Thursday, August 21, 2008

The "McCain" Cockroach Wins the Race!

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.


Rich Kozlovich said...


Thank you for your insights. The pest control industry has been part of the thin gray line that is continually standing guard to protect the public's health. Although we have come under attack from the activists, receive little credit from the health officials and are cast aside by the political leaders, we keep standing our posts, recognizing that we save lives. If anyone doubts that this is true, all they have to do is to look to those countries that don’t have well developed pesticide application programs. The result is dystopia. Sure we get paid to do it, but so do the rest. However, it is my belief that we do more for the public daily than most of these others do yearly.

Rich Kozlovich
Ohio 2000 Pest Management

Anonymous said...

As a boy in the 1950s, and living in Manchester in the UK, we lived in a a very Victorian-era part of the city, akin to 'Coronation Street' terrace-type dwellings. Next door to our fish shop my grandparents ran a bakery and I earned my pocket money stamping on swarms of cockroaches as they emerged in a dark, warm oven room. Public health? What a laugh. Bombed-out cities had more on their plate, then.
In the mid 70's I worked in Mogadishu, Somalia, and remember that the hotel maid cleaned kitchens and bathroom of the apartels with alcohol; very effective it was, too. The 'roaches loved the stuff and thrived in the bath drains, their legs poking out. The cleaners would light the alcohol in the bath tub and a 'whoosh' would erupt from the drain - the legs vanished, poor mites!
Here, in the Philippines, Public Health is very active. In this northern region where I live dengue fever is the scourge during the monsoon season and great efforts of eradication are mounted when it hits a particular village. Termites, too, are voracious but can be controlled with powerful insectacides, banned in the West, but so effective. The 'roach problem is endemic in hot climates. You want to see the public market if you want to study every variety of 'roach; just don't lean on the walls.
Our modern designed and built homes don't have the problem but traditional wooden buildings are not so free. Generally, it is up to each family to ensure overall cleanliness and this is taught as part of the National Curriculum.
Our local Public Health operates at the barangay (village) level and includes resident teams weekly brushing and removing rubbish.
Clive, Laoag City, Philippines