While loving couples all across the Chicago area may be looking forward to a romantic Valentine’s Day date or dinner – maybe at the Brookfield Zoo’s annual Valentine’s Day dinner on Feb. 14 – there may be some people who’d also prefer to send their less-than-warm regards to someone formerly special.
Brookfield Zoo is there for those folks, too.
For the first year, Brookfield Zoo invites you to wish your ex an unhappy Valentine’s Day by naming one of the zoo’s Madagascar hissing cockroaches after them.
“We were searching for a fun thing to do for Valentine’s Day,” said Sondra Katzen, public relations manager for the Chicago Zoological Society, who credited the organization’s social media team for the idea. “We wanted to do something fun and unique.”
Brookfield Zoo’s original hissing cockroach specimens arrived from an approved breeder in 2009 and have spawned many generations since then. The shiny, brown, oval-shaped insects are about two inches long.
The males sport two blunt horns that they use to fend off other males during mating periods, and the females are noticeably larger, with both sexes displaying visible horizontal bands, called sternites, covering their lower abdomens.
The insects are known as “hissing” cockroaches because of the sound they are able to emit through the small holes, called spiracles, lining their abdomens. They “hiss” as a defense mechanism against predators, but also during courting rituals and marking territory.
Hissing cockroaches live in large groups on forest floors of Madagascar, a large island off the southeast coast of Africa, and are nocturnal.
According to a fact sheet provided by the zoo, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are “among the most primitive of the wingless insects and has remained virtually the same for nearly 250 million years.”
The “Name a Cockroach After Your Ex” package includes a Certificate of Naming that you can fill out and share with your ex-significant other or hang it on your wall to remind you of your thoughtful gift.
The name of the person you choose (first names only!) will also go on the Cockroach Naming Board inside the Hamill Family Play Zoo near the hissing cockroach exhibit. The naming board will be unveiled on Feb. 14 and will be on display through the month of February.
Katzen also said you are free to name a cockroach after someone you like – just mark that option when signing up so you’re sent the correct certificate.
You can name a cockroach after the person of your choice for a donation of $15 by visiting CZS.org/nameacockroach and filling out the simple form.
“All of the money goes toward the Brookfield Zoo Annual Fund, which provides funding for anything deemed appropriate for the zoo’s operation and furtherance of the Chicago Zoological Society’s mission.
As of the end of January about 100 people had named cockroaches after their significant ex or other.
And while there are only about a dozen Madagascar hissing cockroaches on display at any one time at the Hamill Family Play Zoo, the zoo has hundreds of the giant insects in its collection, so they’ll be sure to find one suitable to name after your ex.