Students Representative Council, University of Sydney

The roaches of Fisher are moving upstairs

A silent, scuttling force is gaining strength in Fisher Library...

cockroaches with fisher in the background Artwork by Lauren Moore

The microwaves at Fisher Library have gone missing. In their quake, two A4 signs stand, boasting the ever-familiar “returning to services soon.” The university has said that the problem with these microwaves have been reported and will be fixed “as soon as possible”. To the occasional passerby, this may seem like just another destined malfunction due to the myriad of abuses faced by all microwaves every single day. However, the truth as to why these microwaves have gone missing for a period of time is a rather menacing one. You see, Fisher is infested with cockroaches.

It has been about two months since I first witnessed this phenomenon. It is a magnificent sight to open a Fisher microwave at 2AM and to find that it is already occupied by eight cockroaches. They are of the German variety. Tiny bodies sheltered by the finest of glossy tan coats, and two fashionable black stripes on the pronotum. As startled as I was, I was not surprised. Given the negligence of the library’s communal areas, as well as the aggregation of people who use the facility, having one or two Gregor Samsas that may have snuck in to find refuge from the grating conditions outside is a given.

However, due to the species of cockroach found, I since have realised that this migration is very, very bad news. If there is anything that’s to be known about the German Cockroach, it’s that they can only survive within buildings, and they reproduce at an extremely fast rate. Females can carry up to 40 eggs within the ootheca, and within a month those eggs hatch. The fact that I found around eight of these cockroaches, varying in different sizes and colour meant that there was a whole population of them, lurking within the structures of Fisher Library.

I was unaware of this fact then, and did not proceed to report on this problem as the same microwaves were replaced the very next day when I came to the library. Naively, I believed that the problem had been taken care of. Within the next 2 months, I moved into a home with proper working internet, so I did not need to visit the

library as often as I had  before. The thoughts of tiny Gregor Samsas also slipped away from my mind, guiltlessly, like all of my 2018 assignments. It was a joyous time in my life. However, like all things, the halcyon did not last.

In the beginning of  March, I found myself at Fisher again. On the upper-levels, it now boasted sets of brand-new study desks — an effort to utilise more space to accommodate the rising amount of Fisher-heads. It was when I was visually appreciating these new additions did a fast-moving brown engine speed right across the carpeted floor of 4th level Fisher South. Only this time, the thing was big. Did Gregor grow? I asked myself. But this was not a German cockroach. It was an entirely different species.

A thing to know about cockroach infestations is that when the population of one species reaches an exceedingly high number, it will attract other species of cockroaches to the same location. What I saw then was probably an Australian Cockroach. Voluptuous looking, with darker tones. While their reproduction rate is slower than their German counterpart, the fact that they had also come to relish upon the copious amount of rotten food in Fisher was a rather worrying situation. I was not quick to conclude that the library was possibly facing a major infestation yet. So within the next few weeks, I began to document any cockroaches that I came across in Fisher library at night.

 If it is not yet a major infestation, the cockroach population will be confined to the lower levels of the library, I deduced. My hypothesis being that they would enter through the main entrance and stop at the kitchen in their search for food, and having found it, would not need to go any higher. Not to mention that the upper-levels are usually much colder in temperature, and would not be the ideal environment for a cockroach.

What I found was the repulsive truth that I had been too terrified to accept. There are cockroaches on all levels of Fisher. The kitchen on the lower floor is no longer enough to sustain their growing population. Their hunger now pushes them upwards.

The most lovely incident occurred on the 8th level one day. I was at one of the desks that occupied the side-walls, next to the thin, vertical windows, when I heard a peculiar noise. It was coming out of somewhere next to me. A rather high, child-like shriek that resonated with a distinct vibration. Like the quiet vroom of a toy motorbike. It came out of the space between the window and the wall. I bend down to take a closer look. Then swiftly, two long antennae wiggled out from the dark cracks. Before my eyes, a loud, yelling specimen, gigantic in stature. A cockroach who would not shut up despite knowing full-well that it was in the quiet section. A tad rude, I must say.

What is strange is that most species of cockroaches do not normally make noise. But however, when they do, it is to attract a mate. Yes, you guessed it. Fisher is now a love hotel for roaches. A horrible, erotic discovery. And as much as I enjoy the acoustic vibrations created by horny cockroach musicians, I must now conclude that the library has a cockroach infestation.

You probably will not see them when you are there during the day. But the problem remains — their population is increasing, and it will not be long until it becomes a major infestation.

From my late night observations, I note three main species of cockroaches free-loading within these walls.The German Cockroach, the Australian Cockroach, and the Smoky Brown Cockroach

All three of these species possess different habits, aesthetics and lifestyles. Bu tone thing they share is that they all cherish Fisher library and its unkempt bins, dirty toilets, food in sinks, and splatter of rotten sustenance within the microwaves.

I am not the only nor the first person who has noticed this issue. Many students have also reported it, but no actions have been taken yet. But even if something was to be done, Fisher will repeatedly be faced with the same fate if we continue to leave it in the condition that it is now. We have all contributed to the metamorphosis of Fisher into a cockroach paradise. A certain suggestion is to remove the communal dining area completely as it seems to be impossible to ever keep the space clean. That still leaves the array of bins that always turn into a mountain of decaying matter by the end of each day (they don’t get cleaned out until the early hours of the morning).

As for now, Fisher remains an ideal site for student entomologists. Unlike the lonely walls of his bedroom, within this environment, many Gregor Samsas will continue to thrive. And we are reminded once again of the collective responsibility we must have for our communal spaces. We cannot simply sleep a little longer and forget about this nonsense. The roaches of Fisher are moving upstairs, and unless we care enough, there is nothing that will stop them.