Beijing, 17 June :
A woman in China has decided to turn her country home into a farm to raise cockroaches.
She now has 100,000 of these hardy insects that are used as an ingredient in traditional medicines in the country.
“They are my children, my babies,” said 37-year-old Yuan Meixia, a resident of Siqian in Fujian province, in an interview to the Southern Metropolis Daily, in which she also revealed the secrets of rearing these creatures.
Yuan decided to take this up for a living last year on seeing a report on the use of cockroaches in pharmacy and gastronomy that prompted her to make an initial investment of 10,000 yuan (around $1,600) to buy 20 kilos of this arthropod.
She keeps her colony enclosed in a house close to the forest which she visits every day to feed the roaches and provide them with the care they need.
“They are like children, they need to be fed adequately”, said Yuan, who pays a lot of attention to her cockroaches.
In summer she sprays them with water to cool them and in winter she heats up the enclosure with a gas heater so that they do not feel cold.
Many of the doors in the house have been replaced by silk curtains and all the holes and cracks in the walls have been filled in with cement to prevent any of the cockroaches from escaping.
Although Yuan takes great care of them, she has no hesitation in drowning them in wash basins, drying them, placing them in plastic bags and selling them at a good price to pharmaceuticals in other parts of China.
The cockroaches Yuan raises are of the Eurycotis floridana variety, a variant that can easily be confused with the common American cockroaches that infest houses throughout the world, and that are used in many Chinese traditional medicines.
Yuan asserted that these cockroaches can fight cancer although she failed to substantiate her claims with scientific evidence.
Yuan’s case is uncommon in China where there are cockroach farms but rarely family businesses, and ever since it has come to light, experts consulted by the media have warned that it can be dangerous to engage in this practice without sufficient sanitary controls as the roaches can escape and cause diseases.
In August 2013, at least a million cockroaches escaped from a Chinese farm in Jiangsu causing alarm in that eastern province and forcing authorities to disinfect all the areas nearby.