What symbol can epitomize undying love better than one of nature’s most un-killable animals?
That’s what the unconventional romantics (and public relations geniuses) running the Bronx Zoo in New York must have mused when they first introduced their Valentine’s Day Name-A-Roach promotion in 2011.
Back for its seventh year, the program offers you the opportunity to name one of the zoo’s giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches after a loved one--in return for a $15 donation.
Supporters will then receive a colorful certificate announcing this act of devotion that may be cherished, laughed over, or ripped to shreds, depending on how well the gift goes over with the roach’s new namesake.
“Roses wither, chocolates melt but roaches are forever," said John F. Calvelli, executive vice president of the zoo’s parent organization, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “Nothing lasts longer than a roach, so it could be sent as a symbolic gesture about how long your love will last or exactly the opposite. Some might say that love is like a roach – elusive, resilient, and sometimes very scary.”
If you really want to spoil your sweetie, the zoo offers several cockroach-themed gift packages to add to the certificate. The full set, called “the works”, includes socks, truffles, and a lovely pin for a $75.
For relationships that can't withstand allusions to extreme invulnerability (or maybe you just don't want to jinx it), there are several other cockroach attributes that might mirror your domestic situation.
The unambiguous name stems from the insect’s highly vocal nature. Males hiss profusely at one another during aggressive head-ramming squabbles over females, and the winner of the dispute typically hisses more. (Is your special someone a bit of a gloater? Or maybe they fought to earn your affections?)
The sibilant sound is also produced whenever the cockroaches are disturbed and features prominently into the insects’ noisy mating ritual. (Infer what you will here).
For gift-givers looking to celebrate familial love this Valentine’s Day, here’s another factoid: Unlike most bugs--and even other cockroach species--“hisser” females give birth to live young. Plus, juveniles often stick around while they mature rather than immediately scattering into new territories, thus forming related colonies.
Finally, if none of these positively spun anthropomorphisms resonate with you, the zoo suggests you can follow the suit of previous participants and name one of the unsightly bugs after your ex or in-law.
No matter your motivations, the proceeds obtained from Name-A-Roach event go to WCS’s international conservation projects that affect change by addressing policies and socioeconomic factors underlying climate change, habitat protection, illegal wildlife trading, fisheries management, and more.