Cockroaches Live Forever

As I’ve written about before, I totally gave up on eradicating the huge cockroaches that filled my small house in Panama during the Peace Corps years. They were the flying kind that could get a couple of feet up into the air and hit me in the shins. If I stepped on one, making an awesome crunch, slimy guts squirted out from both sides of my shoe. Even with a powerful U.S. Army olive green bug bomb that I cadged from a couple living in the Canal Zone — one containing an insecticide that’s probably banned now — the evil creatures kept coming. The most I could do was stomp around and turn on the 40 watt bulb hanging from the ceiling when I came in, driving most of them back into the walls. When quiet and darkness returned, they’d emerge and begin to creep around. They apparently couldn’t climb, which meant that once I was in my cot and covered with the huge mosquito net we all used, I felt safe.

I knew I shared my small house with thousands of them, seen or not.

Here’s a piece with new facts about the persistent creatures. They can live for up to a week without a head. They can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes. They can run up to 3 miles an hour, live for a month without food and for a week without water, and survive cold down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

I rarely see cockroaches in the high end villa I now rent, other than the occasional dead one lying on its back. But I try to remind my guests not to walk barefoot on the tile floors, knowing that the dearth of cockroaches means that the place is literally slathered in insecticide between rentals. Anyone walking barefoot is walking through layers and layers of bug spray, not a very appealing thought.

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