Roaches in buildings
November 1, 2009 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Are there roaches in every U.S. building?

I distinctly remember hearing from a credible source (may have been the New Yorker) that every building in the U.S. has roaches in it. This was probably a qualified statement, like "every large building" or "every building over 10 years old" or something. Now I'm trying to settle an argument with a friend, who claims that there aren't roaches in the 8-floor, 30 year old university building in which we work. Help me, Hive Mind! Is there any data about the extent of roach infestation?
posted by emilyd22222 to Science & Nature (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My house has no roaches.
posted by beagle at 3:38 PM on November 1, 2009

Difficult to quantify, but roaches do tend to make their presence known and since I've never, ever seen a roach in my parents' house, my old apartment, or this apartment, I'd say no.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:46 PM on November 1, 2009

My house was built around WWII and I've never, ever seen a roach. I live in Milwaukee, if that makes a difference.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:49 PM on November 1, 2009

posted by OHenryPacey at 3:50 PM on November 1, 2009

I've never seen one in this place.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 PM on November 1, 2009

Look, (before we get into a long recitation of MeFite roach-free homes, sorry to have started that) it is entirely possible that the building in question is roach-free, especially if the university is good about pest control, if there is no kitchen or cafeteria in it, if it was tightly-constructed at the time and has been well-maintained, if it has no loading dock receiving regular shipments from places that could have cockroaches (think places where food is handled, mainly), and if it is not right next door to another building that fails any of those criteria . And many buildings "over 10 years old" are in that category. Many buildings newer than 10 years old fail on one of those criteria and are therefore roach-vulnerable. In short, there's really no way to generalize about this.
posted by beagle at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are entire roach-free climates, such as mine (Inland Northwest). In 20 years here, I've never seen or heard of anyone seeing a roach.
posted by HotToddy at 4:12 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, on second thought, I don't know for a fact that it has to do with climate. I've been told that it's too cold and dry here for roaches, but I don't know that for a fact.
posted by HotToddy at 4:14 PM on November 1, 2009

In Georgia, we say there are two kinds of homeowners. There are those with no roaches of any kind in their home. And then there are those who lie and say they have none. Of course, it helps to refer to them as palmetto bugs. Gives them a certain charm.
posted by grabbingsand at 4:18 PM on November 1, 2009

Ok, this needs way more clarification to even begin to answer.

One, what do you mean by cockroach? The big black ones? Or everything in the Blattaria order?

Two, what do you mean by IN the building. Visible in it? Nesting in it? A single individual passing through it? In the substructure? In the property of the building? Does being on the outside count?
posted by strixus at 4:21 PM on November 1, 2009

I think it's probably safe to say that not every single building in the United States has cockroaches.
posted by Atreides at 4:38 PM on November 1, 2009

If you're interested in whether your specific university building has (or has ever had) roaches, there are probably some folks who work in maintenance or facilities or something that would be best qualified to answer the question.
posted by box at 4:56 PM on November 1, 2009

One of the best things about moving from the midwest to the northwest is that in the 12 years I have lived here, I have never ever seen a roach. Not in my apartments or houses, not in my office buildings. I'm not saying there is not a roach in the entire region, but they are rare. (Spiders and ants, however, not so much.)

In the midwest, it was very common to see roaches, but if dilligent, they could be kept under control.
posted by Bueller at 4:57 PM on November 1, 2009

I have never even seen a cockroach in the wild.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:16 PM on November 1, 2009

Roaches are attracted to places that provide food, water and shelter. Take away any one of those things, and you'd have a roach-free building. It's easy to think of buildings that don't have water piped to them, or buildings that aren't regularly inhabited by groups of humans or animals that have food storage needs, or buildings that lack the right kind of interior spaces for roaches to hide and nest.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on November 1, 2009

When I used to see roaches at my old food-service job, my boss would tell me that "there are cockroaches anywhere there's food" and ignore them. She was also fired a few months later.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:18 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I once brought home a roach in my bag after eating in a gross restaurant. I saw it crawl out. My apartment is pretty clean and to my knowledge it's usually roach-free, but not that night. So I'm pretty sure that if people or packages are coming in and out a lot, the odds of roaches or roach egg cases occasionally hitching a ride would be pretty high.
posted by twistofrhyme at 5:25 PM on November 1, 2009

This is a textbook example of an unanswerable question.

Unless you can examine every nook and cranny of every building in the US (or every building that falls within certain criteria), you simply can't know.

There will inevitably be some buildings which don't have roaches. Anecdotally, my old country house has stink bugs, ladybugs, spiders, mice, and a few silverfish, but I've never seen a roach.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:27 PM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I understand that it's a hyperbole, but I was wondering if there is a similar qualified statement that can be made, or if anyone has heard something similar.
posted by emilyd22222 at 5:51 PM on November 1, 2009

Any qualified statement would potentially exclude the building specific to your bet, and thus be useless in settling it, which is the goal of your question.
posted by odinsdream at 6:07 PM on November 1, 2009

There most certainly are not cockroaches in every building in the United States.
posted by alms at 6:32 PM on November 1, 2009

Foolish, I'm in Cold Montreal Quebec Canada and there are roaches. Forget your roach-proof climate concept.
posted by Napierzaza at 7:59 PM on November 1, 2009

I agree this is near-unanswerable. But two things for what it's worth:
- in my college dorm, I never saw a roach until I worked in the basement, where there were a bajillion, which leads me to believe this statement could be true despite the many people who have never seen them
- I hope there won't be a lot of people implying that clean houses have no roaches and dirty houses have roaches. I've moved around a lot, and one house had roaches and none of the others did. No change in our housekeeping tendencies. That roachy house was also newly-constructed, so it wasn't even about the previous owners.
posted by salvia at 8:06 PM on November 1, 2009

Are you sure this possibly-New Yorker story was about roaches?

Several years ago I read a story about an arachnologist, who made the bold claim s/he could find a black widow spider in any house. I wonder if you might have mixed these up?
posted by Miko at 8:27 PM on November 1, 2009

Anecdotally, roaches don't like dry climates. I don't remember seeing one in 10 years living in Colorado, even though the summers are hot.

You might ask people who keep pet roaches what they think.
posted by lukemeister at 9:31 PM on November 1, 2009

I never saw roaches when I lived in Seattle. (Unfortunately, I've seen them all too often since moving to Las Vegas.) So it could be that whatever your friend heard was in regards to a specific city. I would believe it for public or otherwise large buildings in Las Vegas.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:23 PM on November 1, 2009

Just as a data point, I have seen roaches in Seattle, in a used bookstore on the Ave and in a restaurant in the pike place center. Up here we prefer our silverfish and earwigs.
posted by maxwelton at 12:16 AM on November 2, 2009

I've seen some roaches in Seattle— twice in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and a while back a friend moved into a roach-infested apartment. They definitely exist here. But they're pretty rare.
posted by hattifattener at 1:07 AM on November 2, 2009

I've had the same experience as Jacqueline - never had to deal with them while living in Seattle. But here in Vegas they're everywhere. Every large building is going to have them, and I'd be willing to bet that almost all houses have them, too.

Most people seem to want to spray chemicals around their house and pretend they don't exist. Other people invest in Borax, D.E., and clean a lot.
posted by krisak at 7:57 AM on November 2, 2009

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