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Human Pest In Your Life? MoBot Will Name A Cockroach In Their Dishonor

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Missouri Botanical Garden
Through the Cameo app, the Missouri Botanical Garden's Butterfly House is offering cockroach dedications for Valentine's Day.

If your idea of a Valentine’s Day gift is more a lighthearted roasting than chocolates and flowers, this year, entomologists at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Butterfly House stand ready to name a cockroach in honor of your not-so-loved one. For a small fee, you can have one of the hated bugs named for an ex or use a funny moniker to take an inside joke a step further.

“We've had parents dedicate one for their children, we've had husbands get it for their wives and vice versa. People have done it for Stan Kroenke. We've had one named after the year 2020. Just anything to sort of be light and fun,” said Tad Yankoski, MoBot’s senior entomologist.

The shoutouts are done virtually through the Cameo app. Patrons can opt to make their dedication public or sent in a private link. After introducing the newly named bug on camera, an entomologist shares why people should reconsider their animosity toward cockroaches.

As Yankoski (MoBot’s “bug dad”) explained on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, there are about 4,000 species of cockroaches in the world, but only about 10 to 20 of them are pests. Most of them do important work for the ecosystem — the entomologist refers to the omnivores as “nature’s garbage men.”

“They are very good at taking nature's garbage that falls to the forest floor,” he said. “Like the Orange Head Roaches. They live in the Amazon rainforest normally. They take leaves and fruit and dead animals, and they recycle those nutrients very effectively back into the soil so that the plants and trees can grow and be fundamental for the ecosystem.”

In the Midwest, cockroaches are common in the woods.

“They live under bark, under rocks and in the soil, and are incredibly important to the ecosystem. They have no interest in coming into your house; they have no interest in really having anything to do with you,” Yankoski said.

“One of the funny observations we show with our public when we do some animal encounters featuring cockroaches, if somebody holds a cockroach and then you put it back into the colony, it thinks that it is dirty,” he continued, “and it will often spend a considerable amount of time cleaning itself after you've handled it. Because it thinks that you made it dirty.”

Learn more about cockroaches by starting a dedication here.

"St. Louis on the Air" brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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