10. Cockroaches Freaked Out Settlers
La Cucaracha may be a cute little ditty now, but to early colonial settlers the cockroach was no joke. Described as “a new annoyance” by Captain John Smith in his 1624 Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, early settlers were horrified by the huge, prehistoric looking insects.
The Spanish word cucaracha, which translates to contemptible little caterpillar was widely mangled by the English speaking settlers, and morphed over time into the now recognizable English word cockroach. Interesting, the Spanish viewed the cockroach as a kind of caterpillar while the English colonists viewed it as a form of moth. Neither are correct, with the cockroach actually being of the order Blattodea, which includes the similarly onerous pests termites.
Doubtless new settlers struggled to keep their homes, barns, and granaries free of the pests and likely saw some food spoilage due to the incursions of roaches. Thomas Moffatt, an English physician, hated roaches far more than Smith and wrote of them as, “nasty, cruel, rough, theeving, living of nocturnal depredations after an infamous manner.” Harsh. One can only imagine his reaction if he’d known what we know now, that those cruel, rough little things will outlive us, even in the case of a nuclear apocalypse.