Most of the bugs in the animal kingdom could benefit from an aggressive public relations campaign. Bees get a bad rap for their painful stings, but without a healthy and sustainable bee population to help pollinate plants, we could face a catastrophic agricultural collapse. Some of us scream when we see a spider, but our eight-legged friends are here to eat insects who pose threats to our gardens and bother us in our homes. And no one likes to see ants at a picnic, but ant colonies aerate soil and act as natural cleanup crews.
There’s one insect, however, that can’t be redeemed. That’s the cockroach, a universal symbol of squalor, decay, and pestilence. Feared for its appearance, reviled for its filth, and begrudgingly respected for its uncanny resilience, everyone dreads the sight of this bug. It’s no accident that the worst fate Franz Kafka could give the protagonist of “The Metamorphosis” was to turn him into a giant cockroach. More than simply being ugly, the dangers of cockroach infestation loom large and require immediate intervention. Here’s why.
In addition to defecating everywhere they go, cockroaches also have the nasty habit of molting, leaving behind little parts of themselves. All these cockroach byproducts contain enzymes that affect our immune systems, causing them to overreact and trigger inflammation in response to the enzyme’s presence. This can mean cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing and congestion. In more severe instances, it can lead to the onset of allergic asthma. Exterminate roaches before heightened sensitivity leads to lifelong breathing problems.
Vectors of Disease
It’s not enough for the body to mistake proteins for pathogens—there are real pathogens at play here, too. Cockroaches are big-bodied bugs. That leaves a lot of surface area to carry more bacteria. Indeed, scientists have identified roaches as carriers for a wide variety of dangerous diseases, from dysentery and cholera to cases of typhoid fever. The roach’s reputation as a signifier of illness and general decay is well earned—they’ve been making us sick for centuries, with documentation going back to ancient Egypt.
It’s one thing to fear food poisoning when you order takeout from a sketchy restaurant. You don’t expect it from a meal you cooked yourself. However, the dangers of cockroach infestation can manifest in your kitchen, as these voracious eaters can get into your pantry, contaminate food, and skitter away from the scene of the crime, unknown to you until it’s too late. Stamp out roaches at the first sight before they can gorge themselves on your food supply.