London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3Mayhew, Henry
COCKROACHES are even more voracious than crickets. A small species (, LINN.), occasionally met with about London, is said to swarm numerously in the huts of the Laplanders, and will sometimes, iu conjunction with a carrion-beetle (, LINN.), devour, we are told, in a single day, their whole store of dried fish.
In London, and many other parts of the country, cockroaches, originally introduced from abroad, have multiplied so prodigiously as to be a great nuisance. They are often so numerous in kitchens and lower rooms in the metropolis as literally to cover the floor, and render it impossible for them to move, except over each other"s bodies. This, indeed, only happens after dark, for they are strictly night insects, and the instant a candle is intruded upon the assembly they rush towards their hiding-places, so that in a few seconds not of the countless multitude is to be seen.
In consequence of their numbers, independently of their carnivorous propensities, they are driven to eat anything that comes in their way; and, besides devouring every species of kitchen-stuff, they gnaw clothes, leather, and books. They likewise pollute everything they crawl over, with an unpleasant nauseous smell.
These "black-beetles," however, as they are commonly called, are harmless when compared with the foreign species, the giant cockroach (), which is not content with devouring the stores of the larder, but will attack human bodies, and even gnaw the extremities of the dead and dying.—(Drury"s iii. )
Cockroaches, at least the kind that is most abundant in , hate the light, and never come forth from their hiding-places till the lights are removed or extinguished (the , however, which abounds in some houses, is bolder, making its appearance in the day, and running up the walls and over the tables, to the great annoyance of the in- habitants). In the London houses, especially on the ground-floor, they are most abundant, and consume everything they can find—flour, bread, meat, clothes, and even shoes. As soon as light, natural or artificial, appears, they all scamper off as fast as they can, and vanish in an instant.
These pests are not indigenous to this country, and perhaps nowhere in Europe, but are of the evils which commerce has imported. In Captain Cook"s last voyage, the ships, while at Husheine, were infested with incredible numbers of these creatures, which it was found impossible by any means to destroy. Every kind of food, when exposed only for a few minutes, was covered with them, and pierced so full of holes, that it resembled a honeycomb. They were so fond of ink that they ate out the writing on labels. Captain Cook"s cockroaches were of kinds— the and
The following fact we give from Mr. Douglas"s —
" article of their food would hardly have been suspected," says Mr. Newman, in a note communicated to the Entomological Society, at the meeting in . ""There is nothing new under the sun;" so says the proverb. I believed, until a few days back, that I possessed the knowledge of a fact in the dietary economy of the cockroach of which entomologists were not cognisant, but I find myself forestalled; the fact is "as old as the hills." It is, that the cockroach seeks with diligence and devours with great gusto the common bed-bug.
So great is the annoyance and discomfort arising from these insects in Cockney households, that the author of a paper in the discusses the best means of effecting their extirpation. The writer of the article referred to avows his conviction, that the ingenious individual who shall devise the means of effectually ridding our houses of these insect pests will deserve to be ranked amongst the benefactors of mankind. The writer details the various expedients resorted to — hedgehogs, cucumber-peel, red wafers, phosphoric paste, glazed basins or pie-dishes filled with beer, or a syrup of beer and sugar, with bits of wood set up from the floor to the edge, for the creatures to run up by, and then be precipitated into the fatal lake, but believes that "none of these methods are fundamental enough for the evil," which, so far as he is yet aware, can only be effectually cured by heating our houses by steam!