Over 130 different species of cockroach, some of them rare and unique, are currently living their best lives in a specially-renovated warehouse in Paola.
“I think it is safe to say that this roach collection is the largest live collection of this group in the Maltese islands,” Arnold Sciberras, a Maltese exterminator, told us. “It is definitely the biggest locally and possibly the most diverse in Europe… but I still have to verify the latter.”
With hundreds of individuals cockroaches, large and small, Sciberras hopes his collection can serve some purpose for local research – as well as be a place for cockroach lovers to visit and appreciate.
“You can split my Blattodea (cockroach) collection in two,” said Arnold. “I have the scientific reference collection (mounted specimens) which hosts a good number of the general, world-known species. Then, the live collection has about 130+ species.”
Though Sciberras works with a variety of insects, pests and nuisances, he’s always had a soft spot for roaches
“They were always my favourite insects,” Sciberras says straightforwardly. “I’ve always appreciated how capable this pest species is in adapting to living amongst the worst species of them all… humanity.”
After researching, studying and eventually hunting them in his professional career, it’s only natural that Arnold’s passion for roaches would turn into a proper collection.
In Paola, the cockroach life isn’t too bad
“The roaches have it quite easy: they feed, they socialize better than we do, and, if lucky, they procreate,” Sciberras said. “In some species, there are hierarchies, but most are very social and take care of the young, old and weak amongst their colonies.”
And Scibberas’ kids love playing with the roach collection.
Needless to say, the collection is locked securely
“The majority of species I have require unique conditions and are not capable to survive on their own, and it would be a great loss for me if I lose any after all the hard work carried out to reach such a collection and diversity,” he said.
Arnold dreams of one day opening his collection as a permanent, public exhibition
“It is not open to the public yet,” Sciberras said, “but many people visit my collection from all walks of life. I aim to launch a couple of exhibitions and if all goes well, it will be part of a permanent exhibition of a project currently in the pipeline.”
More than anything, Sciberras wants people to realise that cockroaches deserve love and respect too.
“There are over 4,600 species, and less than 30 of them are considered pests worldwide,” Sciberras points out. “There are also domestic breeds (manmade like the Persian cat). But my aim is to educate the public on the beauty and diversity of these beneficial insects that are extremely important for most of the world’s ecology.”