CREEPY CORNER: That Time My Apartment Was Taken Over By Roaches

I was pretty sure the roaches were going to carry me off in the night and hold me captive as their queen.
Publish date:
November 8, 2013
bugs, roaches, gross stuff

Have y'all seen this?

In case you haven't, let me do you this service and recap for you.

This British family

Found these spiders

On their bananas

Which spiders? THESE spiders

For those of you who need to brush up on your arachnid identification skills, that's a Brazilian Wandering Spider, more commonly called a Banana Spider.

Yep, that there is the most venomous spider in the world.

And that darling family had them in their house. A whole mess of them. Little tiny baby ones. Growing into big ones. Crawling everywhere.

Who wants a banana?

Upon seeing this, yes I was a little freaked out and itchy (spiders, spiders everywhere!), but more than anything I felt the need to check very precise change dates I keep on a calendar on my fridge for all the bug traps stashed around my house.

You see I live in fear of infestation. BECAUSE I LIVED THROUGH IT.

An infestation of those most vile of creatures, the cockroach.

Now before you go telling me to "Clean your damn apartment Louise!", let me explain that I live in a tropical climate and roaches are an unavoidable way of life. Regular cleaning helps, yes, but those assholes are everywhere and living with them is really just a matter of subduing them.

I have dealt with roaches here in ways I never thought non-biohazard abode living people would ever have to deal with roaches.

I knew something had irrevocably changed in me when, while talking on the phone in the Chinatown parking lot of the venue I briefly bar tended at, a "B-52 Bomber" -- what the locals call those humongous flying roaches -- crawled across my open toe shoe and I did not even flinch. A year ago I would have screamed and danced around until I twisted my ankle, but after dealing with the horde of roaches that occupied my apartment I merely shrugged, said to myself, "Well, that happened," and continued chatting on my cell phone.

It's amazing what you can get used to.

Okay, there aren't "Jurassic Park" style roaches wandering around my house (I think), but at one point I was pretty sure the roaches were going to carry me off in the night and hold me captive as their queen.

It wasn't all that alarming when it started.

When we first moved into this apartment, I didn't see any roaches for months. I even sat on the floor.

I saw roaches scurrying around outside the apartment, but our apartment was the oasis. We kept the place clean, we covered our food, we were okay.

So I thought. Then our neighbors moved out.

In retrospect, these neighbors were the ultimate roach bait. All the roaches went to their apartment, because it was the cockroach Horn of Plenty. Just glance through their screen doors on most nights, and you'd see leftovers and food wrappers scattered across their coffee table. There was clutter in every corner, and a dingy carpet on the floor.

Soon after their departure, and the cleaning of their apartment by our landlord, I started seeing roaches. One here, one there, but nothing I thought a few shots with multi-purpose cleaner couldn't stop.

Then I started seeing more. And more. Overnight, it seemed, an APB had been sent out amongst the O'ahu roach community that there were a pair of suckers living in Makiki who hadn't wised up to roach traps yet.

I knew we had to step up our defense when I realized I was avoiding going to the bathroom or kitchen or WALKING ACROSS THE FLOOR at night because the odds of encountering a family outing of German Cockroaches (the little immortal ones) was more than likely, it was a guarantee.

Then they were in our toothbrushes (which promptly got moved to the refrigerator), then they were crawling across our coffee table, then I was finding them in my purse.

I didn't take this growing infestation lying down (more on that later). Being the as-natural-as-possible person I am, I tried all manner of natural remedies to varying degrees of success. I think, in a less intense roach population some of these remedies would have worked, but in O'ahu I was working against sheer numbers.

The natural remedies I tried included:

• Catnip spray (boil Catnip in water, strain, put in spray bottle)

• A sonic roach deterrent you plug into light sockets

• Diatomaceous Earth, which works to an extent but it's a powder and it gets everywhere, and if the roaches avoid it, no dice

• Bay leaves (HA!)

• Lemon peels (HA!)

• Various essential oils, that worked in various degrees but NOT WELL ENOUGH

• Natural roach traps from the natural market

• Natural roach spray from the natural market

• Not so natural Combat roach traps (sort of worked, but not for long)

Just when I thought something was working, the roaches would come back full force and mock me.

I was getting to an obsessive point. Every night, I'd come home after work and vacuum the entire apartment. Then I'd spray clean every surface. Then I'd spray a perimeter with "pet friendly" roach spray around the couch and my bed. Anything and everything that would fit in the fridge -- hairbrushes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair products -- lived there. Every week I'd toss more crappy traps around the apartment, hoping that THIS batch would work.

I'd then take refuge on the couch, feet curled up under me, roach spray at the ready, and try to enjoy my night.

This went on for over two months.

I hit my breaking point when I didn't sleep for five days because the roaches, which had previously stayed away from my bed, started crawling on me in my sleep. I literally had trouble lying down. I would doze off (with the lights on mind you, because it was a minor defense against the advancing army), and then be jolted awake at all hours of the morning to a roach crawling across my arm or leg.

The morning I shook one from my hair I knew it was time to get serious. It was absurd that I was living like this.

Luckily, my building had a going away party for one of the tenants at this time, and to gain some relief from my own apartment, I actually went. I will always be grateful I did.

I got to chatting with my downstairs neighbor, a woman who had lived on the island her entire life, and claimed to have a roach free apartment. "I leave food out on the counter", she boasted. I wanted to cry.


It's then that she revealed to me what I have learned is the Holy Grail of roach control.

"That natural shit is all well and good", she smirked, "but this is the ONLY thing that works. I hoard them. If they ever discontinue these traps, I'm leaving the island".

I bought three boxes the next day.

And guess what? IT WORKED.

Yes, I was little afraid of killing my cat as she likes to play with roach traps (I made sure to hide them well out of her reach), but I figured the trade off of not having her food dish writhing with roaches was worth the risk. For the record, she's a happy healthy kitty as we speak.

Within days I was happily sweeping up roach corpses, and within a week, I was not afraid to walk around my apartment at night. Or sleep with the lights off.

So for now, my only obsession is changing those traps on the very day they expire. I still see roaches here and there, but one every two weeks is glorious compared to 100 everyday.

We've had ant troubles, and some spider troubles, but nothing compares to the "Roach Days".

And yes, the day they discontinue those traps, is the day I move off the island.

Have you ever had a bug infestation? What are your insect horror stories? What awful, asshole bugs are indigenous to your area?