No. 20.—The Cockroach.

THE OCCASION FOR this installment of our Allegorical Bestiary is a letter from a kind correspondent:


Dear Dr. Boli,

How come female cockroaches are not called henroaches?

Sincerely yours,
Desperate in Chicago


Dr. Boli is a little surprised by this question, but he supposes that the subtler points of entomology are no longer routinely taught except to specialists. In his youth it was well known that female cockroaches are in fact called henroaches, but the term seems to have been nearly forgotten, in the same way that it is common now for even ornithologists to observe a flock of ducks without remarking that some of them are drakes.

Roaches are capitalistic by nature, and their colonies are run like any well-managed corporation. The cockroaches are the manual labor of the establishment, busy with the ordinary affairs of the company, such as skittering, foraging, and manufacturing small plastic goods for the domestic market. The henroaches, on the other hand, are in the management end of the business. They sit at the small desks which the cockroaches have painstakingly fashioned for them with their mandibles out of bits of wood, writing reports to each other, reading flowcharts, and ordering catered luncheons. Most of the concrete decisions in the colony are made by outside consultants hired from reputable firms at nearly ruinous rates.

Allegorically, the cockroach represents the planet Neptune, which was rather a latecomer to the game, having been discovered at a time when the stock of allegorical representatives had been thoroughly picked over.