We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A most remarkable species

Seeing as Perry is dabbling in the kingdom of Animalia, I feel I should wade in with my own weighty observations. As it is summer in Australia, cockroaches are making their presence felt in even the most salubrious of households. This must be so – I live in a shared-house dump and they are everywhere.

Tonight, as I was in the shower, I noticed three large brown cockroaches (not the more numerous but less offensive small types) scurrying about the bathroom. This convinced me to abandon my do-not-kill-if-not-necessary morals and I thus plunged the three big brown blighters into the tiles with a – erm – plunger. You know – that rubber implement you use to unblock the drains. Well, it was the first thing that fell to hand. Anyway, this did the trick and happily broke the cockroaches perfectly in half. Fine – let them dry out a bit, sweep them up in a few days and be done with it. I am a student living in a shared house; cut me some slack.

I leave the bathroom after performing my twice-daily cleansing rituals – it is summer in Australia, after all – to attend to this and that. I return two and a half hours later to find the upper part of each cockroach still wiggling its (remaining) legs lamely; unsurprisingly, for it’s stuck on its back and missing half a body. The lower part – sadly disconnected from the mothership – was not returning calls.

Am I the only one who thinks this an amazing natural phenomenon?

44 comments to A most remarkable species

  • Verity

    Have you ever noticed how the eyes of iguanas twizzle around independently? It is most disconcerting.

  • No, I haven’t! Although I haven’t been to Mexico, Central America, parts of South America or the Galapagos Islands. So what do I know.

  • But I am a big fan of those swimming iguanas.

  • Large white backends are sacks of eggs in roaches. If you crush them, you’ll just laid the foundation for more, all across your floor. I highly recommend something very toxic to clean up after such daring action.

    As for how amazing roaches are … hundreds of millions of years around gives a species a good bit of cred in my book 🙂

  • Verity

    Gosh, I’ve never seen a swimming iguana. I’ve got one who lies out on my garden wall and bakes. Maybe he’s hoping I’ll put in a pool.

  • permanent expat

    Answer to question: No
    Twizzly(?) eye movements: Chameleons

  • Johnathan Pearce

    At times like these I am glad I live in chilly Pimlico!

  • Verity! Have you not encountered the iguanas of the Galapagos islands? They swim in the ocean! It is quite amazing.

    Galapagos, iguanas, Darwin, turtle shells, The Beagle, isolated population, selection pressures, yadda yadda yadda.

    Anyway, howsabout those swimming iguanas? They’re quite obstreperous specimens, too; quite literally jumping off Galapagean rocks into the surf. I saw it on a documentary. So it must be true.

  • Unless David Attenborough was lying about their habits and was in fact describing the life of the well documented lemming-iguana.

  • Verity

    Splash right in, eh? They must be more energetic than the iguanas in Mexico. Mexican iguanas are more into the mañana mode.

  • Wow, you’ve just reminded me of the time I lived in the Chelsea Hotel, NYC. Coachroaches as big and brown as Club Biscuits crawling across the bedroom floor, yug. I’ve never seen a coachroach in Kensington – I don’t think they’re allowed north of the river.

  • veryretired

    Collectivists are still kicking despite having abandoned all coherent mental processes centuries ago.

    Come to think of it, most of them lie on their backs and pound their heels into the floor too. And when they hold their breath, they turn all purple.

    My favorite color.

  • John Steele

    Speaking of lizards and animal kindom anomolies, can anyone explain to me why the Geico Insurance Company gecko is a Brit?

  • Richard Easbey


    I don’t know but I sure do like his accent… (the Geico lizard, that is.)

  • gravid

    James, get a large glass bottle and sand the outside until it opaque. This’ll make it so the ‘roaches can climb up the outside of the bottle. They can’t get out once they are in though. Put some food item (small) inside. Cork the bottle when finished. Ta-da. Works a treat.

  • John Steele


    I’m British by birth and thoroughly indoctrinatated in things British by my mother. But I wonder how many Yanks are going to get references like ‘free pie and chips’? Fortunately my kids know that ‘pie’ isn’t apple and ‘chips’ are fries but that reference has to go right over the heads of 99% of Americans.

    It’s been a strange day 🙂

  • twistedmerkin


    Further proof of Intelligent Design.

  • Nick M

    The roach thing doesn’t surprise me. I saw on the telly a few years ago tjey were transplanting legs on the little buggers and they could fit in extra leg segments and do a “cut and shut job” giving the roachs back their own feet on really long legs.

    Don’t go to bed thinking about this one.

  • Dwayne

    . . . Fortunately my kids know that ‘pie’ isn’t apple and ‘chips’ are fries but that reference has to go right over the heads of 99% of Americans.

    True, but we do know the Gecko is talking about food. Plus everyone knows what Fish N Chips are! It’s the context which makes it silly. What I’d like to know, is what’s the pie?

