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July 27, 2010
Dan Moreland

Car Talk Guys Offer Cockroach Advice


Pests are periodically featured on National Public Radio (NPR), giving the public a look into the PMP’s world from time to time. Two recent examples occurred on Car Talk, one of NPR’s most popular programs featuring Tom and Ray Magliozzi, and in a report from Robert Krulwich, a correspondent for NPR’s Science Desk.

The Car Talk guys recently received a call from Beatrice, a 16-year-old living in Pennsylvania, who had a pregnant Madagascar hissing cockroach she purchased as a birthday gift for her father escape in her family’s BMW, ultimately resulting in an infestation.

"We have a bit of a, you know, competition of who can get each other the weirdest present," she said, "so I thought that … a Madagascar hissing cockroach would be perfect. I took one out to gross out my sister in the back seat and I dropped the cockroach and it scurried away in the car and we could not find it anywhere."

Some time later, Beatrice’s mother saw what she thought was a "toy bug" on the floor of the car, only to have it hiss and jump on her when she attempted to pick it up. To hear the entire phone call, as well as the Magliozzi brothers’ advice, visit http://action.publicbroadcasting.net/cartalk/posts/list/41/2135470.page. You’ll get a kick out of their response.

In a second NPR insect-related story, Krulwich cited a 1957 study by Canadian scientist Brian Hocking, who came up with an experiment to determine the number of miles a honeybee can travel on a gallon of fuel. Here’s how the experiment worked, according to Krulwich’s report: "Experimenters take a bee, give it all the honey it can eat and then tether it to a pole. (This neither harms nor seems to disturb the bee.) It then flies round and round until, basically, it runs out of fuel. The pole measures the distance flown by the rotating bee. Because the experimenter now knows how far a bee can travel on a bee-belly of fuel, you scale up to imagine how far it would go if it had a gallon-sized belly. That’s how you calculate Bee Miles Per Gallon."

Since Hocking is no longer alive, NPR invited Arizona bee scholar Stephen Buchmann to replicate the experiment. What did he learn? A typical honeybee can travel 4,704,280 miles on a gallon of fuel. That’s right, 4,704,280 miles, easily outperforming the Toyota Prius, which averages 51 miles per gallon of fuel. To listen to Krulwich’s entire report, visit http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyid=123289433.

— Dan Moreland