Undergraduates are well-advised to keep either a sturdy left shoe or a can of Raid handy to combat the persistent cockroach plague.
Although the roach problem is not particularly acute this year and the level of infestation has never been excessively high, the cockroaches appear perennially to plunder students' rooms.
A survey of the Houses indicates that cockroaches show up most often in the older river Houses and almost never at Mather House or at the Radcliffe Houses.
Richard Berman, technical manager for Waltham Chemical Corp., the company Harvard hires to exterminate roaches in the Houses, said that cockroaches are a common problem among transient populations, especially students.
"Roaches like to live in cracks and crevices where it is warm and moist, and they like to live near a good supply of human food," he said. An old dorm building, then, is a logical place to find roaches.
The problem of roaches at Harvard is no worse than at the other universities in the area, Berman said. The worst problems his company faces are the student apartments in the Back Bay. "Some of those places you wouldn't even want to go into," he said.
Harvard contracts with Waltham Chemical to spray all the Harvard Houses during the summer when most of the rooms are empty. They sometimes encounter problems when summer students refuse to let the exterminators into their rooms or when the students have not had enough time to prepare the rooms for spraying, Berman said.
Both Berman and most of the House superintendents agree that the problem is made worse by students leaving improperly stored food in their rooms. "A lot of people are slobs, and that's how roaches live," Berman said.
Jeffrey F. Sagansky '74, a Lowell House resident, explained how he and his roommates handle the problem. "When we see a cockroach we spray it and the area around it with aerosol," he said. "That stops it from moving; then we just take a match to the whole thing."