Pass the roach
We don't like bugs. Spiders in our vicinity elicit a quick "yuck" and are thereafter squished. Wasps and their stinging brethren are cautiously run away from. Slugs bring on a severe case of the willies, but it's not as if they're going to charge at us. If you want to see us run, screaming, out of any room, at any time, just bring along a big fat flying cockroach. These six-legged antagonists have caused us to smash light fixtures while wildly swinging a broom, refuse to sleep in the same room with a fugitive pest, frighten patrons of a college cafeteria with an embarrassing spell of wild-eyed shrieking, and nearly suffocate on the noxious fumes of super-strength Raid.
Yes, we've unwillingly fought some battles with some big bugs. And here in Texas, people like to brag, everything is big: big houses, big money, big hair, big cockroaches. Pity to shatter the stereotype, but we live in a moderately sized apartment, could use a raise, have a most unobtrusive coiffure, and will shed no tears for our recent dearth of oversize vermin as roommates. If you, though, happen to be, um, lucky enough to find a rather large Periplaneta americana in your environs, you could be bound for a local entomological triumph.
The Dallas Museum of Natural History is hosting its Fifth Annual Biggest Roach in Texas Contest as part of its Family Festival Bug Day Saturday. Bring your largest specimen, but be sure it's native to Texas. (You may be tempted to bring your three-and-a-half-inch Megaloblatta longipennis, but that ridiculously and somewhat vulgarly named variety is, of course, from Colombia.) Not real proud of that 2-incher you caught lurking around your toaster? Heed the advice of Melissa Miller, who works in the museum's education department. She points out that people shouldn't be ashamed of their catches because many roaches spent the "winter" outside, basking in the warmth.
The event kicks off at 11 a.m. with bug-related arts and crafts, guest entomologists, insect collections, and live arthropods. These family-oriented diversions will make the time fly by as you await the hour of judgment, 2 p.m. The contestants (which may be dead or alive, as you see fit -- congeniality and talent will have no bearing upon the outcome of this pageant) will be measured "from pronotum to wingtip," i.e., not including their antennae. The winner, or rather the winner's sponsor, will be presented with a certificate commemorating the victory. There may not be a fabulous cash prize, but, oh, the glory.
Larra Ann Keel
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