My Ex isn’t Worth Feeding to Meercats

The El Paso Zoo holds a Valentine’s Day event for those spurning love called Quit Bugging Me. For a small donation, the zoo staff will name a Madagascar Hissing Beetle after your ex and feed it to one of a fascinating collection of animals in their care. And, for every $1,000 donated, their Director, Joe Montisano, will gobble up a potentially four-inch hissing beetle himself. Truly one of the best answers to Valentine’s sufferers out there! Only one problem. Madagascar Hissing Beetles are far kinder, more honest and interesting than my ex-husband – and, possibly, your ex-whatever as well…

Although their hard exoskeleton and fidgety antennae look like they inspired Darth Vader’s mask, I find many exes’ exteriors more menacing as they may disguise so much. A good reminder to look past the cover of anything…

The “Hissing” part of their title is well earned. These ample sized bugs hiss, frequently and loudly. Possibly much like your ex! However, after being around a colony while working at a natural history museum, I found they were just big communicators – quite unlike my ex.

I also learned that they are very social, and not just with their own kind. Despite the gazillion to one size differential, they were friendly with a us silly humans to the extent that I can thank a particular Madagascar Hissing Beetle for curing my fear of insects. Henry the Hissing Beetle would crawl into my palm, turn until he was facing me and begin a little hissing serenade. It was Henry’s hissing which calmed me down long enough to move past fear to acceptance and appreciation. Life with my ex had the opposite trajectory.

The El Paso Zoo kindly freezes the beetles before they become Meercat meal. In fact, this is more of a kindness to the animals in their expensive collection as “meals” have a tendency to fight back and can turn a simple snack into a serious snafu for the zoo keepers. I’m sure Henry’s hiss could turn treacherous and his pinchers might threaten to poke a tapir’s pointy tongue. But, despite this beetle’s mild defenses, it is still more gallant than my lying, cheating ex.

For this Valentine’s Day, instead of feeding one sentient being to another sentient being for the benefit of a broken heart, I’ll spread some love by donating to a favorite cause and celebrate with champagne, chocolates and those that bring me joy. And I will gladly lift a glass to Henry and his brethren, may they bring funds and healing to the hearts of El Paso, Texas!


Pamela Livingston is a political ghost writer turned children’s book publisher with a MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

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