The growing swarm of cockroach farms in China

You may think of them as a nasty pest, but in China, raising cockroaches has become an increasingly popular industry. Our own Barbara Demick talked to some of the nation’s most successful roach ranchers to find out what’s behind the bug industry boom.

So where’s the demand for roaches?

At least five pharmaceutical companies are using cockroaches for traditional Chinese medicine. Research is underway in China (and South Korea) on the use of pulverized cockroaches for treating baldness, AIDS and cancer and as a vitamin supplement.

South Korea’s Jeonnam Province Agricultural Research Institute and China’s Dali University College of Pharmacy have published papers on the anti-carcinogenic properties of the cockroach.

Plus, there’s the fact that cockroaches are technically edible:

Many farmers are hoping to boost demand by promoting cockroaches in fish and animal feed and as a delicacy for humans.

Chinese aren’t quite as squeamish as most Westerners about insects — after all, people here still keep crickets as pets.

Read the full story in a buggy Column One feature.

Photos: Wang Xuhua / For the Times

Invasion of the 17-year cicada brood
What’s red-eyed, over-sized, loud, horrifying and 17 years in the making? The soon-to-be-emerging cicada brood, described by one expert as a “huge tsunami.”
The bugs, which have been hibernating for nearly two decades before emerging, molting, mating and passing away in droves, are a swarming terror to some, and for others, they’re an under-appreciated delicacy.
But rest assured, West Coast readers, the imminent cicada invasion is entirely an East Coast problem.
And for anyone skeptical as to how creepy cicadas can be, click here at your own peril.
Photo: Chris Simon / University of Connecticut, Associated Press

Invasion of the 17-year cicada brood

What’s red-eyed, over-sized, loud, horrifying and 17 years in the making? The soon-to-be-emerging cicada brood, described by one expert as a “huge tsunami.”

The bugs, which have been hibernating for nearly two decades before emerging, molting, mating and passing away in droves, are a swarming terror to some, and for others, they’re an under-appreciated delicacy.

But rest assured, West Coast readers, the imminent cicada invasion is entirely an East Coast problem.

And for anyone skeptical as to how creepy cicadas can be, click here at your own peril.

Photo: Chris Simon / University of Connecticut, Associated Press

Do robot ants dream of electric crumbs?
Want to get inside of the brains of ants? Researchers looking to understand how ants solve problems, instead of sitting down for a focus group with the ants, have called upon 10 sugar-cube-sized robots.
The study, which culminated in a study published Thursday, is an attempt to comprehend how ants coordinate their behavior, with the long-term goal of curbing the spread of the invasive Argentine ant, which is disrupting ecosystems worldwide.And what’s the importance of a single ant among a gigantic swarm?

The behavior of individual foragers can have drastic consequences for the entire group. A series of wrong turns by one or several workers can transform an otherwise successful picnic raid into a catastrophe: Wayward ants can accidentally lock their supply network into a closed loop, causing the group to march in a fruitless spiral until they drop from exhaustion.

As for the conclusions of the study, well, you’ll have to check out the full write-up from Science Now.

Do robot ants dream of electric crumbs?

Want to get inside of the brains of ants? Researchers looking to understand how ants solve problems, instead of sitting down for a focus group with the ants, have called upon 10 sugar-cube-sized robots.

The study, which culminated in a study published Thursday, is an attempt to comprehend how ants coordinate their behavior, with the long-term goal of curbing the spread of the invasive Argentine ant, which is disrupting ecosystems worldwide.

And what’s the importance of a single ant among a gigantic swarm?

The behavior of individual foragers can have drastic consequences for the entire group. A series of wrong turns by one or several workers can transform an otherwise successful picnic raid into a catastrophe: Wayward ants can accidentally lock their supply network into a closed loop, causing the group to march in a fruitless spiral until they drop from exhaustion.

As for the conclusions of the study, well, you’ll have to check out the full write-up from Science Now.

"Honeybees aren’t all they’re cracked up to be."
Wild bees may be just the solution that farmers are looking for as they struggle to come with the continued die-offs among domestic reserves.
In fact, farmers may have been completely wrong about bees for years. Said Rachael Winfree, a pollination ecologist at Rutgers University:

"At 90% of farms studied in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, native wild bees are fully pollinating the watermelon crop. But farmers don’t realize this. "They’re thinking they need them but they don’t."

Read more about the possible bee fix, and why honeybees may be totally overrated, here.
Photo: Rufus Isaacs

"Honeybees aren’t all they’re cracked up to be."

Wild bees may be just the solution that farmers are looking for as they struggle to come with the continued die-offs among domestic reserves.

In fact, farmers may have been completely wrong about bees for years. Said Rachael Winfree, a pollination ecologist at Rutgers University:

"At 90% of farms studied in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, native wild bees are fully pollinating the watermelon crop. But farmers don’t realize this. "They’re thinking they need them but they don’t."

Read more about the possible bee fix, and why honeybees may be totally overrated, here.

Photo: Rufus Isaacs