Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Zombie Cockroach Nation

Here There Be Roaches. Roaches in the garbage; roaches in the dishes; roaches underfoot; roaches in the doorway; roaches chased by the cat, roaches dining in the cat’s dish. Hopeful male roaches dancing in the dark for skeptical lady roaches, gobbled in the act by the singing frogs. Roaches scuttling like ascetic monks living on air and nothing.

The fact is – I admire cockroaches. Always have.

I once wrote a story called “Love’s Tender Gender Fender Bender”, which resides in “Coming Together Presents C. Sanchez-Garcia”. This story continued the saga of Gregor Samsa, the hero from Franz Kafka’s story "The Metamorphosis". Samsa starts out as a mediocre salesman and wakes up one day as a very large cockroach in which he lives out his days. In my story, Gregor the sometime cockroach, wakes up one morning to discover he has now become a woman. His own sister in fact. And his sister is hot. Its enough to make you paranoid.

Cockroaches are the Volkswagens of the animal kingdom, one of those rare designs that God or the Universe got right on the first try and never improved on again. Cockroaches have been around for about 354 million years, making them one of the most ancient creatures on earth. Only the silverfish is older. About 250 million years ago the Great Permian Extinction wiped out an estimated 95% of all living organisms. And among the 5% that survived – oh yeah. You have to respect that.

Cockroaches are arthropods of the order Blottdea of the higher order Dictyoptera, and have blossomed into 4500 different varieties. Australia has giant cockroaches. Madagascar has hissing cockroaches. Panama has big flying cockroaches, I can testify. Africa has jumping cockroaches (said to be very cute) and America has . . . zombie cockroaches.

Zombie . . . . cockroaches. . . sincerely, dudes and dudesses. I shit you not.

In the movies vampires, usually men, look into the eyes of their prey, usually a woman in a thin nightgown, and the woman goes blank. Mentally stunned. Clay in his lustful hands. She’ll do anything he wants. Instantly. Brainlessly. Helplessly. If he tells her to take off that . . . well. You know. Anything. Woof.

The fact is, in nature – this really does happen. It happens to cockroaches.

Introducing the Emerald Wasp. The green glittery little wasp lives mostly in the tropics. Scientists tried to introduce it to Hawaii for pest control but it didn’t take. Male wasps are gentle, benign, unarmed, foppish little things with cute curled antennae that wave nervously. Females are bigger and pack a stinger. What they do with that stinger is the kind of thing that caused Charles Darwin to lose his faith in a benevolent God, writing to a friend “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.”

The female emerald wasp pounces on a struggling roach, flips it on its back and wrestles with it, finally delivering a careful sting to the central nervous system by piercing the thin skin under the front leg joint, paralyzing the front legs. After the roach settles down, it delivers a second sting under the roaches chin – into the roaches brain. This neuro-toxic cocktail shuts down the reception of octopomine and is delivered as precisely as a brain surgeon’s syringe into the tiny part of the roaches brain that controls the escape instinct. That’s all. When the roach wakes up, it can fly, flip and run and it feels fine. In fact it feels very fine. And the world is a very fine place with nothing to fear and nothing to run away from especially shiny green wasps which are beautiful and wonderful and its new best friend. This is now a very laid back, very stoned cockroach.

The wasp has worked pretty hard and needs a snack. She bites off the antennae while the roach stands by and drinks some of the roach’s blood. Does this all sound familiar? The wasp takes the cockroach by the antennae and leads it like a wide eyed blonde in a breezy little nightie being lead to a castle crypt in a trance. The wasp places the placid roach in a prepared burrow and lays one egg on the roaches belly. It then seals up the burrow, mainly to keep predators out, since the roach has no desire to leave, and the roach waits in the dark for no reason but that the nice wasp thinks that it should. The egg hatches in 3 days, and the larva burrows its way in, eating its way through the roaches inner organs, starting with the least necessary in exactly the right order to keep the roach alive through the whole thing for as long as possible, usually a couple of weeks. Then when the poor thing is pretty much hollowed out, it bursts forth like the little space monster in “Alien”. A female wasp, once impregnated can go through dozens of roaches in this way. There are even wasps (glytapanteles) that can invade a caterpillar and chemically brainwash it into ferociously guarding the eggs that are eating it alive. Nature is a bitch.

It does bring up an interesting question. Where in the world did the wasp learn all this?? How did it develop such perfect chemistry and anatomical knowledge, not only the wasp but the larvae? The God who created fluffy kittens and yellow baby ducklings (often gobbled up by muskies and northern pikes when they’re swimming behind mom) created these things. I suppose natural selection can explain some of it. But for me, I just don’t know.

To my way of thinking, this shouldn’t even happen to a roach.

C. Sanchez-Garcia

To see an emerald wasp in action you can visit here:


  1. Nature's such a fascinating thing... and we humans are so restricted in what we regard as acceptable behaviour. On the other hand that's probably a good thing. There's something to be said for morals and ethics, I guess.

  2. Ewww! I'm going to tweet and fb this to spread the infestation. Ewwww! Ptew! Bleach my brain!

  3. Hi fulani!

    There's a lot to be said for morals and ethics, because human beings have so much power. Think about it - we are the only creature in history that directly influences the evolution of other animals by their relationship with out species. That's why sheep and pigs are doing great and lions and tigers are almost gone. We haven;t yet grown in wisdom in proportion to our power though. Help!


  4. Hi Cynthia!

    Isn;t this one of the creepiest things you;ve read about in a while? What bugs can do? And this isn;t the creepiest stuff that's out there in the woods. When I was writing it I kept asking myself "What do people see in vampires?" because these things have so much in common. I just keep thinking it has to be a power thing.


  5. Where in the world do you find out about these things? You do seem to have a perhaps slightly morbid fascination with the anomalies (as we would see it) of nature.

    But can you really impute the desire for power to a wasp? Any more than you can talk about a blissed-out cockroach?

    I don't know. Maybe. But you have definitely made me feel some sympathy for the cockroach!


  6. If I made you feel sorry for a cockroach I have accomplished my purpose. There must be some interesting cockroaches where you live.

    I've always been fascinated by the anomolies of nature. They present a mystery to me. The carnivorous plants i collect. Parasitic wasps. They tell me there is much more going on under the surface than I can account for and that to me is wonderful and mystical.


  7. All of this just points to the randomness of life and evolution. We don't have to like it, since no one cares what we think. We strive to understand it, trying to humanize it, to anthropomorphize everything, but alas, even though WE think we humans are "all that and a bag of chips", the other life forms beg to differ.
    And if there IS a God, who's to say that cockroaches aren't her favorite creature? She's certainly made them a whole lot more durable than us!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.