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Roaches wanted at Houston museum

Lianne Hart
Los Angeles Times
Vail, CO Colorado

HOUSTON ” Anyone who lives here has had to deal with them: two-inch-long Texas-size cockroaches, equal opportunity home invaders that know no demographic or income boundaries.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science issued a casting call for the ever-present pests. As it stocked a new insect exhibit, the museum offered to buy up to 1,000 American cockroaches for a quarter apiece from residents who bring them in.

“We needed a lot of roaches and didn’t have time to collect them all ourselves,” said Nancy Greig, the museum’s curator of entomology.



Twice each week before the exhibit opened May 25, people could turn in their roaches into cash at the museum. The catch was the insects had to be alive and healthy.

On the first day of the roach roundup, entomologist Laurie Pierrel set up a table in the museum lobby. Her first customer, Megan Freemantle, strolled in about an hour later with 39 cockroaches in a plastic box ” the bounty from three days of roach wrangling Freemantle’s central Houston bungalow.



Catching live roaches was easy, Freemantle said. She sprinkled dog kibble in the bottom of 5-gallon plastic buckets, pushed them against the wall, and let nature take its course when the roaches came out at night.

“They crawled down the wall and fell into the buckets,” she said

For her trouble, Freemantle got an eye-roll from her 17-year-old daughter, and $9.75 from the museum “- enough to buy a couple of vanilla lattes, she said.



Terry Vlasch, a third-grade teacher, brought a Ziploc bag holding one giant roach found crawling in his kitchen sink. He said he missed out on a bigger haul by killing about 100 roaches that were hiding under some backyard cinderblocks before the museum’s offer was announced.

“I smashed them,” he said, mourning the lost profit.

The newly purchased roaches were dumped into a plastic box, joining some 40 roaches previously caught by museum employees. For hours, the homely box of bugs attracted children and repulsed parents, who peered inside and looked for roaches among the orange slices, dog food and rotting wood.

The roaches are nasty, said 3-year-old Serena Schwartz. They’re stinky and gross, said Heather Aumiller, 9. “I have cockroaches in my house,” announced Lola Dinh, 5. Her mother, Tracy, blanched.

The museum’s roach exhibit will feature a large Plexiglas box topped with a dome. The interior will be set up like a kitchen, Greig said. The box will be dark until a person’s head hovers over the dome. This will activate a light in time to see a thousand roaches scurrying for cover.

To catch roaches, Pierrel suggested putting beer-soaked bread in the bottom of a jar, then wrapping the exterior with pantyhose to provide traction for the roaches. After the bug falls in, it can’t crawl out of the smooth glass interior.

Greig said she prefers grabbing a roach with her hand. “It’s much more efficient that way. You can always wash your hands afterward,” she said.

Anyone skittish about catching live roaches should know that “roaches are sanitary,” Greig said. “They constantly clean themselves and don’t feed on filth. They’re as clean as your house.”


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