CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

Why Do the Chinese Farm Cockroaches?

Original image
ThinkStock

Last month, one million cockroaches (and that’s the “conservative estimate”) escaped from a roach ranch in China’s Jiangsu province after a vandal destroyed the nursery that the bugs are bred in. 

One million cockroaches, or more, just crawling around doing whatever they want and being gross. Yuck. If I see one roach, I’m ready for nuclear missiles to rain down over everything. Why would anyone want to keep a million of them around?

Because some people think they're good for what ails them. Decades ago, physician and medical professor Li Shunan was traveling in the Dali region of the Yunnan province and met several older people who used cockroaches as a treatment for tuberculosis. They ground the exoskeletons up and mixed the powder with oil, and then either consumed the mixture or rubbed it on their skin. 

Today, “roach powder” is an in-demand item for practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and is used to treat “blood stasis,” cuts and bruises, broken bones, cirrhosis and cancer. Some patients even claim it helps them maintain a youthful appearance. The powder is a big business, commanding almost $90 a pound, and roach ranches have popped up all over the country to get some of that sweet bug money and satiate a demand that wild-caught roaches can’t meet on their own.

Getting your start in roach ranching isn’t hard. They take up a lot less room than, say, cattle, and one Chinese how-to site suggests that you can fit the set-up to raise them in your bathroom or balcony with room to spare. You have to be able to stomach the livestock escaping, though. 

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
Original image
iStock

An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

Original image
Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
arrow
Animals
Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
Original image
Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios