ROACH ON MY FACE + wimp = oh no
June 24, 2008 3:55 AM   Subscribe

ROACH. Need near-term help.

I woke up at 5.45 am because I felt a tickling sensation on my shoulder/neck and sat up. I thought it was likely my hair, but turned around anyway to see AN ENORMOUS (size of my hand) COCKROACH ON MY PILLOW.

So now I am in the living room. No one I know is awake. In the long and medium term, I'm going to talk to the building manager about getting an exterminator and I will likely crash with a friend tonight.

My issue is: what do I do RIGHT NOW? I have a pathological inability to deal with bugs larger than a mosquito. My glasses, clothes, and phone are in the bedroom. My boyfriend is out of town until Thursday.

So far I've poured some bleach down the drains and taken out all the trash that I can. But I have not succeeded in re-entering the bedroom.

Should I try to rig up a poor man's hazmat suit using ceran wrap and aluminum foil? Should I unwind a coat hanger and try to "fish" for my clothes and glasses? Can roaches fly? Is this a myth? Will it fly in my face, where it likes to party?

Can anyone think of a way to get me into the bedroom that does not involve willpower, which has failed?

I may not be thinking clearly. It was on my face.
posted by prefpara to Home & Garden (23 answers total)
Sorry, please, can someone also explain to me whether or not it is possible that I have roach eggs in my ear?
posted by prefpara at 3:58 AM on June 24, 2008

Location would be useful, as 'roaches' are not all the same, everywhere. If you only saw ONE, I'm inclined to guess you're in a warm climate, where they do indeed fly, and get huge.

Usually, the roaches you hear about are smaller and come in large numbers. These are called German cockroaches, I don't know why. They are difficult to get entirely gone, easy to reduce in numbers.

Roach eggs are small, and would fit in your ear. A roach is not likely to put them there. German roaches usually carry their eggs with them. This is why you shouldn't step on them, you can carry eggs on your shoe.

I am highly sensitive to things like fumes from insecticide, so I prefer to battle roaches with boric acid. You want the kind intended for roaches, far as I know. You put it in places where the roaches will walk through it. They will end up eating enough to die. In a couple weeks, most of the roaches will be gone.

Be aware of things like clock radios! Roaches like to get inside such places and nest. They will destroy the device this way. (Likely inside computers, too. I've not had to deal with german roaches since PCs came out).
posted by Goofyy at 4:11 AM on June 24, 2008

You say the cockroach was the size of your hand. How could it have crawled inside your ear to lay eggs? Anyway, cockroaches (or any other insects) don't do that. See here.

Some species of cockroach can fly, but I don't think you should worry about that when you go in to get your clothes and glasses. The cockroach is as scared of you as you are of it. It is NOT going to fly onto you. If it sees you or is aware of your presence it will run away as fast as it can.

Just gather up some courage, run into your room yelling, and grab what you need to. No big deal.
posted by wigglin at 4:16 AM on June 24, 2008

To clarify, the roach appeared to be black and was literally the size of my hand (maybe six inches long?). I am in NYC. The window in the bedroom has been closed for days.
posted by prefpara at 4:17 AM on June 24, 2008

I used to live in Southeast Asia where we did have big flying roaches occasionally, but they were nowhere near six inches long, so I personally find it hard to believe that you had a roach that big in NYC. Could you be mistaken? Perhaps you had a particularly vivid nightmare? At any rate, roaches really do not like people, so nthing the sentiments that the roach has long since scurried out.

Do you have some friends or neighbors that can go into your bedroom with you or for you? Anybody that can run interference for you will probably make you feel a lot better.
posted by the dief at 4:38 AM on June 24, 2008

I did not dream it. Maybe roaches are usually people-phobic, but this one had no issues squatting on my face. No one I know is awake, and I have to go to work soon.

So, I assume as soon as I enter, this freakish, giant roach will fly at my face.

I really wish there was some solution, but maybe there isn't one? I hate this adult thing.
posted by prefpara at 4:46 AM on June 24, 2008

Relax and take a deep breath. You sound really stressed and worried, and taking some time to get calm can only help. Roaches don't really bite or do anything particularly problematic to people, other than look disturbing, so if you can muster the heart to enter the room, turn on the lights, and just take your stuff, you should be fine. Really, you are of no interest to the roach whatsoever, so don't worry about things too much.

