I Just Called to Hiss, ‘I Love You’

Image courtesy of: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Can’t decide whether to buy roses or chocolates? Longing to give something more original?

What’s more romantic than…a roach?

For a minimum fee of $15 dollars (with higher prices for those looking for more extravagant packages), the Bronx Zoo will let you name a Madagascar Hissing roach—which can grow up to four inches—for your sweetheart, complete with a certificate, as part of its “Name a Roach” campaign.

It’s a nontraditional gift, for sure, and as its site advertises: “After the chocolates have been eaten and the flowers wilt, roaches remain thriving and triumphant. Give the gift that’s eternal and Name a Roach for Valentine’s Day.”

Forget “Diamonds are Forever.” According to the Bronx Zoo, “Roaches are Forever.”

Madagascar Hissing roaches, like most roach species, according to the zoo, are not considered pests. They do hiss as a defense mechanism, which is where the name comes from. They can live up to five years.

Stephen Sautner, communications director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, the umbrella organization of all New York zoos and aquariums including the Bronx Zoo, said that the proceeds from the promotion go towards the society’s mission to save wildlife and their natural habitats.

The annual naming program has been around since 2011, but Sautner says no specific roach names have jumped out over the years. He said people tend to name them for loved ones, friends or their main squeeze. Some people have even named them for an ex.

Jordan Greenhalgh purchased a roach this year to honor his husband, Tyler. He first heard about it on Twitter, when a friend posted a retweet about “Name a Roach,” as a joke. Greenhalgh, though, took it seriously. 

“I liked the idea, due to it just being completely different from anything I had done before on Valentine’s Day,” he said. He typically gives a stuffed animal or chocolates.

He said the thought of naming a roach actually makes him giggle each time he thinks about it.

While he decided to name a roach in honor of his husband, Tyler, Greenhalgh selected a different name for the said roach, however.

“In a moment I could only describe as absurdistic inspiration- I decided to name it Deborah,” he said. He didn’t say where the idea for the name Deborah originated.

Sautner said that the zoo doesn’t track whether traffic at the Madagascar Exhibit picks up around Valentine’s Day with possible roach-namers paying a visit to their new remote pet, but Greenhalgh said he definitely wants to go see it.

“The concept of walking into the enclosure where the other roaches are kept and just finding one named Deborah seems deliciously ridiculous to me, and I knew that my husband will find it that way as well,” he said.