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Wandering “Water Bugs”

August 22, 2015

By Ronda Kaysen

Wandering ‘Water Bugs’

I have lived in my co-op for over 26 years. Over the last several years, I have seen large water bugs in the bathroom around the sink on hot and humid days. The exterminator and managing agent found no gaps in my apartment’s pipes and they were flush with the walls, so the bugs shouldn’t be able to get in. The exterminator says that when the weather is rainy and hot, they climb up through the pipes. Therefore, there is nothing that can be done to ameliorate the issue. Is this true?

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Even the most hardened New Yorkers might recoil at the site of a colossal American cockroach, commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as a water bug. Unlike its smaller cousin, the German cockroach, the American roach rarely takes up residence in city apartments. It prefers subterranean habitats like sewers, boiler rooms and manholes. But as you have discovered, it does make the occasional appearance on a kitchen counter or bathroom floor — particularly when it is warm and wet.


But you need not resign yourself to sharing your apartment with the supersized bugs. “They’re not really living in your apartment,” said Gil Bloom, the president of Standard Pest Management. “You’re getting the overflow from somewhere else.”

Your drainpipes have a U-bend that should, theoretically, keep the pests out. Sometimes, particularly if a resident is away for a long stretch, the water that sits in the U-bend can evaporate, clearing a path for the roach to climb into your apartment, Mr. Bloom said. One solution, he said, is to place a piece of tape over open drains. You could also place glue traps beneath the sink and lightly dust boric acid under the sink and in crevices, keeping it out of reach of children and pets.

Although a visit from a single American roach is not necessarily a sign that more will follow, if you see more than the occasional one, it might be a sign that there is a moisture issue or a problem with the sewer line in the wall. Building management is obligated to keep your apartment free of pests and should not dismiss this as a fluke.

“These insects are not coming from the thin air. There is a nest somewhere,” said Jack Erdos, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. “If the building’s current exterminator is unwilling or unable to do the job, the building has to hire an exterminator who will.”

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