A 6 inch roach sounds a little large, especially for a place that's not in the middle of the jungle. I suspect it was significantly smaller.

If you can't muster willpower, perhaps sleeping in your living room until morning will help, as the light should make things less scary. Or else, call a friend. I don't really see how a 'hazmat' suit will help you, but if it makes you feel safer, hey, go for it. Just remember, you are perfectly safe even without the suit.
posted by bsdfish at 4:49 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

In NYC we call these water bugs. Good news is that I've never seen more than one at a time inside, meaning there is probably not an infestation and once you get rid of this guy, you'll be all good. Bad news is that they can in fact be huge and do intact fly. They don't fly at you like a bee, but more hover around the room. Also, they are pretty harmless once you get used to their preposterous size. I would be more scared of a bee. For short term help I recommend just slowly going into the room. The suckers aren't too fast and will not fly towards your eyes or anything. Get what you need out of the room first and see if you can spot the intruder. If you spot him, kill him now if you can. He'll be hard to find later. A shoe/folder combo works well. If it flies, bat him on the ground and stomp him. Or bat him on the ground and cover him with some Tupperware. If you don't see him, open the window an the screen. He'll probably find his way back to the circle of he'll from which he came on his own.
posted by milarepa at 4:51 AM on June 24, 2008

d'oh, so many typos.
posted by milarepa at 4:54 AM on June 24, 2008

City roaches survive by staying out of the way of people who are awake and moving. If they hung around in the open, they would get stomped. So generations of ancestors of this roach have been hiding, and this one will too. Go into the room slowly and noisily, retrieve your things.

If you are going to be worried going to sleep tonight, think about borrowing/buying a mosquito net to sleep in until you are sure they are all gone.
posted by Idcoytco at 4:59 AM on June 24, 2008

A shower or bath would probably help relax you. Otherwise, suck it up and deal, it was just a roach, they happen in NYC. You're not going to die or get injured. Go in the room, get your stuff and leave. Have a nice breakfast. Contemplate all the ways your going to clean the apartment now.

The giant roach will not fly at your face, so chill out, you're being overly dramatic. Enter the room stomping your feet a bit or banging a pot if it makes you feel better. Just go grab your stuff and go.
Later, look up roaches on AskMe for ways of dealing with them, then have a cleaning spree.

Get off the internet and go deal with your problem. It's the only way it'll be dealt with.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:00 AM on June 24, 2008

Seconding that it's a water bug. I'm also in NYC, and I see these occasionally. Yes, they do get big (although probably more like 2-3 inches instead of 6 inches). And I agree with milarepa... these things tend to occur as individuals and not as infestations. I had to kill one last week.

Just go and get your stuff. Turn on the light, stand in the doorway, and survey your domain. I promise, this guy won't charge you. I have NEVER seen one of these things fly, even when in mortal peril. They are scurriers.
posted by kimdog at 5:10 AM on June 24, 2008

If it was 6 inches long then it wasn't a cockroach.
posted by missmagenta at 5:15 AM on June 24, 2008

Thanks you, guys, for your comments. Especially those of you who suggested that it was not a cockroach. Very strong case, very encouraging! I would far prefer a single rando bug to an infestation of many invincible roaches.

My hand was forced by the clock. In case anyone is ever in this position (blind, cowardly), here is what I ended up doing:

Armed with a gym bag for swatting away/trapping and a digital camera, I slowly opened the door. Then, I took photographs of the room using my camera's maximum zoom. This allowed me to actually see where the bug was (nowhere in sight) and confirm that the many blurry shadows that freaked me out were, in fact, only shadows. I used the camera as my advance guard and got my glasses and phone out of there. Next stop: dreaded closet.
posted by prefpara at 5:26 AM on June 24, 2008

There are lots of pictures as water bugs here. But of the ones with measuring tape next to them, theres none bigger than 3.5 inches.
posted by missmagenta at 5:26 AM on June 24, 2008

If it can fly, I'd try to waft it out a window rather than squash it - no messy cleanup.
posted by missmagenta at 5:31 AM on June 24, 2008

Yeah, what NYers call waterbugs can get so big that you completely think it's 6" up close and personal, especially because you usually see them from much farther away. They actually max out around 2". I'm not saying there is no chance that you saw some tropical rarity, because NYC does occasionally get some weird random bugs due to all the international travelers, but it's 99% likely that it was a waterbug that looked impossibly huge because your first glimpse of it was from unacceptably close to your head. I'm seconding milarepa's assertion -- in multiple encounters with them, I have never known them to be part of an infestation. Usually, they have business somewhere and they just passed through to ruin your week. Wherever it was going, your head was an obstacle, not a destination.

