There has been a noticeable increase in cockroaches in Cape Town this year due to the drought, said a local pest control service. Picture: Courtney Africa/ANA

Cape Town - There has been a noticeable increase in cockroaches in Cape Town this year due to the drought, said a local pest control service. As the cockroaches’ regular sources of water are drying up, they are out searching for water in other places, such as homes.

Ian van Wyngaard of Verminator said: “It is my thesis that we can blame the drought directly. They’re coming up from the hot dry sewers to discover wet zones to repopulate and gain access via our basins and toilets or simply through an open window or our front door.”

He said there had been a definite increase in cockroach numbers compared to the same time last year.

“We have had a massive spike of 18.2% cockroach work over the same time this year with no signs of slowing down.” This increase was across the board “in restaurants, houses, hotels or even in the open streets”.

The Cape Town CBD is most affected, followed by the southern suburbs and the northern suburbs. “In Cape Town we have three noteworthy cockroaches. We have the small German cockroach, found predominantly in the kitchen area. There are also the bigger American and Oriental cockroaches, which are primarily outdoor roaches."

“The American cockroach is particularly bad this year. The hot weather is conducive to all roaches’ breeding abilities and all cockroach species are water-reliant creatures. However the big American cockroach’s normal habitation, which is the sewer, has dried up significantly, driving them out of the sewer and more into direct contact with man.”

He said his company was also experiencing a similar situation with the Norway rat, more commonly known as the sewer rat.

“The Norway rat in particular has manifested itself much more this season in people’s homes for the same reasons as the American cockroach

He said even if your house is clean, once they gain entry it is easy for them to breed. But be warned: cockroaches can spread nasty infections.

“Since cockroaches eat a variety of foods, including decaying trash and faecal matter, they spread infections to people including salmonella and gastroenteritis. New investigations have shown cockroaches can cause allergies.”

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services for the city, said they had not seen an increase in cockroaches due to the drought. He also said there “has been no increase in the number of complaints received by the city's Environmental Health service”, but there was a general spike in pests during the summer months.

To reduce the number of cockroaches, he said, the city health department offers pest control services to marginalised communities and in other areas pest control is done in public areas, but not on individual premises.

Eugene Mahlehla of the UN World Health Organisation said it recognised drought as a risk factor for a range of public health issues.

“Drought leads to water and food shortages and has a long-term environmental, economic and health impact on people. With a limited water supply, sanitation services could be affected and there could be an increased risk of faecal oral infectious diseases such as typhoid fever, hepatitis E, diarrhoea, cholera, paratyphoid, intestinal worms, trachoma and scabies, especially in urban informal settlements.”

He said that once the taps are turned off when Day Zero arrives, the city needs to ensure that water at water collection points is correctly treated so that it is safe to drink.

“The water should be stored in a clean and covered container. If you are using a large container, make sure to wash it regularly. Prior to using the water for drinking or cooking, make sure to re-treat with water purification tablets or by boiling the water well. If there is sudden rain, people can collect water, but must make sure this is collected in clean containers and they treat the water prior to consumption.”

Weekend Argus