  • I went to Mexico when I was teenager. We used to turn cucarachas on their back and drown them in tequila. Very entertaining.

    I thought the Geico gecko was trying to sound Australian. If any Brit here has heard him, please enlighten us.

  • Robert Alderson

    Geico Gecko is definitely British.

  • Billll

    Some folks at the large aerospace company I once worked at caught one, put it under a bell jar and pumped the air out, to approximately the equivilant to being chucked out the door of the space shuttle. The thing swelled up to nearly twice its normal size, but after 5 minutes “outside the airlock” when pressure was restored, it recovered, and ran away.

  • James

    Further proof of Intelligent Design.

    Only if the entire complex ceased to function once complex components (the entire lower half) was removed. Seems James’ cockroaches weren’t ID’ed.

  • Julian Taylor

    God, this conversation on the size of various creepy-crawlies makes me not only glad to be British but even gladder to be living in London, where the only insects we have to worry about are the occasional off-flight moths flapping about. Apropos interesting fauna and flora, has anyone else seen this fascinating article about the discovery of various new species in Indonesia?

  • Midwesterner

    I believe the Gecko has the voice of Ian Wright(Link).

    I could be wrong, but it’s a very distinctive voice.

  • Verity

    Midwesterner, that was a really boring link.

    Personally, I like gekkoes. They’re called chitchats in SE Asia, because they always sound as though they’re busy talking.

  • Midwesterner


    “that was a really boring link.”

    Uh, yeah? People were wondering and discussing where he is from (see Ivan & Robert Alderson). I linked the clearest information I could find.

    I’ll try to be more entertaining. (Think. Think. Think.)

    How’s this? In an apartment I sublet near a university campus here, I microwaved a burrito long enough to melt the steaming cheese until it was running on the plate.

    Then I opened the micro wave and took it out. There was a cockroach in the micro wave. It got away. Apparently unharmed.

    No, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the burrito.

  • James

    Yep, he’s Britis. And yep, it goes right over the heads of most Americans I’ve met here.

  • drscrooge

    I wonder if the RSPCA would fine you $12,000 for not cleanly killing the cockroach.

  • James

    British, even. Sheesh.

  • Robert Schwartz

    The Roach That Failed By SAM SCHECHNER, July 25, 2004

    In 1979, the police in Schenectady, N.Y., responded to a complaint about a barking dog. When they arrived, however, they found cockroaches streaming from the windows of a two-family home, raining down from trees and darting into the street. Inside, roaches had plastered every wall like stucco and had left bites all over a 64-year-old woman and her 24 dogs, which, it turned out, had been barking for good reason. The swarm comprised approximately one million German cockroaches, perhaps the largest household infestation ever recorded.

    In those days, the war on roaches seemed hopeless. The insects were a ubiquitous fixture of kitchens and bathrooms, basements and streets; in 1985, The Washington Post reported that they had infiltrated the Pentagon. Roaches were linked to the spread of infectious diseases like salmonella poisoning and were at least partly responsible for the rising asthma epidemic in inner cities. It was frequently predicted, uncomfortably, that an army of roaches would survive even a nuclear holocaust.

    But in the 70’s and 80’s, scientists were already honing a weapon — new bait eventually sold as Combat and other products — that would change the course of the war. Because of it, populations of German cockroaches, by far the most common household variety, have fallen precipitously in many urban areas. “They were decimated,” says Phil Koehler of the University of Florida. But could roaches go away for good? And would it really be good riddance if they did?


    Then, around the time of the Schenectady infestation, researchers at American Cyanamid in New Jersey stumbled upon an idea. Casting about for other uses for an odorless, tasteless agricultural insecticide called hydramethylnon, they decided to try it on German roaches. The only catch was that it needed to be ingested. So they made bait.

    “The field data were very promising,” says Jules Silverman, a researcher who helped refine the first hydramethylnon bait in the early 80’s. “We would find greater than 90 to 95 percent reductions in cockroach populations, across the country.” Scientists, who had first tested the concept by dipping communion wafers in the poison, toyed with the idea of selling the wafers under the label Last Supper. In the end, they packed better bait in plastic pucks with the name Maxforce. (Combat, the consumer version, came out two years later.)

    It wasn’t until after the bait had been on the market for a few years that entomologists discovered why they worked so well: even if only 20 percent of an infestation fed on them, lethal doses would remain in their feces and carcasses, which would be fed upon by other roaches back in the cracks and narrow passages where they live. “There were no hiding places for cockroaches to escape the insecticide,” says Coby Schal, an urban entomologist at North Carolina State University.

  • Chris Harper

    “Geico Gecko”?

    Please explain.

    Haven’t been to the states for 15 years.

