NEW BRUNSWICK—Pamploma, Spain has its annual running of the bulls and New Brunswick, New Jersey, is the site of the annual running of the cockroaches. Not just any cockroaches, but Giant “Hissing” Madagascar Roaches.
On Aug. 20, on the Cook College campus of Rutgers University, more than six hundred of the state’s pest management professionals will gather for an annual “clinic”, a day long series of seminars led by the nation’s leading authorities on all aspects of pest control, but at noon they will break for lunch and the 15th “Cockroach Derby” during which two very large cockroaches will race down a six-foot long Plexiglas race track.
“We gave some thought to a ‘rat race’,” said Leonard Douglen, Executive Director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association, “but decided against it because we were fairly sure that PETA would show up. It occurred to us that no one races cockroaches and, since they are famous for their speed, it was a perfect choice.”
What began as a lighthearted diversion has become an international event that draws television crews and reporters. The choice of the Madagascar “Hissing” cockroaches was obvious because of their size. Hollywood often uses this largest species when filming movies.
Over the years, to add a bit more fun to the event, the cockroaches were designated as various political candidates running for office. In 2008, the cockroaches stood in for the campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain. The predictive power of the race was put in jeopardy when the Obama roach became disoriented and refused to leave the starting line while the McCain roach made a made dash for the finish line.
This year, the competing roaches will be designated for Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democrat candidate running for a second term and Republican challenger, Chris Christie.
Founded in 1941, the New Jersey Pest Management Association has led the profession in the provision of educational programs for its members. In 1947, it began its annual day long conference that invites entomologists and others to provide lectures on a variety of pest-related challenges.
This year, Dr. Phil Koehler, Ph.D. of the University of Florida will discuss “Green Cockroach Control” while Joe Barille, B.C.E., will lecture on “Ants and Their Control” and Dr. Barbara Thorne, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland, will provide “Updates on Subterranean Termites: Detection and Control.”
In addition to the knowledge acquired, attendees will secure credits toward their annual certification by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. All pest management firms are licensed by the NJDEP and all technicians and others involved in the application of pesticides must be certified.
“The Cockroach Derby is a lot of fun,” says Douglen, “the actual business of pest control is the very serious necessity to ensure that all manner of facilities from schools to hospitals, restaurants to hotels, be pest-free. This is a healthcare concern codified in law. Homeowners and those who manage multi-unit housing rate a pest-free environment as a top priority. The damage to structures every year by wood-destroying insects and other pests represents hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
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