heard of it. Sometimes companies who make cologne
try to make people pheromones. It doesn't smell much better. In
the case of the cockroach, it says, hey, ya'll come. Good eats and
lots of warm dark places to do buggy stuff! You really don't want
to smell that smell, if you are a human!
I recently did a little study on the subject, and much
to my surprise, I learned that roach folks go through three
stages. First, you have the egg case. Nasty thing! After the hatch
you have these little black shelled bug babies, who don't really
look like papa and mama roach. You might think you have two
different varieties, but you don't. They'll shed their hide up to
6 times before finally getting to the torpedo stage when they are
fully mature, vigorous, and sexually potent eating and breeding
I've had a chance to see the little fellows grow up.
They aren't much bigger than the head of a pin to start, but each
day they get just a little bigger. It's fascinating and makes a
person sort of proud that they can raise such a healthy family of
bugs on little more than spaghetti leavings.
Mostly what you read about the habits of the crawlers
is in the context of chaos, for that is what you have when you
study them in numbers. However, when you have but a single hatch,
some very interesting things come to light.
An egg produces thirty to forty bug babies, you see.
According to greatly learned men of science, unless they are
pushed, they don't get more than 5 feet away from the delivery
room. This, I think, is a fact.
Something I have observed is that they are actually
curious creatures, and somewhat trusting, until they get the odd
notion that you have only their worst fears close to your heart.
They act like trusting cockeroach spaniel dogs, and aren't too bad to run unless they
have been chased before. You get the idea that just like trusty
old Rover, they think themselves house pets. The problem, as I may
have mentioned in passing before, is that they are impossible to
house train. They'll slip the leash each and every time it's
Another interesting observation is that they definitely
have a plan. While there may be 40 of them all piled up in a nice
dark corner under the cabinet, or in the coffee maker, or under
the fridge, or in the innards of your stove, you'll never see more
than 3 or 4 foraging the counter for goodies at a time. Surely
this is some kind of survival trait. As surely as you pounce on
this lot and kill them dead, there are always more waiting to make
a break for your leftover toast. One evening I launched a midnight
hunting party and bagged the usual 3. Then I cut off the light
and...waited. A half hour later I went back and bashed 3 more. The
little scutters saw that light come on and go off and just like
good old puppy dogs, figgered there would be some good new vittles
on the counter to eat. Well you win a few and you lose a few.
Did I mention that they love my spaghetti? Oh yes
indeed. I've seen them down on their little buggy knees shoveling
leftover spaghetti sauce into their bug muzzles. Forget grease or
soap scum. They go straight for Auntie's spaghetti every time!
Better than that, I have even seen them asleep, fat,
gorged, and happy, just like old Woofy after a pan of cornbread.
When they get sleepy or whatever they do, they might fall over
right on the spot...legs up. But touch them, and they come to
life, instantly awake, making for the nest. Well, until SPLAT,
If you are a happy house owner, and you do have what
they call an infestation, the only thing you can do is to battle
them. The smart ones among us calculate that one bug can turn into
10,000 in a year's time. Every little torpedo you send to heaven
is one less 10,000 you'll have to worry with next year.
My solution, since I have only a few bugs, is to get up
at odd times of the night and stumble into the kitchen with my
trusty can of Raid and go bug hunting. Slowly but surely, I'm
wiping them out in 3's and 4's. It liked to have broken my heart
when that last hatch hatched, but I still think I'm winning. Of
course I thought I was winning that numbers racket game at the
Calhoun County Fair that year I lost my paycheck too.
My other solution that didn't work, was bug bombs.
Forget them. If you are truly crawling, they will kill a lot of
bugs...but inexplicably, the ones who survive will be all but
immune to the next attack. All you'll get is a mess and an itchy
nose. You'll see nary another dead bug. It's like Bynum blowing up
every so often, and the folks who are left are inoculated. It will
never happen for us poor humans, but it's the modus operandi for
our bug pals. Even the French people don't like them, so no chance
of shipping them out of the country. They are here to stay.
My current solution that is still in the trial stage is
to actually do away with the spaghetti sauce stained plates after
supper. It's true that roaches will go 42 days with no spaghetti
before they go belly up, but at least they might get irritated in
the meantime. And one better, I'm making sure that there is not so
much as a drip of water in the kitchen for them. They don't call
them water bugs for nothing. According to college trained sources,
while roachians can go a long time without supper, just seven days
with no water and they'll go to bug heaven guaranteed! So,
nowadays, the kitchen is veritable Saharan waste for bug boys and
Of course, I could hire a professional exterminator.
They have lots of toys we don't, to do in the crawling land
torpedoes, and mostly they get the job done, but if I do, I'll
never have all the fun of the nightly chase. Take a word of advice
from Aunt Nellie Kelly, light bulb checker, and roach
slayer....Keep it clean, and keep it dry. Make those bugs work for
their supper for a change, or tell them to just hit the road! They
If you like roaches, you'll love
Chiggers, and Noseeums!
My Roaches Love My Spaghetti
German Roach Torpedo
Roaches in your complex?
You are doomed!
Power Line Polisher
Light Bulb Inspector
Let's go out for lunch!
German Roach Baby in a Bassinette
German Cockeroach Spaniel
My roaches LOVE my spaghetti!