Creepy Crawlers in Spaulding

Cockroach problem abundant on campus

By Catherine Shane
On February 20, 2006

This was unusual for Marissa Hill's Making Babies class:

"I was sitting in the fifth row from the front when all of a sudden the entire front row started to gasp and squirm," said Hill whose class meets in room 120 of the Spaulding Life Science building.

A number of students have been exhibiting the same squirmish behaviors while sitting in room 120, including students from Nutrition 400 and Natural Resources 425. What could explain student's recent jittery behaviors?

Periplaneta Americana, better known as cockroaches. Those creepy, crawly creatures seen in movies and television shows such as Men in Black and Fear Factor.

The numerous cockroach sightings in UNH's Spaulding building, particularly the main auditorium (room 120), have students cringing and saying they feel uncomfortable during class. However, Spaulding faculty and housekeeping management say there's no reason for concern.

"I would like to start with there is no infestation," said Gene Gargano, head of housekeeping for Spaulding, in an e-mail. Gargano said the cockroach species that students have been seeing are the American Brown and are not native to this country. He said they have spread all over the world by traveling country to country via ships. The cockroaches' favorite areas to occupy are food-storage and food-preparation areas, basements and steam tunnels. The steam tunnels running under the UNH campus are a natural draw, he said. Spaulding might be particularly attractive: There's a river running beneath it, and that's another hangout for cockroaches.

"Yes, I occasionally see some," said Dr. Paul Johnson, a professor of Natural Resources in the building. Johnson, an insect ecologist, showed little concern about the bugs, emphasizing that they are actually quite sanitary critters. Unlike other bugs, they don't cause damage to the building they occupy, Johnson said.

"They are not a big problem...they don't spread disease," said Johnson, explaining that the worst they do is track dirt.

Johnson, who raises cockroach colonies in Spaulding, could be linked as the cause of the recent cockroach breakout. However, he assured that his colonies are not to blame because he said he keeps them secure and maintained. Rather Johnson said the cockroaches students have been seeing are from the steam tunnel beneath Spaulding. Johnson also added that the cockroaches aren't just in the Spaulding Building, but in most of the buildings on campus due to the mobility that the tunnels provide.

Nevertheless, the cockroaches, although a recent concern in Spaulding, are actually widespread across the campus; and according to Gargano have been for a while-up to 10 years in the Spaulding building. He said there is no need to be concerned about a growing infestation "We have an exterminator going into Spaulding on a regular basis to keep them under control," he said.

Johnson shared the same sentiments about the possibility of a serious infestation.

"I don't think it could ever get that bad because we have control," he said.

But students still seem uneasy when in the Spaulding auditorium. Freshman Lisa Nieder, a student in Nutrition 400 in the notorious room 120, said that she usually throws her belongings on the classroom floor without any thought of the cockroaches. However, now she looks out for them.

"I don't want them getting into my stuff," she said.

Alicia Shotwell, a sophomore in Natural Resources 425, described the cockroach she saw as the size of her middle figure. "It was really big. I was looking at the professor, but then saw this big black thing out of the corner of my eye," she said.

Shotwell, along with Hill, said she couldn't focus during her class because of the creepy crawler. "I couldn't pay attention to the rest of the lecture. I just stared at the bug and where it moved," said Shotwell.

The bugs themselves may be harmless, but student distraction during a class lecture because of the bugs could definitely be a problem. However, it seems that the cockroach invasion of Spaulding is not quite the invasion student's believe it to be, but rather is something that is under control.

"If students stop bringing in food and spilling Cokes, there probably wouldn't be any bugs because that's what the 'roaches like to come out for," said Johnson, laughing but with an obvious twist of irony to his tone.

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