I had a friend during college who absolutely hated spiders. If he came across one in a stairwell, for example, he would turn around and find another set of stairs. That is how I feel about cockroaches, and why they top my list of least favorite insects.

Like my old college buddy when he saw a spider, if I come across a cockroach I am pretty much paralyzed. Before moving to Wisconsin, I lived in San Diego for a few years, and that’s both when and how I came to learn of my dislike of these bugs. Don’t get me wrong, as a vacation destination, San Diego is a great choice, and it can be incredibly beautiful. However, when you live there you start to see that it is…dirty. As such, cockroaches are a fairly common occurrence.

It wasn’t unusual to see them scuttle out of your way if you were walking on a downtown sidewalk at night, a trek I often made after an evening shift at work. There was even an instance where I was trapped in the basement office of my workplace, yelling up the stairs for my manager so he could come down and kill the large cockroach that was trying to fly around just outside the door. I sure wasn’t about to leave with it out there.

These insects didn’t just inhabit the downtown area though. For another one of my jobs, I often had shifts that required I wake up in the wee hours of the morning (think 3am). After my alarm, I would get up and head into the kitchen to make a quick breakfast, often before putting my glasses on or contacts in. I would open our kitchen cabinet and low and behold, a cockroach would go skittering, prompting a scream from me and a very unhappy roommate who was forced to wake up and help me deal with said-insect.

This apartment was nice, and quite a bit outside of the downtown area, so the presence of cockroaches always surprised me. Looking back on it now, I am surprised my roommates and I never became ill from the presence of these insects. These bugs often carry disease as they frequently travel through sewers. When these insects gain access to food or utensils it can contaminate these items and result in serious illness. They can also cause asthma and allergic reactions with their leavings. Additionally, I realize now that it was silly of us to never mention the presence of these bugs to our apartment management team. While we were typically able to kill the ones we saw, the fact that they appeared so frequently likely means there were more living close by, as cockroaches often live in groups.

I’ll be honest: it’s hard for me to put into words exactly why I despise cockroaches. I think it is partially due to the fact that I grew up in a nice, cute neighborhood in Iowa, in a clean and well-maintained house and went to school in a clean, well-maintained school. Cockroaches were just not something I ever had to deal with. Living in San Diego was a massive eye-opener in that sense. For me, these insects are associated with filth and unclean conditions. Despite my experience and the fact that I know that isn’t always the case, I’m not sure I will ever be able to un-associate the two. If you have seen a cockroach or two in your home, I would highly recommend calling a pest control company. These bugs, they are just not worth the risk.