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Local Focus: Hawke’s Bay needs to learn to love the Gisborne cockroach

Experts say the Gisborne cockroach needs to be celebrated, not exterminated. The Hawke’s Bay attitude to the Gisborne cockroach needs to change,...

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Experts say the Gisborne cockroach needs to be celebrated, not exterminated.

The Hawke’s Bay attitude to the Gisborne cockroach needs to change, says entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste.

“I love these creatures, they are doing God’s work.

“These guys, basically, are the best recyclers on the planet. They will turn everything that falls into your garden into perfect NPK, which is fertiliser.”

The Gisborne cockroach turns leaf litter into fertiliser. Photo / Jean and Fred Hort
The Gisborne cockroach turns leaf litter into fertiliser. Photo / Jean and Fred Hort

Drymaplaneta semivitta is a large cockroach native to Australia and first discovered in New Zealand at Gisborne more than 50 years ago.

While it has been found throughout New Zealand, its highest concentration is on the East Coast of the North Island.

Some say it arrived in New Zealand on logging ships from Southeast Asia, while others say it came from Australia.

Outdoors in Hawke’s Bay, they are found everywhere but are not averse to finding their way into human houses.

Spraying to kill the bug provides about half of AAA Service pest controller Brent Foster’s business but he said he was unconcerned if he found it in his own home.

AAA Services pest controller Brent Foster spends a lot of time keeping the Gisborne cockroach out of homes, but is relaxed about having it in his own home. Photo / Warren Buckland
AAA Services pest controller Brent Foster spends a lot of time keeping the Gisborne cockroach out of homes, but is relaxed about having it in his own home. Photo / Warren Buckland

He said fear of the Gisborne cockroach was unfounded,

“Cockroaches aren’t carrying really harmful bacteria – no more harmful than compost.

“If you are foraging around in your garden, weeding without gloves, just wash your hands as normal. They are not harmful as such.”

Kleinpaste said he would not worry should he find one inside his house.

“I tell my wife not to worry because Batman is in place.

“You basically pick it up either with a cup and a piece of paper and you toss it outside, back into your garden because that’s where it’s most helpful.”

He said while the Gisborne cockroach was constantly cleaning itself, it had relatives which were not as hygienic.

“There are a number of cockroaches in the world that are kind of on the bothersome side.

“They like to clean up a lot of human-induced waste, like kitchen waste – spaghetti bolognese behind the stove, that sort of stuff.

“They are also known to sometimes in the wintertime live in sewer systems and they don’t always wash their hands when they travel from the sewer systems into your kitchen.

“So this is one reason why they got a bad name.”

Entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste says he loves the Gisborne cockroach. Photo / Patrick O'Sullivan
Entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste says he loves the Gisborne cockroach. Photo / Patrick O’Sullivan

Kleinpaste said some of the dirtier cockroaches were named by nations “after their neighbour with whom they have had the most quarrel in the past”.

“The German cockroach in Prussia is called the Russian cockroach and, in Russia, it’s called the Prussian cockroach.”

He said everyone should love the Gisborne cockroach because it was doing “God’s work”.



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