'I had no idea they would add up so quickly': Cockroaches infest Arviat home

Savia Shamee is warning Northerners who travel to pay attention to what they might inadvertently be bringing home.

Savia Shamee is warning Northerners who travel to check their bags when they get home

The Nunavut Housing Corporation says large cockroaches like this have been reported in an Arviat housing unit. Savia Shamee says she first spotted them when she returned home from Winnipeg last August. (The Nature of Things/CBC)

Cockroaches, long considered the front-runner to survive a nuclear winter, have managed to survive a Nunavut winter — crawling around a home in Arviat for the last 10 months.

Not typically found in the territory, they may become more common as the climate changes, says Terry Audla, president of the Nunavut Housing Corporation.

Savia Shamee first saw the cockroaches skittering along her wall after she returned from Winnipeg last August.

Shamee has had to throw out a lot of food to try and prevent bugs. (Submitted by Savia Shamee )

She says she wants other travellers to pay attention to what they might inadvertently be bringing back from their travels.

"The same night, I saw about six of them," said Shamee, in Inuktitut. "I woke my husband up to throw them out the same night. I thought that was the only time I would see them.

"I had no idea they would add up so quickly," she said.

The housing corporation said the insects are German cockroaches, which are active at night, and grow to be adults in around 60 days.

Shamee is still seeing the cockroaches around her house, despite attempts to get rid of them.

"We threw out all the food and anything in our cupboards," she said. "That's the hardest thing — re-buying all the food."

She said the local housing authority provided her with spray and told her if they are not gone by next week, it would arrange for an exterminator.

Tenant's responsibility

Audla said getting rid of the pests starts with the tenant. He said it's up to them to alert their local housing authority of the problem.

Shamee first noticed the cockroaches in her home last August. (Submitted by Savia Shamee)

If the infestation spreads beyond the one unit and the local authority can't handle it on its own, then the housing corporation may get involved, he said.

Audla said the situation will be handled like the Igloolik bedbug infestation, which Audla says was eventually exterminated.

"Every unit within our stock is something that we try and maintain," said Audla. "[Given] that we're in such a housing crisis, we'd rather not have units become unlivable."

Audla said many insects, like the ones that occasionally come north in the lumber used to build new housing units, often die off in Nunavut's climate.

But that's changing.

"Because of climate change, some bugs will have longer staying power," said Audla. "Then the transport of those bugs will become more of an issue."

With files from Jordan Konek