Kyle Kandilian, a 20-year-old student from Dearborn, Michigan, has a very unusual hobby – he enjoys raising cockroaches as pets. His bedroom walls are decked with boxes and crates which hold around 200,000 roaches he breeds for fun and profit.
Kyle’s passion is probably going to bug a lot of people, seeing as most people tend to freak out if they so much as hear the word “cockroach”. But Kyle is not most people. Ever since he got to see and hold some Madagascar hissing roaches during a tech day exhibit at the University of Detroit Mercy, he has been fascinated with them. He came home that day and asked his mother if he could have one as a pet, but his mother looked him in the eye and said ”Kyle? You are never bringing cockroaches into this house.” Today his bedroom is home to around 200,000 cockroaches from 130 varieties, and his parents are very supportive of his passion. Maybe “supportive” is pushing it a little, but Kyle agrees they are “very tolerant of his enthusiasm”. He is aware that cockroaches are usually a taboo topic, but says he has never tried to hide his hobby, instead talking openly and enthusiastically about bug passion in an attempt to change people’s perception of them. He claims only about a dozen of the 4,000 known species of roaches are actually pests, but they manage to give all of them a bad name.
Throughout the years Kandilian has had to come up with innovative ideas in order to keep his bedroom roach farm. One day, at around 4 or 5 in the morning, his mother woke him up and said “Kyle, we need to stop this”. There was a hissing cockroach on the toilet paper roll, and he was forced to either create barriers for his pets of get rid of them. He found Vaseline worked best, and he not only got to keep his roaches, but the idea, which he presented at the Detroit Science Fair, also won him the grand prize and granted him several scholarships.
Although he enjoys raising cockroaches as pets, Kyle managed to turn his passion into a profitable business as well. He takes his bugs to reptile and insect shows and also sells them online to fellow enthusiasts and reptile owners. The feeder roaches are really cheap, but rare ones, like rhino roaches that will live 10 to 15 years are usually sold for $150-$200. This little cockroach business yields enough for the young student to pay off his college debt, buy more roaches and entertain his other hobbies, like video-games and gardening.