Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you’d like to show someone how you truly feel about them, you might want to consider the most romantic of tributes: naming a cockroach after them.
The Bronx Zoo in New York City is among several zoos that are offering people this most unique of opportunities. It costs just $15 to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after someone.
“You don’t always have the right words, but you can still give them goosebumps,” the Bronx Zoo writes on its website. “Name a Roach for your Valentine, because roaches are forever.”
Perhaps you can also include a short poem: “Roses are red, violets are blue; roaches are cute, more so than you.”
As you can tell, the Bronx Zoo’s Name a Roach program, entering its 13th year, is popular not because people are eager to express tender feelings for a loved one, but because they want to diss an ex (ex-spouse, ex-partner, or ex-boss). They might even be looking to diss someone who’s current (current boss, current mother-in-law, or current wife of ex-husband.)
The Toronto Zoo in Canada started its “name a roach” program last year to raise money for the zoo’s conservation efforts. “Naming opportunities are not limited to exes,” zoo engagement coordinator Kelsey Godel told CTV News Toronto. “You can name a roach after your boss, ex-friend, relative, or anyone else that has been ‘bugging’ you.”
Canada has a big Ukrainian population, so I imagine that many roaches at Toronto Zoo are now answering to the name “Vladimir.”
Roach: “My name is Vladimir. Move aside! I’m taking over your space.”
Second roach: “You can’t!”
First roach: “Why not?”
Second roach: “My name is Vladimir too!”
If you really want to show your disdain for someone, you might be drawn to the “Cry Me a Cockroach Fundraiser” at San Antonio Zoo in Texas, where you can “symbolically name a roach, rat, or veggie after your ex or not-so-special someone.” The zoo will help “squash your past” and let your heart heal “by feeding your selection to an animal resident.”
Don’t worry: the zoo does this type of feeding anyway. A roach named after your ex-spouse is just as likely as an unnamed roach to meet a lizard at the zoo, but it will at least be able to introduce itself by name.
Last year, the zoo received more than 7,700 donations (or naming requests) from people in more than 30 countries, according to an Axios report. The most requested names were David, Chris, Michael, Sarah, Amanda and Emily. This year, we might get an Indian name up there: Vivek.
If you’re feeling sorry for the roaches, perhaps you haven’t encountered many in your life. I’ve lived in four countries and seen more cockroaches than I could possibly name. Some were small cockroaches, like the ones in Toronto that regularly visited my high-rise apartment, bringing along their extended families. Some were large cockroaches, like the ones in my childhood home in Zambia, coming out at night to terrorize me. Some were huge cockroaches, like the ones in Florida that flew around like birds, swooping down periodically to snatch babies from unsuspecting tourists.
Perhaps my worst experience with roaches was on an overnight train in Tamil Nadu, India. The roaches just showed up in our compartment at night, waiting for the moment when the train conductor had left and couldn’t ask them for tickets.
I don’t know about you, but I always have a hard time sleeping when there are insects around, especially insects that might crawl on me. According to scientists, cockroaches and other insects play an important ecological role in the world. This may be true, but why does this role have to involve me?
My favorite pests are the ones that do their work behind the scenes, the ones that stay as far as possible away from me, giving me no opportunity whatsoever to scream and call them names.