However, be prepared for the fact that if you try to terrify it, it might not run in the opposite direction. Unlike the little roaches which run away from you when you go towards them or make a ruckus, waterbugs may ignore you or occasionally start trundling towards you. I know this isn't reassuring, but it's better than losing your shit when it happens. What you really want to do here is first get the panic under control and get your breathing and heartrate regular and slower, and then imagine seeing it again and decide how you would react if you saw it again. Run through it in your head until you can visualize it appearing, and you having a reaction to seeing it which you can live with (it doesn't have to be perfect, just something other than completely losing it). Basically mentally practice reacting to this gross thing so that you don't walk in there and get surprised out of your skin by it suddenly appearing a second time, and just repeat the panic reaction but worse. Anything you want to take, hit it with something first and tell yourself that the roach is going to come out, so that you can be relieved when it doesn't instead of being devastated if it does.

I totally feel for you -- the exact same thing happened to me once in NYC. People who are glib with the calls to suck it up may not have had the experience of being woken up by giant vermin on their head.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 5:33 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

So that you can go to bed tonight: Arm yourself with a bottle of windex. Slows dow the bug's buggy parts so that you can squash it.

Seconding that the bastard is going to run right at you when you try to kill it.
posted by desuetude at 6:23 AM on June 24, 2008

My 2 cents, whether needed or not:

.01 - I concur with other statements that a 6 inch roach in NYC is just about impossible, unless it is someone's escaped pet. Call the Guiness World Record people if you track it down and it is indeed a roach.

.02 - I was raised in a Detroit ghetto, where every house was terribly infested with cockroaches. It was absolutely disgusting, but I accepted it as normal since I had nothing to compare it to. I'm talking aboout such a huge number that turning on the kitchen light in the middle of the night resulted in seeing a mad scurry of hundreds of roaches rushing into hiding. Obviously, spreading germs and bacteria is a concern, as well as contaminating food with droppings. However: the mere presence of roaches in the living space, including countless incidents, noticed and unnoticed, of being crawled on, resulted in absolutely zero physical harm in any way shape or form. Creepy gross-out factor = EXTREMELY HIGH. Actual physical harm = ZERO.

Good luck.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:14 AM on June 24, 2008

When I saw my first one of these (not on my pillow, thankfully) I had the same freak-out reaction. It was awful.

Later, I saw my second, and third, and fourth. Now it doesn't really bother me. I just coat them in roach spray and let them die, and then flush them down the toilet with a paper towel.

You'll get used to it.
posted by nasreddin at 8:20 AM on June 24, 2008

I just want to say, you are the bravest person in the world. I would have just moved away without glasses or clothes or anything. I am hardly even joking, I have the world's worst fear of cockroaches. As far as I'm concerned, they DO fly RIGHT AT your face. And they know if you have a can of spray, that's when they go right for you. Gaaah! And I live in New Orleans, and they are everywhere at this time of year. I wish I could go live elsewhere for the summer. Seriously. I won't go outside at night in the summer.

Good idea with the camera...I'll have to remember that.
posted by pyjammy at 12:36 PM on June 24, 2008

I know the immediate problem has been resolved, but if you aren't afraid of them, cats can often be great at keeping bugs like cockroaches out of your apartment. It might give you some peace of mind to have a ferocious furry little hunter who is on YOUR side, ready to munch any intruders to bits.
posted by tastybrains at 6:41 PM on June 24, 2008

I feel for you. I had a similar experience, albeit with a small German cockroach, and I slept downstairs for three days.
posted by Monochrome at 12:00 PM on June 25, 2008

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