Woman who cares for 100,000 cockroaches in home: ‘These are all my children’

A 37-year-old woman in China shares her countryside home with the estimated 100,000 cockroaches she breeds. The South China Morning Post reports that Yuan Meixia cares for the roaches that she eventually sells to a pharmaceutical company, which uses the bugs for medicines. “These are all my children, my babies,” Yuan told the Southern Metropolis News. The insect breeder resides at a separate home in Siqian county but visits the breeding house, in the Linbian village, every day.

Yuan, a pharmacy employee, was inspired to raise roaches after seeing a China Central Television program that aired last year. “I saw people raise this kind of cockroach in Anhui,” she said. “They said it can be food and also can be medicine…So I took tens of thousands of yuan to learn [how to breed them] for a week and spent more than 10,000 yuan ($1,600) to buy 20 kg (44 lbs) of live cockroaches.”

The breeding house is equipped with zippered silk nets in the place of doors and cement seals any hole where the insects can possibly escape. Yuan maintains a temperate environment for the roaches with a gas stove used during the winter and by sprinkling water on the walls during the warm months. The roaches are mostly Palmetto bugs, which are a large winged variety common in the U.S. The bug breeder believes that, “Dried Palmetto bugs can act as anti-cancer drugs.” While she has no scientific studies for that belief, researchers at Anhui Medical University have written, “The Palmetto bug and its extracts can protect liver functions when [the natural protein Concanavalin A] caused acute immunity hepatic injury among mice.” The bugs are not used in traditional Chinese medicine, but are reportedly used in many folk recipes.

The woman feeds the roaches every night providing fruit and rice bran for the adults, and a bag of glucose for the baby cockroaches, or nymphs. ”They are most active at night, mating and hunting for food,” Yuan said. “They mate with each other after eating. The mating process lasts for two hours, and then spawning [happens]. Every spawn hatches dozens of baby cockroaches.” With the nymphs hatching after about a month, Yuan has about 100,000 cockroaches at any given time.

Yuan sells the roaches after they are drowned in vats of water and then drying in the sun. ”Those dried ones can be sold at 300 yuan to 400 yuan ($48-$64) per jin (1.1 lb). I harvest every two months and dry 10kg to 20kg (22 lbs to 44 lbs) every time.”

Photos and more info: South China Morning Post