Join the Car Talk Community!

#1003: The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Original Air Date: 01.16.2010

   Best Moment

This week on Car Talk, a creative birthday present spawns an auto-infestation crisis for Beatrice in Pennsylvania. The pregnant cockroach she got for dad got loose in the family BMW, and when it emerged, it may have left behind a few hundred cockroach juniors. Can the car be returned to its pre-bug state? Find out. Also, on Stump the Chumps, Tom and Ray find out if they correctly diagnosed the noise coming from Malcolm's steering wheel, and get a jaw-dropping reply; a VW tries to escape from its owner when it's parked; and has Tommy's dream job finally opened up? All this, plus a new puzzler from the Automotive History series, and lots more, this week, on Car Talk.

Review this Show | 11 Reviews | Need Help Listening? View Call Details

This Week's Puzzler

A puzzler from the world of automotive history, concerning a bet with Cousin Vinny about two vintage cars. Could their years be told apart? Find out!

Last Week's Puzzler

Tommy has harvested 100 pounds of tomatoes, and he and the tomatoes weigh 248 pounds. After a week in the sun drying out, what would the scale read? Find out!

Show Open Topic

The obituary of Prince Georgio of Seborga.

Links from

Cars Discussed on This Week's Show

    Login or Register to rate and post comments

    Show Review - 1062

    by Anonymous


    by stanvale

    As always, I enjoyed your show. The blend of good advice and great humor is unbeatable. About getting rid of the cockroach, you suggested dry ice and I am wondering if the CO2 would displace enough OX to kill the little bugger. If not, I would like to suggest a hose from the exhaust pipe to the interior of the vehicle. I would think the CO from running the engine for an hour or so might do the job. I hope you do a follow-up on this subject. It could be useful info for people with all kinds of uninvited guest in their cars--mothers-in-law not included.

    FiddleDee Icer

    by Jim

    Thawout the Mini Cooper with a couple sacks of environmentally safe de-icer. You'll be out before you can boil the feathers off the turkey in your cooker. Albeit much more fun to watch these guys set the car ablaze.

    Cockroach Killer

    by jnortonsr

    I looked it up on the web and this seems to work: mix sugar and baking soda and the die, unfortunately the first explode

    Favorite Moment: Cockroach jumping on the mother. At my grandmother's house her garden was once infested with large red insects that she could not get rid of. She bought Ginny Hens to eradicate them but not before I was driving home from a visit and almost crashed the car because one of them crawled out of my shirt cuff and onto my Hand. Nuke them!

    Bad advice about cockroaches

    by Anonymous

    Gentlemen, I wish to take strong exception to some advice you gave on this morning’s Car Talk program. The caller had lost a Madagascar hissing cockroach in her mother’s car and asked for a way to get rid of it. Your solution was to place a large block of dry ice in the car over night and freeze it to death. Bad idea! Now I know that you two have engineering degrees from the Caltech of the East (M.I.T.), but please listen to one who has a degree in Biology from the real Caltech. Many years ago I used CO2 to anesthetize Cecropia pupae for surgery and found that animals recovered from it very nicely. Moreover Drosophila geneticists have used it for years for the same purpose. The CO2 released in the car would very likely anesthetize the roaches, but it’s unlikely that even at -78.5º Celsius, anything less than enough dry ice to literally fill the interior of the car would cause freeze damage to them. Worse yet, a car full of CO2 can be dangerous to your caller – a young teenager judging from the fact that she is not yet old enough for a driver’s license. The tendency of the gas to pool in low places could preserve a significant amount even if the windows are opened, and CO2 intoxication can be insidious in onset and go unnoticed until judgment and coordination are already impaired. Better by far would be to trap the roach(es) and retain it as a pet. Easily constructed traps are described on several websites, such as the two below. For the record I delight in Car Talk and listen to it whenever I can on KQAC in Portland, Oregon. And some day I shall manage to get through to ask you about a problem I have with my 1990 Toyota 4Runner…. Sincerely, Martin Mendelson, Ph.D. 503.641.5290

    alternative diagnosis

    by Anonymous

    In the middle of the show 201003, caller 4, you suggested low transmission fluid as a possible solution to transmission/drivetrain noises/klunks for a ~ 30 year old car with 1/2 shafts in the rear. I have a 1982 Mercedes Benz 300D with the same problem. About a year ago the u-joint in the driveshaft froze/stiffened and the driveshaft and 1/2 shaft to one wheel from the differential were replaced. After a few months the inner CV joint on the half shaft leaked (spewed) grease. Upon further investiagtion the inner CV joint can rotate/slip around the half shaft and stub shaft into the differential; it is a faulty replacement part from a national auto parts store/supplier. In the near future I will replace the 1/2 shaft and the part supplier will honor the part warrenty.

    Roach solution

    by premeditator

    The Dry Ice solution was a bit weak, especially since roaches can survive without oxygen for as much as an hour; additionally, they can go months without food or water. As always, you can use the natural approach, and introduce a predator species .. like a wasp. Okay, maybe that isn't the most practical solution for a vehicle infestation... ... however from wikipedia ... An inexpensive roach trap can easily be made from a deep smooth-walled jar with some roach food inside, placed with the top of the jar touching a wall or with sticks leading up to the top, so that the roaches can reach the opening. Once inside, they cannot climb back out. An inch or so of water or stale beer (by itself a roach attractant) will ensure they drown. The method works well with the American cockroach but less so with the German cockroach.[33] A bit of Vaseline can be smeared on the inside of the jar to enhance slipperiness. The method is sometimes called the "Vegas roach trap" after it was popularized by a Las Vegas-based TV station.

    Beer Remedy

    by Anonymous

    The huge cockroaches native to The U.S. love beer, and will die happily if she puts a few open saucers full of it around on the flat surfaces overnight (or more than once if needed). Maybe these foreigners will too!!

    Bugs Bugs Bugs

    by TTTTrina

    I thought the segment about the teenager "losing" a hissing cockaroach in her parents' car was a hoot! But dry ice? Didn't someone kill someone with that stuff in an episode of CSI or Law and Order on TV? Yikes! Go to to see how gross these bugs really are. How about next time just consulting with an exterminator! Or go see the movie Mimic and realize roaches are forever ....

    Acura vs., guys?

    by archmac

    The 2009 Acura has 6.3 inches of ground clearance, while the 2009 Forrester has 8 inches (new body style). Unless she's had her car lifted, his wins on that score. Perhaps he is one of those absent-minded geniuses who is always saying "up" when they mean "down"? Otherwise, I'm not sure how he could miss the fact that his car is almost 2 inches higher than hers! They are both AWD cars, although I would prefer the 50/50 F/R AWD ratio on the Forrester to the 90/10 ratio on the Acura (in my view, it's really an 'on-demand' AWD system...they're just playing with the numbers). But, since they're both AWD, I don't see that either car has an advantage here in general on-snow driving. Depending on the driver and the conditions, her car being so much heavier than his could be a blessing or a curse. Still, what REALLY matters in this situation is which car has the better snow tires!

    Favorite Moment: The hissing cockroaches! I think the dry ice idea was kind of dumb, but the story is great. She should use the jar trap, but put something in the jar that they can stay out of the beer on, and sell the cockroaches back to the pet store! Although, I suspect that most of the cockroaches have left the car in search of food.


    Could This Be Tommy's Next Job?

    Hey, it's good to be the prince.

    Support for Car Talk is provided by:

    Donate Your Car,
    Support Your NPR Station

    ...and get a tax break!

    Get Started

    Find a Mechanic



    Rocket Fuel