Know Thy Foe: Waterbugs

Ugh. The telltale long wiggly antennae peeking out from your shower drain. 

You know its down there, coming for you from the dark bowels of the New York City sewer. Your blood freezes.  A. Big. Mother*. Waterbug.

There is no place safe from them, they show up uninvited in your immaculately clean kitchen, crawl in the office toilet stall and scare you out of your building lobby.

"Waterbug" is a misnomer. The glorious American Cockroach, Periplaneta americana, capable of many amazing feats like surviving with its head cut off, nuclear radiation, thriving amongst the most virulent germs and noted for it primary superpower of making grown men scream, isn’t aquatic at all. This larger and fatter cousin of the small German cockroach "Blattella Germanica" can fly, especially through your open window, however not with the grace of a hummingbird but rather it will hurl itself onto you like a wet rag.

The smaller but tenacious German Cockroach is a far bigger problem in New York but nothing can compare to the shock and awe of seeing a bug the size of a baby mouse scamper across your floor. Your first instinct might be just to grab your wallet, run out the front door and never come back. 

Oh, hey - Hi!

Oh, hey - Hi!

But Know Thy Foe: 

Large waterbugs are solidarity wanderers that pop up mostly in hot and humid months and pass trough looking for water. They will wander off unless you create an inviting home for them. Beware of the little Germanicas, they are the true nasty infestation type.

What they need

Roaches are extremely efficient omnivores and can last for weeks without food. Once they have hitchhiked into your apartment they can survive on just about anything organic; paper, soap, cardboard, leather, glue, hair and skin flakes.

How do they get in?

Waterbugs can crawl up the sides of buildings, travel trough pipes; roaches can flatten their bodies and can enter throughout the smallest cracks and crevices. Mostly people unwillingly bring them home in grocery bags, luggage, boxes and used furniture. Be especially aware of purchasing used electronics and kitchen appliances or vintage clothing as male roaches seem to have a fondness for the scent of ladies shoes. 

Will stepping on a Waterbug spread roach eggs all over my house?

Don’t be silly, the eggs are already in your house.

Roach egg sacks, not actual size

Roach egg sacks, not actual size

The notion that stepping on a water bug will burst the egg sack and unleash a plague of roach puppies is mostly false. Adult Americanas produce a hard TootsieRoll-looking egg sack which they want to stick on your midcentury furniture. The adorable baby roaches will grow to badass behemoths in about 5 months, molting their exoskeletons several times which is a dangerous allergy trigger.

Prevention is key

Cockroaches like it warm and are attracted to moisture, keep everything as dry as possible. When battling an infestation this includes emptying the water tank of your trusty Nespresso, mop up bathroom spills and thoroughly dry the mob before putting it away, don’t leave out pet food, take the trash out before going to bed and keep food in sealed containers. Vacuum crumbs frequently, clean that greasy microwave. Like most New Yorkers, roaches like sweet, rich fatty foods. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink. Eliminate hiding spots.

Many living situations in New York will not work in your favor in achieving a roach free zone, like living in a basement apartment on a block with restaurants, above a laundromat, by the Gowanus, over a deli or next to a crazy hoarder with a sloppy roommate. Bugs get stirred up by construction and renovations, even paint jobs in your building.

Don’t let the little asthma triggers get in. Seal all access points, fix any leaks and caulk around pipes. Putting a hair catcher in the drain will sell seal that gateway to the sewer.

They are hee-eee-r!

Time to get serious. Roaches can breed up to six generations a year. Get them out of your house.

First: Clean, clean, clean. Put all the food away in airtight containers. 

Roach Gel Baits are your best bet. Place them strategically in your bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room. Roaches are nocturnal so if you see just one during the day it justifies baiting your home. If you see more than 5 you will need to be very aggressive. Be aware that they don’t travel far from their nest.

Bay Leaves. Anecdotal evidence suggests roaches don't like what makes grandma's Sunday gravy so special.

Catnip. PETA approved and non-toxic, a sprinkle of catnip may make your cat feel gansta but keeps roaches away.

Boric Acid. Roaches have an uncanny ability to adapt to pesticides. Boric Acid is cheap and effective and gets the job done. It is a mild toxin so you must keep it away from pets and children.

If all fails get a reputable exterminator. Don’t be cheap here, exterminators deal with chemicals that should be handled only by professionals. Some infestations sit so deep in wall only an exterminator can reach them. Persistence pays of, most infestations can be eradicated with a little foresight and a can of Raid.