A cockroach tale from the past


January 20, 2014

Ever had German cockroaches rain down on you? I’m sure you have. There’s one in particular in my career that has stayed with me.

The year: 1980. The town: Maryville, Tenn. The address: Let’s just call it The Cockroach Wonderlodge.

I had been in the cockroach detective division only since August 1979. I was still a rookie and had a lot of learning to do about serving customers with pest problems. The health department called for a treatment for people who had no money but plenty of roaches. So, off I went by orders of my branch manager to take special care of this infestation.

I followed the social worker to an old farmhouse. When we arrived, he told me the roaches were so bad the children were removed from their parents and everyone had been evicted. Doctors had removed roaches from the ears of the children, and their diapers were crawling with the vermin. This was a sad time for these people.

The door was open, and I was ready to start my attack. The social worker drove off, leaving me alone. Little did I know I was in for a crash course. I had been on roach cleanouts before, but none like this one. When I walked into the place, it was like a crime scene. The roaches all came out to greet me. I had been issued an old fogger that would put out lots of material in a short time. I was trained to go in and blast everything that moved.

After I treated the cracks and crevices with a B&G sprayer, I turned on the fogger. Cockroaches started raining from the ceiling and running out of every crack, crevice, nook and cranny you could imagine. The battle lasted about two hours, and I used all of the materials I had on the truck. Roaches were flushed out of the seams of the house and dying all over the place. A match might have been a better treatment.

After putting up the arsenal and resting for a few minutes, I returned to the scene to see the carnage. The piles were so high in the corners, it was unbelievable. I only wish that I had taken photos to document the evidence of what I’m telling you; but trust me, it was the worst I’ve seen.

Fast forwarding with 33 years’ experience, I often ponder what I could’ve done differently? For starters, using a large powerful wet/dry vacuum would’ve saved a lot of fogging material. The crack-and-crevice treatment would still have to be done, though, and many bait placements would have left something for the stragglers still in the walls.

Also, this event occurred before I met Dr. Austin Frishman and purchased his original book The Cockroach Combat Manual (I still have my old autographed copy from the early 1980s). The latest edition of the manual was released at PestWorld 2013 in October. Thanks, Doc, for all you have taught me and many others through the years. Your wisdom has helped us all become better pest detectives.

You can reach Johnson, a past president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and current president of Sevierville, Tenn.-based Johnson Pest Control, at ray@johnsonpestcontrol.com.


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