Asia Life

One Million Cockroaches Invade China

One million cockroaches have escaped a farm where they were being bred for traditional medicinal purposes.

Jiangsu province, beware. An army of one million cockroaches is headed your way. According to the newspaper Modern Express, as reported by AFP, on August 22 the insects escaped a farm in the city of Defang in the eastern province when an “unknown perpetrator” destroyed the plastic greenhouse where they were being bred for use in traditional medicine.

Five investigators from the Jiangsu Board of Health were dispatched to the area to formulate a plan to exterminate the creepy-crawlies in a “large-scale disinfection” of the area – an unenviable task. According to a worker from the nursery, the figure of one million could in fact be on the conservative side. To say nothing of the creatures’ extraordinary powers of multiplication. When the greenhouse had been damaged, an estimated 1.5 million of the bugs were already thriving on a hearty diet of fruit and biscuits.

Wang Pengsheng, the farmer who was raising the insects, had spent six months hatching a business plan, invested 100,000 yuan ($16,000) in capital and purchased 225 pounds (102 kilograms) worth of Periplaneta americana (American cockroach) eggs. The payoff: if all had gone according to plan, he hoped to earn 1,000 yuan in profit per kilogram (roughly $74 per pound). Now he faces losses of hundreds of thousands of yuan.

Although the sight of even one cockroach scurrying across the floor is enough to nauseate most, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the creatures are thought to contain substances that are helpful in combating cancer, reducing inflammation and boosting immunity. In powdered form, they are prescribed for stroke.

The cockroach is but one of many strange remedies for those who adhere to TCM. From eating turtles to promote longevity to consuming monkey heads to relieve headaches, TCM has a cornucopia of exotic elixirs. Starfish, bear paws, dried snakes, scorpions, and flying lizards – even rat fetuses and donkey umbilical cords are put to use in the traditional healing system.

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This is little consolation for the residents of Jiangsu.