Ahh, the hissing cockroach. Few insects have ever developed quite the cult status that our hissing cockroaches have built for themselves. These colonies are great tools for de-sensitizing skittish urban youth to the joys of discovering insects. We have displayed these gentle giants (relatively speaking) to thousands of folks of all ages – and they can attract quite a crowd.
For better or worse, part of their popularity was due directly to the TV show Fear Factor. On this show, bath tubs were filled with these critters and contestants had to take a bath in them or feed from a trough filled with blended cockroach bodies and, well, you can imagine what other sorts of things happened on the show.
But in reality – our reality – these gentle creatures have helped countless dozens of youth who at first blush were too afraid to come within ten feet of our colonies overcome their fear of bugs. Almost always…when a superreluctant kid finally mustered the courage to hold one of the bugs, he or she discovered to their delight that they really aren’t that fearsome.
And in case anyone gets too comfortable with the idea of holding a rather large cockroach, the hissing part is always a reliable standby to make sure that the kids don’t get too comfortable. It’s all in a day of realizing our perceptions – and overcoming them. And then having our fears re-instilled within us. And then gently taking them away again. And then sticking a cockroach on someone’s neck. And so on.
Interestingly, the cockroaches are excellent for equalizing kids. What I mean by this is often sixth graders will come in with their cliques all intact. You know, the cool kids hanging with each other and all that.
But these human social devices are easily dissolved with cockroach-
es… when the alpha male of the cool clique screams and runs away while the least popular kid handles the cockroaches with ease. When this happens – and it happens more often than you might think – I love my job beyond words.