June 18, 2007
A few questions for the Cockroach Lady

Remember the story about the Houston Museum for Natural Sciences offering a twenty-five cent per-bug bounty on live cockroaches for an upcoming exhibit? Been wondering how it turned out? Well, wonder no more, as SciGuy Eric Berger asks entomologist Nancy Grieg about it.

Q: First question: How many cockroaches did you collect when you were offering a quarter per bug?

A: We collected, I believe, 724.

Q: And you were originally shooting for 1,000?

A: Yes, it was a big disappointment for some. So many people were afraid we'd get too many, but I didn't think we'd get too many. They're not that easy to catch.

Q: So were you happy with the haul you got?

A: Oh, yes, we got plenty. It was pretty crowded in the exhibit.

Q: And tell me again, why in the world would someone ask the public to bring in cockroaches?

A: The purpose is that we really want to raise awareness that cockroaches do have a role as scavengers, and even the ones in your house are not particularly dirty. The ones we collected, American cockroaches, would just as soon be outdoors. We wanted to tell people, 'Hey, cockroaches are people, too.' They're neat. Only 12 out of 4,000 are pests. They're sanitary engineers.

Only twelve, huh? With all due respect, that isn't quite as comforting as Dr. Grieg tries to make it sound.

Q: What type of person likes working with these critters?

A: I've always liked bugs since I was a kid. What I think is really sad is, if a kid has parents who say, 'No, no. don't touch that,' or a mother screams or whatever. That's just bound to turn a kid off. But when the parents are at least tolerant, then it works.

Olivia likes bugs - ladybugs, caterpillars, and spiders in particular. Looks like it's time for a trip to the Cockrell Butterfly Center to see what she might think of this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 18, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston