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Italy's economic crisis leaving sewers unclean and disinfected, poor garbage collection, and above average temperatures trigger massive cockroach hatch.

Naples's cockroach invasion started in early July with a massive hatch in the city's sewers, which hadn't been cleaned and disinfected in over a year because of maintenance budget cuts triggered by Italy's economic crisis. (photo: Ken Lucas/Visuals Unlimited/Getty Images)
Naples's cockroach invasion started in early July with a massive hatch in the city's sewers, which hadn't been cleaned and disinfected in over a year because of maintenance budget cuts triggered by Italy's economic crisis. (photo: Ken Lucas/Visuals Unlimited/Getty Images)

Giant, Red Roaches Invade Naples, Italy

By Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast

13 July 12


Long plagued by poor garbage collection, the city of Naples is crawling with these creepy critters. And health workers fear they could eventually carry disease.

f the thought of giant, red cockroaches makes your skin crawl, you might want to stop reading now. You also might want to avoid Naples, Italy for the time being since the city is literally crawling with millions of these creepy insects.

The invasion started in early July with a massive hatch in the city’s sewers, which hadn’t been cleaned or disinfected in over a year because of budget cuts triggered by Italy’s economic crisis. To make matters worse, changes to the city’s garbage collection system, which functioned poorly even during the best of times thanks to infiltration by organized-crime syndicates, require residents and restaurants to put out their garbage the night before early morning collectors pick it up, leaving festering food on the curbside by the sewer drains. Add the above-average temperatures and high humidity and you’ve got a cockroach paradise.

Now city workers are spraying sewers, stores and restaurants several times a day to try to stop the critters from multiplying. When the poison kills them, their dry shells litter the sidewalks. Street sweepers are working extra shifts to remove the crunchy carcasses. Health workers fear the insects could eventually carry hepatitis A or typhoid fever if they aren’t able to contain the invasion. Cockroaches are also known asthma triggers and city authorities have warned asthma sufferers to stay away from the most affected parts of the city.

Despite these efforts, experts say it is challenging to eliminate the pests during the hot summer because the humid conditions provide the perfect environment to lay eggs. “To try to kill them during this season is almost impossible,” says Maria Triassi of Naples’ University Federico II. “The problem is only solved with proper maintenance of the sewer drains all year and destroying the eggs laid in September, not the way they are doing it now.”

Others fear that the panicky way the disinfestation is being carried out is an equally disturbing threat to the environment; workers are spraying huge amounts of potent pesticides on plants and in and around stores where food is sold. And experts say that, over time, the roaches can actually grow immune to the poison.

The amber-colored critters, which fly as well as crawl, can grow to be more three inches long, and they’re particularly active at night, though it is common to see them scampering over the Neapolitan cobblestones during the day. The roaches in Naples have terrorized diners at outdoor tables and have become so accustomed to people that they scurry over tourists’ sandal-clad feet.

Authorities say these hearty bugs likely arrived in the port city on a ferry from the Aeolian islands four or five years ago and killed off the smaller, more-vulnerable Neapolitan roaches, which have long roamed the city. The population of the giant flying bugs has been quietly multiplying in the sewers ever since. Female cockroaches lay eight or more egg cases, which each carry around 40 baby roaches. The gestation period is around three weeks, which means the disinfestations must be carried out daily to kill off the new bugs as they hatch.

Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris appears to be downplaying the problem out of fear that it will hurt tourism. “There is too much alarm over this,” he said at a televised, emergency meeting to combat the bugs on Monday. “If you read the news you would think the city of Naples is crawling with cockroaches.”

Maybe the mayor hasn’t been out on the streets lately. As Diana Pezza Borrelli of Italy’s Green Party put it: “There are so many cockroaches that when you walk these streets it's like stepping on a crunchy layer of disgusting cookies.” your social media marketing partner


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+7 # angelfish 2012-07-13 09:52
Welcome to the FUTURE!
+9 # Glen 2012-07-13 11:10
Welcome to the world of New Orleans and Texas.

Take pride in the survivor techniques and learn from them. Learn to eat garbage and hide. Only come out at night. As angelfish says, welcome to the future.

Oh, and guess who controls many landfills in the U.S. Yep. The mafia.
+6 # John Locke 2012-07-13 16:42
Actually they invaded congress!
0 # Glen 2012-07-14 11:06
Hahaha! And congress is nibbling around the edges while feeding off the rest of us.
0 # John Locke 2012-07-15 09:31
Glen: I have this strange image in my head of large man eating cockroaches roaming the halls of congress eating our politicians!

If only it were real!
+1 # Glen 2012-07-15 13:32
Have you been watching science fiction movies again, John? You have to control the creature images. I tend to watch too much science fiction myself, so see a large man with a cockroach head.

Actually, I knew a kid in the sixth grade in Miami, who, to gross us all out, grabbed a giant cockroach and ate it. Want to bet he made it to congress?
0 # John Locke 2012-07-16 08:48
Glen: Yes to both!

But I will try to control my urges in the future, but when I dream mostly I have no control over the content... much of this comes out in dreams! or wishful thinking?
0 # Glen 2012-07-17 15:26
Keep dreaming, my man. We can always do that. The more interesting the better! Wishes may not make anything so, but hey, we have to have those.
+10 # Pwarren 2012-07-13 11:14
hey people - Boric acid is a slow kill but very deadly to cockroaches. They have an exoskelton and boric acid is a crystal - needle sharp - which penetrates the exo and kills them. It is also eco friendly.
I anyone has roaches - this is the thing to use.
+3 # panhead49 2012-07-13 11:33
Diatomacious earth works very well as an insect killer also. It is used in some swimming pool filters, pool supply stores carry it (usually cheaper than the same stuff sold in nurseries).

Maybe if the tourists stop visiting the Vatican gift shop they'll kick in some bucks to help with the sanitation problems.
+1 # Glen 2012-07-13 14:14
Naples, panhead49, is a very different world from the Vatican. Naples is under the control of some rather powerful organizations.

Read Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano to get further insight into the local culture and players in Naples.
+13 # giraffee2012 2012-07-13 11:37
Those pictures of roaches look exactly like the RATS sitting in the U.S. Supreme Court - Boric acid works and chalk keeps ants out - ants won't cross the chock line and remove plants that lean on house = ants

Wish it were as simple to get rid of R(oberts) A(lito) T(homas) S(calia)
+1 # Street Level 2012-07-13 16:22

That's funny, I'll remember that!
+3 # Doll 2012-07-13 17:07
I do not think that boric acid is easily available anymore. I tried to buy some and couldn't get it.

Try Epsom salts. It is every bit as chrystaline and very cheep. It only costs about a buck for a quart. And, what you don't use, you can toss it in your bathtub for a wonderful soak.
+4 # Rick Levy 2012-07-13 20:51
The roach invasion is one of the not-so unintended consequences of eliminating sanitation practices in the name of cost cutting. Welcome to the Dark Ages.
+2 # mdhome 2012-07-14 17:25
Glad I did not win that contest for a week in Naples.
+1 # carolsj 2012-07-16 17:48
When climate change kills the food supply, they may be our salvation. Bet they're high protein. How about some roach recipes? Shell 'em like shrimp, saute & put 'em in GMO tacos, chili or salads made from scavenged super weeds seasoned with Roundup.

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