Friday, May 13, 2005

Cockroaches and Dodge Darts

The TV broadcast of the Westminster Dog Show is a great favorite of Mrs. R. Lots of different breeds, gracefully displayed by some pretty ritzy-looking owners. But these animals are expensive and they take up a lot of room. If you crave non-human companionship there are other pets more affordable, even some that can be kept easily in the smallest and poorest city apartment. Like cockroaches:
There are nearly 4 000 species of Cockroaches (Dictyoptera, Blattodea) in the world, of which only 25 to 30 have any pest status, the rest are innocent members of the earth's fauna, and some make great pets.

Housing cockroaches in captivity pose two main problems. Firstly most species come from tropical countries and therefore need to be kept at, 25 degrees C minimum to be happy.

Secondly there is the problem of the cockroaches escaping and infesting the house. This problem is easily overcome by careful selection of species and cage structure, the cage needs to be escape proof
Escape proof. Yes, there is that. Not to worry. A tight fitting lid and good quality fine mesh to allow for air flow will fix that, although the small fast moving species may need special precautions. And temperature? Buy the little guys a heating bad for their shacks. Food? No problem. They'll eat anything, including all edible parts of their cages and each other. Breeding "takes care of itself." Pretty low maintenance.

Of course they won't live forever. But when they croak, you can even have fun watching the five stages of decay (see PZ Myers' complete guide to cockroach decomposition at Pharyngula).

Then again you might not be troubled by having to witness this, thanks to Bush's hidden WMD policy. In fact your pet might have the educational experience of watching you decay.
. . . radiologists have found that humans can safely withstand a one-time exposure of 5 rems (A "rem" is the dosage of radiation that will cause a specific, measured amount of injury to human tissue). A lethal dose is 800 rems or more (people are exposed to about 16 rems during their lifetime).

Insect researchers have found that cockroaches can tolerate a much higher dose -- really higher! The lethal dose for the American cockroach is 67,500 rems and for the German cockroach it is between 90,000 and 105,000 rems (yikes!). In truth the amount of radiation that cockroaches can withstand is equivalent to that of a thermonuclear explosion. (Donald Lewis, Department of Entomology, Iowa State University)
Maybe the End of Days is just an earth populated by mutant cockroaches driving equally indestructible Dodge Darts.