  • Robert

    UGH! Roaches! I absolutely hate those things. If ever there was a species that needed extermination roaches are it. Find me a man running for public office on a platform of utter cockroach annihilation and I’ll vote for him.

    “I’m British by birth and thoroughly indoctrinatated in things British by my mother. But I wonder how many Yanks are going to get references like ‘free pie and chips’? Fortunately my kids know that ‘pie’ isn’t apple and ‘chips’ are fries but that reference has to go right over the heads of 99% of Americans.

    Posted by John Steele”

    I get everything in those ads. I’m from South Texas too. I think it’s cause I spend a lot of time online at work (not much to do) reading this blog or chatting with a few British folks I’ve met online. A Texan who’s becoming greatly familiar with “britishese.” In a way I feel so…I dunno…I feel dirty. Is this wrong? :horriblyashamed:

  • Before getting rid of the roaches, better read “Dust” by Charles Pellegrino – my favorite paranoid. “Flying to Valhalla” wasn’t bad either .


  • Lascaille


    The wasp slips her stinger through the roach’s exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently uses sensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach’s brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.

    From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach’s antennae and leads it — in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex — like a dog on a leash.

    The zombie roach crawls where its master leads, which turns out to be the wasp’s burrow. The roach creeps obediently into the burrow and sits there quietly, while the wasp plugs up the burrow with pebbles. Now the wasp turns to the roach once more and lays an egg on its underside. The roach does not resist. The egg hatches, and the larva chews a hole in the side of the roach. In it goes.

  • Chris Harper


    Great metaphore for Europes approach to Islam.

  • Midwesterner


    Great metaphore for Europes approach to Islam.”

    Chris, no kidding. Down right chilling. And the more you think about it, the more it fits.

    There is a new series of commercials for Geico Insurance. The digital animation is phenominal and gets better with every new ad. What I really notice in the latest one, is the hands. These ads are easily the most expressive animation I’ve ever seen.

    I’m quite sure the voice is Ian Wrights, whose on PBS as one of the hosts of Globe Trekker, a travel show aimed at students and young adults on a budget.

  • John Steele


    GEICO is an automobile insurance company that does almost all its buisness by phone. For several years they have had some very clever TV commercials for their product. Several of their ad series plays on the name GEICO and uses a gecko lizard. The most recent is a series of ads where the gecko is talking to other lizards about spreading the word about GEICO’s insurance rates — in this series the gecko has a distince British accent (and not educated at Eton 🙂 Why the gecko is a Brit escapes me since its an American insurance company and as far as I know the gecko does not inhabit the British Isles. But its their money.

  • CV87

    I just wanted to point out that GEICO stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. They will do business with non-bureaucrats now.

    And the caveman commercial is much better that the lizard.

  • Verity: what does your iguana bake? Is he any good with cheese recipes?

    Anyway, I’d never seen a cockroach in my young life until we moved to Hawaii. There, the bloody things were horrifying. Enormous, and rampant. The geckos were adorable, even though my mother — fixed with a pathological dread of anything remotely reptilian — had one fall off the porch ceiling onto her head. I thought the poor woman would beat her own brains out.

    I always wanted to meet the mongooses who lived in the attic, though.

    It sounded like they were playing ball up there.

  • John Steele : doesn’t Hollywood love portraying that the British accent is, for the most part, inherently evil?

    Yes, but then the Afrikaans accent came along. Has there ever been a “goodie” in a Hollywood blockbuster that sports an Afrikaaner accent?

  • Midwesterner

    James, 99% of Americans can’t tell a British accent from an Aussie (unless he says ‘g’day mite’) much less one from SA.

    While Hollywood shoot em ups might be like you describe, most Americans think that anything that vaguely resembles an English accent must be sophisticated or at least very proper. Here is a quote from the company’s web site.

    “The English voice that the gecko uses became another distinguishing factor. Even when the gecko becomes annoyed with people calling him at home on the phone by mistake when they’re trying to reach GEICO, he always maintains his decorum in a very proper English tone.”

    These Geico gecko ads are particularly charming. Especially when you realize that the gecko now appears to have become a telemarketing coach telling potential sales lizards how to sell insurance.


    The ad on this site is a very old one. The news ones are way more advanced technically and subtle humor wise. Also, the gecko doesn’t have a voice in this ad.


  • FellowSandGroper


    The very best stuff to use is Baygon Household Insecticide Dust. It is like talcum powder, so you can spread it in all the hard to reach places. They paddle through it and then you find them upside down under the beds.

    The small guys are worse: they live and breed indoors, unlike the big fellas who just wander through from time to time (caught one trying to lever the fridge door open the other night). If you get the littl’uns, get the professionals in. The over the counter stuff can’t touch them because they breed so fast.

    As for the guy who would rather live in London – you must be kidding! I’ve never had a roach take my wallet off me at knife- gunpoint.