Meet a Bug Whisperer and His Traveling Insect Zoo | Atlas Obscura

Meet a Bug Whisperer and His Traveling Insect Zoo | Atlas Obscura


Like, from the moment I had consciousness they were always appealing to me. The way they look, the way they eat, the way they move. The way that their exoskeletons shine in the light. When you sort of dispel the hatred we have towards insects, you actually have a better shot at dispelling xenophobia towards different people. I have hundreds of different animals, mostly insects. I do live animal shows, where I like to showcase different animals that are very different from us. Hi, everyone. Thanks for coming. My name is Aaron Rodriques and these are all my pets. A lot of what we think are very dangerous animals are actually very, very peaceful. There are actually a very limited number of insects that can do you harm. The treatment that people give insects is sort of what prompts me into studying and liking them more. Because I do feel that way in a way. – He’s seeing you right now.
– Yeah, wow. He’s very shy. I didn’t have many friends growing up as a child. I felt like I was different from a lot of children. I couldn’t really understand them, and they couldn’t really understand me. [Whistling] I’ve only had one friend visit my room ever. Over here, I have my African twig mantis. Baby rose-haired tarantula. These are quail eggs. Green caterpillars that you can normally find in New York. They’re a pest. Black solider fly larvae. And in addition to live animals, I also have a few dead ones. It’s very crowded, as you can tell, but it’s also, I think, very cozy and comfortable. I keep this place at a very steady temperature, around eighty degrees or so. I think I had a show-and-tell at some point when I was eight years old, where I had beetle larvae and I wanted to show them off, and everyone was just really uninterested. So I thought, “Alright, no one likes insects. I guess. I’m just the only person who does.” As a child growing up I became sort of obsessed with them. My parents nurtured that passion. I first started going to the library when I was very young. For me it was just amazing because they had an entire section devoted to insects. There was just, like, so much violence and stealing in my school. There were a lot of people I just didn’t want to be friends with. Weekend after weekend, I would just stay in my room and just do something aside from socializing with people. In a lot of cases, insects were a crutch. It wasn’t until maybe last year that I started doing shows and really telling people how much I like it. It started with a Facebook comment. The name of the band was called Moth Eggs. I commented on the page, I said, “I breed moths, so I feel like should go to this show.” And then some woman saw my comment and liked it. It was all her idea. It feels like I sort of have an identity now that I’m open about what I like. It’s sort of like a coming of age story. I never really felt like I had something. I started this show and I realized that this is my thing. You can’t really love something if you’re afraid of it. You can’t really love something if you don’t really understand it. The fear and the hatred of insects is just the fear of the unknown. I definitely don’t regret being more open about who I am as a person. It’s just something that I’m really glad I did.

27 thoughts on “Meet a Bug Whisperer and His Traveling Insect Zoo | Atlas Obscura”

  1. Is that a scorpion on his face? Right now I have a tiny gnat flying around mine and I'm about to lose my shit. Could you please come here and take him?

  2. "You can't really love something if you're afraid of it. You can't really love something if you don't really understand it. The fear and hatred of insects is just the fear of the unknown." Wise, poignant words from Aaron.

  3. I'm glad Aaron found a way to take his passion and share it with the world.
    Ps I've raised dozens and dozens of those caterpillars, they're amazing at every stage and so damn cute at a few.

  4. If this guy started a YouTube channel as a wildlife educator, like Animal Wonders or Snake Discovery (great channels – check them out), I would absolutely subscribe. I love learning about and appreciating diverse species – and bugs are just cool.

  5. Amazing! So many of the same sentiments in our short documentary Insecta: Science That Stings — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rL6_auHRfI

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