The word ‘cockroach’ evokes in most people a response of revulsion. Like the word ‘rat’.

But just like the rodent order includes, apart from rats, also cute little creatures like hamsters, guinea pigs, squirrels, chipmunks, dormice, chinchillas, and even beavers, porcupines and capybaras, so the order ‘Blattodea’ does not contain only household pest that you step on, while gagging.

While we may associate cockroaches with filth, unhygienic conditions and disease, roaches are the most innocent, unobtrusive and misunderstood creatures you can imagine. Some roaches are downright beautiful.

By their own standard, roaches are quite clean. They frequently groom themselves. In doing so they probably spread the biocidal substances that have been found in their gut, over their body, possibly disinfecting themselves, like we do with hand sanitisers.

In these difficult and unprecedented times, where the Corona virus is spreading disease, death and mayhem around the world, it may seem strange and untimely to think about the virtues of cockroaches. And yet, the coronavirus can also teach us much about our unsustainable and unhealthy relationship with nature. Our aversion for a creature (the roach) that is not only harmless, but an essential member of ecosystems, is just one example of how far we have fallen from our God-given role as shepherds and custodians of life on earth. 

Nature is not our worst enemy. We are. Nature is our life support – if we treat it right. If not, it has the power to fight back.

Read the whole article in Leopard’s Echo, a bi-annual online magazine of Kloof Conservancy.