A cockroach was 'thrashing about' inside her ear. It took nine days to get it out

Katie Holley, 29, of Melbourne, Fla., and six parts of the roach that took up residence inside her right ear for nine days.
Katie Holley, 29, of Melbourne, Fla., and six parts of the roach that took up residence inside her right ear for nine days. Courtesy

Katie Holley was jolted awake early the morning of April 14 with a funny feeling in her left ear.

"A weird movement" is how she described it in the first-person, true-life horror story she wrote for Self Magazine. It was like something was burrowing inside her ear canal, scratching and scurrying, digging deeper and deeper.

She frantically called her husband into the bathroom. He shined his cell phone camera inside her ear and confirmed the terrifying truth.

He saw the back end of the roach, or palmetto bug, as they're known in Florida, trying to get away from the tweezers he had just used to tear off two of its six legs.

"As I walked to the car, I could feel the roach trying to wiggle deeper into my ear canal. It was an awful feeling, one that was not necessarily painful, but psychologically torturous," Holley, 29, wrote. "Think of that humming sound you hear when you plug your ears and press really hard — that’s what I heard and felt, on the left side of my head as the roach tried to crawl. It was bizarre."

They headed to the emergency room closest to their Melbourne, Fla. home.

When Holley was admitted, doctors applied Lidocaine to her ear as a numbing agent. It also killed the bug, which was a jarring experience in itself, according to Holley's account.

Katie Holley lies on a hospital bed during her visit to a Melbourne, Fla. emergency room on April 14. Katie Holley Courtesy

"Feeling a roach in the throes of death, lodged in a very sensitive part of your body, is unlike anything I can adequately explain," she wrote in Self Magazine.

She could feel the roach's remaining legs and its antennae wriggling in her ear hole in the bug's final moments.

"I felt [the roach] thrashing about, which is disgusting," Holley told Today. "Then he removed it in three small pieces and told me that was it. He was like, ‘We got it all!’”

But unfortunately for Holley, those three roach chunks were not all.

According to Today, nine days later, she was back at her own doctor's office, complaining of "heaviness" and residual pain in her ear. When an ear exam discovered there was still something dark wedged in her ear canal, her doc pulled out six more roach parts, but that still wasn't all of it.

Holley was moved up to the front of the line with a same-day appointment at a nearby ear, nose and throat specialist.

But the ENT did not use Lidocaine to numb her ear this time around, so she heard everything when the final chunk came out.

“I could literally hear the sounds of the legs being dragged against my ear canal and feel the crunch of it," Holley said. "It’s disgusting. It’s horrible!”

And finally, after carrying around parts of a palmetto bug in her ear for nine days, Holley was roach-free again.

The last section of the roach that an ear, nose and throat specialist extracted from Katie Holley's right ear, nine days after she awoke in horror with the bug burrowing into her head. Katie Holley Courtesy

"I am still not okay, and I don't think I ever will be again," Holley wrote in a Facebook post.

As harrowing as her tale is, according to National Geographic, Holley's experience isn't all that rare.

“It’s actually not an uncommon phenomenon to have a cockroach in the ear,” entomologist Coby Schal of North Carolina State University told the magazine. “The nose is more unusual.”

But why would a roach want to squeeze into such a tight spot?

“Roaches are searching for food everywhere,” Schal said. “And earwax might be appealing to them.”

Holley even told Today that the ENT she visited had another patient with the same creepy-crawly issue earlier during the day she checked in.

Palmetto bugs, or American cockroaches, are known to invade coastal South Carolina homes. Here are some quick tips from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences on how to keep the pests out of your home.