Business Opportunity - Cockroach Farms

Cockroach farms multiplying in China

Farmers are pinning their future on the often-dreaded insect, which when dried goes for as much as $20 a pound — for use in Asian medicine and in cosmetics.

By Barbara Demick
October 15, 2013

JINAN, China — This squat concrete building was once a chicken coop, but now it's part of a farm with an entirely different kind of livestock — millions of cockroaches. Inside, squirming masses of the reddish-brown insects dart between sheets of corrugated metal and egg cartons that have been tied together to provide the kind of dark hiding places they favor.

Wang Fuming kneels down and pulls out one of the nests. Unaccustomed to the light, the roaches scurry about, a few heading straight up his arm toward his short-sleeve shirt.

"Nothing to be afraid of," Wang counsels visitors who are shrinking back into the hallway, where stray cockroaches cling to a ceiling that's perilously close overhead. Although cockroaches evoke a visceral dread for most people, Wang looks at them fondly as his fortune — and his future.

The 43-year-old businessman is the largest cockroach producer in China (and thus probably in the world), with six farms populated by an estimated 10 million cockroaches. He sells them to producers of Asian medicine and to cosmetic companies that value the insects as a cheap source of protein as well as for the cellulose-like substance on their wings.

The favored breed for this purpose is the Periplaneta americana, or American cockroach, a reddish-brown insect that grows to about 1.6 inches long and, when mature, can fly, as opposed to the smaller, darker, wingless German cockroach.

Since Wang got into the business in 2010, the price of dried cockroaches has increased tenfold, from about $2 a pound to as much as $20, as manufacturers of traditional medicine stockpile pulverized cockroach powder.

"I thought about raising pigs, but with traditional farming, the profit margins are very low," Wang said. "With cockroaches, you can invest 20 yuan and get back 150 yuan," or $3.25 for a return of $11.

China has about 100 cockroach farms, and new ones are opening almost as fast as the prolific critters breed. But even among Chinese, the industry was little known until August, when a million cockroaches got out of a farm in neighboring Jiangsu province. The Great Escape made headlines around China and beyond, evoking biblical images of swarming locusts.

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Thanks to Mike Yui for sharing.

I have some direct experience with cockroaches.  I was serving as an 18 year old volunteer social worker in the inner city of Norfolk, Virginia when the story below occurred.


When Bob and Lynn and I moved into our house in Norfolk we discovered incredible numbers of cockroaches. Many of them lived under a cupboard. When we turned it over we did a war dance and dispatched many, many little beasts.

I found a very large 

praying mantis a week later. I
had read that the Chinese released praying mantis in their homes to control bugs. So I released my fine large green mantis in our home.I did not see Mr. Mantis for a couple of weeks. I hoped he was doing his duty, eating our roaches. Then I forgot about him.

Pastor Deramis came over to our home one time, bringing his very proper and dignified wife with him. They sat at our kitchen table. Mrs. Deramis was clearly a little concerned with being in our less than palatial home, but she was trying hard. 

Just then, woudn't you know it, Mr. Mantis flew out and landed on Mrs. Deramis shoulder. She was horrified. I knocked it from her shoulder.

Mrs. Deramis handled it as well as could be expected after I explained that it was just in our home to keep the cockroaches down.

Little did I realize that I could have started a profitable cockroach farm right there in my home in Norfolk.