| Tom Turpin
If Human Hate Could Kill, Cockroaches
Remember the old camp song that begins, "Nobody likes me"?
The next line goes, "Everybody hates me," followed by, "Guess
I'll go eat worms!" Of course, we all know that the lyrics aren't
true -- for humans, at least. However, if a cockroach was singing the
song, it would be right on. That is, if "everybody" refers to
Not many people are fond of insects, in general, and, for sure, almost
everyone has a disdain for the insects called cockroaches. An old saying
holds, "A cockroach never gets justice when a chicken is the judge."
That adage relates to the insect-eating habit of chickens and whether
or not the potential of a meal would cloud judgment.
For entirely different reasons, it could also be said that a cockroach
wouldn't get justice with a human judge. We just hate cockroaches. Not
only do we not like insects called cockroaches, we loathe them. We even
dislike the name cockroach.
Over the years, we have used the term cockroach as a slur. If we want
to demean certain people or a group, we just refer to them as cockroaches.
In Kafta's book "Metamorphosis," Gregor Samsa was changed into
an insect. What insect? Not a butterfly, a moth or even a fly. Kafka turned
Gregor into the most despicable insect around. Gregor woke up one morning
and found that he was a cockroach! To be sure, he was described as a black
beetle, but that is a common European term for cockroach.
So what is it about cockroaches that places them at the top of the list
of animals that humans love to hate? For one thing, cockroaches don't
like to be seen. They hide. They come out at night, and then scurry away
when we turn on the lights. And, to make matters worse, they live right
under our noses -- behind our kitchen cabinets, under our sinks and in
our basements. And just help themselves to our food.
In addition, cockroaches have been around for a long time. These insects
are among the earliest insects found in the geologic record. Cockroaches
have, no doubt, been invading human dwellings for eons.
To make matters worse, we spend a lot of time trying to keep cockroaches
out of our homes -- mostly with limited success. So, in spite of our best
control efforts, these brazen, six-legged geologic relics, like Timex
watches or the Eveready bunny, just keep ticking and going.
While human disdain for cockroaches is already deep-seated, some business
elements fan the flames of dislike through marketing and advertising campaigns.
These businesses benefit when homeowners buy cans of insecticide or contract
pest control services in attempts to rid homes of cockroaches.
Cockroaches do have a health risk associated with them. Some people are
affected by allergens produced by cockroaches. The human response is a
respiratory ailment and can be severe, especially among children. In addition,
cockroaches have been shown to be capable of physically transmitting disease
organisms. Incidences of disease transmission by cockroaches are rare
and would most likely to occur in hospital situations.
In nature, cockroaches play an important ecological role. They are recyclers
in forested habitats in tropical regions, where they generally feed on
dead plant material. But when they get into our homes and try to recycle
dead plant material, like crumbs of cookies and crackers, we generally
take a dim view of the process. But there is a positive side to all of
this. There are more than 3,000 species of cockroaches, mostly living
in the tropics. Only six or seven are considered pests. To that, cockroach
haters say, "Thank goodness for small favors!"