The Twittersphere was abuzz: “G’s!” “In winter?” “Yes!”
Everyone seemed to know, as though by instinct, what “G’s” were. Gokiburi. Cockroaches. Spreading. Proliferating. Regardless of the season. The pheromones spoke loud and clear: “Our time has come.”
Roaches are, in a sense, the comic side of the coronavirus tragedy. They’re ugly, slimy, noisy and not fragrant; we don’t want them in our cities, homes, workplaces and places of recreation. But they are harmless, after all, and the image we have courtesy of Spa! (March 23-30) of a middle-aged woman in her brand new Tokyo high-rise apartment, caught by surprise with no pesticide in the house, going after the little beast with a rolled-up newspaper, is funny rather than pitiable.
Be that as it may, her complaint is widespread and widening, says Spa! A real estate agent puts a number on it: up 238 percent over this time last year. Winter sightings in particular are surprising. In Honshu at least, roaches are spring and summer pests. In winter they are generally dormant. Not this past winter.
One turns, almost instinctively, to COVID-19 for an explanation. There is no direct link between the virus and the insect, and yet circumstances forced on us by the former do seem to favor the latter.
One possibility, raised only to be dismissed, is that there is no extraordinary proliferation at all; we’re just home more, and so see what normally we would not be home to see. There may be some truth in that, but it’s certainly not the whole story, says entomologist Ritsu Ariyoshi. It’s a fact, he affirms, that our being home creates a favorable cockroach environment. We keep room temperatures and humidity up. What’s comfortable for us is comfortable for them. There’s more food on hand too. Our refrigerators, pantries and trash bins are full.
The online ordering in we do is also helpful. Orders are delivered in cardboard boxes, which make wonderful nests and playgrounds for roach families and communities.
Some 4,600 cockroach species are known. A mere 30-odd of them interact on familiar terms with humans. Each locality grows familiar with its own characteristic visitants – but their range seems to be spreading as conditions change, and sightings of unfamiliar species are not uncommon. Some prefer home environments, others thrive best in restaurants. A Tokyo pub-owner Spa! speaks to finds his premises overrun lately.
Early closing regulations have hit the industry hard. An across-the-board 60,000-yen-a-day government subsidy has encouraged many operators to shut down altogether for the time being. Those remaining open, like Spa!’s source, suspect roaches from closed establishments migrate to theirs. What can they do about it? Not much.
The U.S. and Europe, Spa! reports, are enduring proliferations not of roaches but of rats. Look on the bright side. Roaches are probably easier to live with.© Japan Today