Saturday, 10 August 2013


by Martin Walsh

I'm not a great fan of cockroaches, at least not the urban varieties, and it's hard to forget some encounters. I wasn't too thrilled by the evil antennae that emerged from a dry plughole to welcome me to the house that I'd borrowed on the University of Dar es Salaam campus in July 1980. I didn't jump for joy when I switched on the kitchen light one night (circa 1986) in Guraya, Mombasa, and was greeted by the sight of a chaotic mass of cockroaches of every shape and size swarming over the floor. And I didn't smack my lips when the body parts of a drowned roach surfaced in my soup one lunchtime in the Bella Vista off Moi Avenue (this was well before the seedy Italian restaurant became the bar / nightclub that was recently subject to a deadly grenade attack).

After living for a few years in the sweaty centre of Mombasa (Guraya, then Kibokoni), where I became an expert in spotting cooked cockroach legs, we moved out to the suburban calm of Nyali, with its Bougainvillea blooms and sea breezes. But the roaches still came. That is, until I copied down the following recipe:

Cockroach Killer recipe and chemist's label for the key ingredient
I was given this by a friend and colleague in Nairobi, who told me that she'd been given it by an older couple in the highlands out west (I've forgotten where exactly; Kericho perhaps). It worked so well, especially when placed in the kitchen cupboards, that if I saw an adult cockroach in the house -- the younger generations disappeared completely -- I was able to accuse our Belgian neighbours of being its source (we were living in interconnected maisonettes). I even wondered how much money might be made out of the recipe if production could be scaled up and Cockroach Killer balls marketed commercially. But thanks to the internet, I can now see that boric acid was registered as an insecticide many years ago, and that there are similar home recipes all over the web. So here's the one that worked for me.