Digital Media Center
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Gate 61
920 Paul Bryant Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0370
(800) 654-4262

© 2024 Alabama Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bug Stories

By Kerri Gentine, Alabama Public Radio

Bug Stories

Tuscaloosa, AL – Bugs and pests are a year-round phenomenon. Yet, during the summer months not only do more species of them show up after hibernating during the cold months, but they seem to be a bit more obnoxious in the heat and humidity. Alabama Public Radio's Kerri Gentine has had some scary encounters with bugs in the past and finds that she's not alone, as "Bug Stories" illustrates....

[Report begins with music from The Collins Kids]

Alabamians in the summertime aren't quite as excited about the bugs they encounter as The Collins Kids were in 1954 when they released "Beetle Bug Bop." When Roger Williamson was a farmboy in Gadsden, one day he and a buddy had to pull up a hogwire fence buried two feet below the ground....

"So we hooked onto it with a tractor and a chain and started pulling it out and we pulled up a nest of black hornets. I jumped off the tractor, threw it out of gear, jumped off, and he and I ran down to the creek about a tenth of a mile away and jumped in. They stung us multiple times."

Kelly Bergeron, a carpenter from Tuscaloosa, says he once noticed a spider and its eggs nested in the back of a woman's beehive hairdo. While Bergeron's spider story is somewhat disturbing, spiders are considered by a lot of people to be important, as they help get rid of other bugs. Folklore even claims that it is bad luck to kill a spider. Williamson's story serves as a testament to the sometimes adverse relationship between humans and nature and the consequences of provoking, even inadvertently, creatures with stingers. Of all of the bug stories I collected, however, the most vilified bug appears to be the cockroach. The seemingly indestructible bug has been around for 280 million years. Karen Honeycutt, Production Manager for BAMA Exterminating, says it has weird and special powers....

"A cockroach can live up to a week without their head. They can live up to a week without food."

Cockroaches, especially the large rust-colored ones also known as waterbugs, have the ability to terrify and induce rage. Just ask Jeff Whatley, a student at the University of Alabama. One summer night, he says, he had the covers up around his face but when he started feeling itchy he pulled them down. Yet, the itchy feeling didn't go away....

"Suddenly I realize the covers aren't there anymore, opened my eyes, there was just a bug, a roach, just chilling right under my eye. And I knocked him off, he ran under a pile of clothes and I eventually hunted him down and killed him."

Whatley says he and his friends have no qualms about killing bugs that are as big as bears. Besides, those cockroaches tend to live outdoors. However, the German cockroach, which is much smaller, likes to infest houses. Tommy Sorrells, a guitar instructor from Tuscaloosa, says he tries to wage war against them from time to time but has basically surrendered....

"I call a guy over here and when he kills them they don't go away, I mean they go away for about a month or so, a couple of months, then they come right back. And especially, you know, with this weather that we've got right now, the season, they just come back immediately so I just don't even bother with it right now."

Karen Honeycutt of Bama Exterminating says giving up isn't the answer. She says while sprays and bombs won't work, bait will. Yet, she says the German cockroach has proven its durability....

"They're very successful. They've been around for 60 million years and they're gonna be here when we're gone."

Dr. Milton Ward, Associate Professor of Biology and Curator of insects for the Alabama Natural History Museum, says the secret to the cockroach's success is the process of natural selection and their adaptability....

"We call them habitat generalists, so they can live in a lot of different places, different habitats. They are trophic generalists, which means they can eat a lot of different things, so they can live on a lot of sources of energy than most insects can. They're just very adaptable."

Wait, there's more...

"They have a very high reproductive rate so that's another reason it's hard to get rid of them. And a short, very short time to reproductive maturity."

So, smash and bait those cockroaches as you please, because for every one you see there are 1000 more hiding somewhere.

For Alabama Public Radio, I'm Kerri Gentine.

News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.