By Alan Caruba
On Thursday, I attended the midday 14th “Cockroach Derby” staged by the New Jersey Pest Management Association during its 61st annual Clinic and tradeshow. The highlight of the day so far as the media in attendance were concerned was the running of the “Presidential Cockroach Race” that pitted a designated John McCain cockroach against a designated Barack Obama cockroach.
These weren’t your commonplace American and German cockroaches that have plagued homeowners and apartment dwellers since the dawn of human civilization. They were giant Madagascar “Hissing” Roaches, the kind Hollywood uses when it wants to scare the daylights out of the audience. These roaches are double or triple the size of your typical roach.
The race is run inside of Plexiglas track with two lanes. At one end the cockroaches are held in a “gate” area until the door is raised and, usually, they take off down the track for lack of anything better to do.
The “John McCain” cockroach took off as if shot from a cannon, rambling down the six feet of the track with ease and one might almost say a sense of real purpose. The “Barack Obama” cockroach seemed addled as it loitered around the gate area. It was no contest. Two cockroaches designated Republican and Democrat ran a comparable race presumably to determine the outcome of the vice presidential election. Here again the Republican cockroach won handily.
I wish to state that these races have absolutely, positively, no predictive power whatever. In the 14 years I have been witnessing them, the only thing they predicted was that the men and women of the broadcast and print media would show up with their cameras and notebooks to record the action and scribble notes while gleaning comments from the host of professional pest control folk who gather to cheer on the cockroaches in a non-partisan fashion.
Why, you may ask, do I attend these festivities? Because I am, by profession, a public relations counselor and the New Jersey Pest Management Association has been a client of mine for over twenty years. When we began our long association, they were called the “Pest Control” association, but as the impact of the environmental movement occurred, they found themselves accused of spraying deadly pesticides with no other purpose in mind than to kill every living creature known to man and God.
This was not true, but that didn’t matter to the Greens who were determined to get every pesticide banned. The problem is that the only beneficiaries would have been the billions of pest insects and rodents. Pests that carry and transmit many diseases harmful and even lethal to mankind don’t care. Pest control professionals do care.
So does the public. Putting aside the fact that every state, in the interest of public health, requires by law that restaurants, hospitals, schools, supermarkets, hotels, and everywhere else the public gathers must be protected against infestations, the industry pulls in several billion annually because people understand that bugs and other nasty critters represent a threat to their lives and property. Every year for example, termites destroy more property than all the floods and fires combined.
In time the pest control industry metamorphosed into the pest “management” industry for public relations purposes. They instituted Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs that emphasized more intensive inspections of structures and the least use of pesticides on site. New products and technologies were created to deal with termites after the most effective termiticide ever invented was banned from use in the 1970s.
Mother Nature insures that insect and rodent pests, as well as others such as bird pests and feral animals, exist in such abundance that were it not for the very unglamorous work of pest control professionals, life for all of us would be very unpleasant.
None of this occurred to the media folk in attendance or even the coverage given the event by those relying on my news release about it. Even with access to some of the leading experts in the nation who were there to conduct seminars on bed bugs, termites, rats and mice, it was the cockroach race that was their only interest.
For 61 years the New Jersey Pest Management Association’s leaders have ensured that their members—some six hundred technicians and owners attended—received the best scientific information possible to protect the public against these scourges of humanity.
To me, that was and is the real story.