The leech on the leg is wearing a white bow.

It’s not easy being a girl with a big bug collection

A slimy, striped millipede is seconds from entering Zoe Williams’ mouth as she squints at her TikTok followers, peering through her camera lens into the dark brown of the lashes. He doesn’t flinch as the arthropod curls noisily around his upper lip, dancing with its identical twin along the bridge of his nose. An even bigger millipede, jet-black and at least half a foot long, curled up on her decolletage. Williams tilted her head, holding an eyebrow as she locked lips with Eminem as if to say: Carry on. I cursed my bugs. I dare you.

Twenty-one-year-old Williams, who goes by Bug Girl Zoe across social media, has a TikTok following of over 250,000. He is known for speaking in the top 40 voices while displaying hundreds of animal insects – a collection that includes giant cockroaches, millipedes, and jumping spiders. Williams isn’t alone: ​​Many other self-proclaimed “viral girls” have taken to social media to show off their funny partners.

While Williams’ extensive collection may be out of the ordinary, keeping invertebrates as pets is nothing new. Viewers of America’s Next Top Model You may remember Madagascar’s famous hissing cockroach catwalk challenge featuring a collection of bejeweled cockroaches, and the American Veterinary Medical Association says “more people than ever have unique or unusual pets.” Currently, large horned beetles are a popular choice with collectors in Japan, and the young ones often make the news for success in roach and tarantula. Earlier this year, CNN even called jumping spiders a new “it” pet, known to TikTokkers like Heather Bruen and her quirky friend Ophelia.

TikTok has had an undeniable impact on outdoor pet ownership, although exotic pets tend to lean more towards the cute and furry (see: foxes and jungle babies) and range from slimy and spindly. But that could change, thanks to the rise of the Bug Girls. Take Amelia, an 18-year-old who asked not to be named because of the abuse she’s faced since sharing her pets on Twitter. He began keeping dragonflies at the age of 12 and has since expanded his collection to include exotic fish, cockroaches, and spiders, in addition to leeches. “My grandfather used to take me for walks and show me different bugs,” he told me. “That sparked this crazy interest [I’ve had] all my life.”

As a young collector, he used college entomology textbooks and trawled Discord and Reddit to meet experts, until he participated in a nationwide fly breeding program when he was 14. “Talking about invertebrates, putting people in them and taking care of them.”

Williams and Amelia are joined by other popular creators such as TikToker Shenay Kloss, who built her audience by handling poisonous scorpions America’s Got Talent, and @mothmamiii, who posts roach breeding tips alongside decorating tutorials. Although their subject matter varies—Kloss veers toward education, Williams instills more shock value, and Amelia and @mothmamiii both teeter toward a hyperfeminine, almost coquettish, Tim Burton aesthetic—they all use their platform to promote animals. invertebrates like pets, not insects.

Invertebrates are “very low-maintenance,” Williams explained, noting that he keeps his cockroaches in large tubs and their attention span is limited to eating fresh sugar peas and leftover carrots. You also have a collection of isopods—known as roly-polies—in tubs to perform the cleaning process itself. “They will clean out all the bad germs,” ​​he said. “If there is something unusual in the food, they will eat it; if a cockroach passes by, they will eat that, too. It’s so nice to be able to watch the circle of life unfold. “

Amelia admits that bedbugs make poorly cared for pets, although her approach to care is a little more complicated. “My mantis eats live flies,” he explained. “I give my cockroaches a variety of fruits. Centipedes, tarantulas and scorpions also all eat live insects. ” He re-mills his mosquito nets regularly. “There are places where I’ve spent, like, hours every day dealing with my insects,” he continued.

Oh, and he feeds the chickens himself—as in, his own meat.

“The species eats blood, and your choice is to talk to the seller about getting fresh, boring cow’s blood, or to feed it on your body,” said Amelia, noting that leeches release a natural painkiller and a small amount of blood. when they hatch and need to be fed only after four to six months. “They can hit a vein sometimes if you’re unlucky, but you have to keep pressure on it.” (Quick note: Leeches can carry many viruses and bacteria, which is why leech owners should only buy leeches that have been farmed in a treated environment.)

Well, not everyone likes bug girls. Amelia, who still lives at home, protects her mother-in-law from the bulk of her collection. She’s also received a flood of internet hate since she posted a photo of one of her pups wearing a cute white bow as she feeds on her lap. “It’s like Lana Del Rey’s leech,” he said with a laugh. “I think it makes them look really good.” Despite the setbacks, Amelia is excited to continue dressing her pets. “It was fun—I might put a bow on one of my cockroaches,” he said.

The leech on the leg is wearing a white bow.
Courtesy of Zoe Williams

The abuse is partly due to the stigma surrounding bedbugs themselves, but mostly, it’s—surprise!—misogyny. There are many bugs the boys– entomology is often a male-dominated field – and nonbinary bug lovers, but there is a special vitriol for bug girls, perhaps because they tend to be hyperfeminine while handling their animals. After posting her soft bow, Amelia received sexually inappropriate comments from strangers, and death threats for posting about her interests as a young woman online. Williams, who often flashes cleavage in her bug videos, has also received her fair share of online abuse. “I’m drag trash, white trash, things like that,” he said, listing recent comments. “If people hate you, that means you are doing something right. People are always mean. “

Harassment aside, Williams, Amelia, and their gang of invertebrate-bug-loving girls aren’t going anywhere. “I like people to see things that they don’t see every day,” Williams said of his content. Amelia agreed, adding that she is interested in introducing invertebrates as pets. He told me: “If you just want something down—even though it doesn’t have feelings and doesn’t show behavior like a cat—you might see these animals thrive under your care,” he told me.

And while their content isn’t for everyone, TikTok bug lovers continue to crawl out of trees. Last January, Williams posted a Valentine’s Day video with her two sweethearts. The caption: “I wonder why I’m going to spend February 14th alone knowing that no one likes bugs.” Comments included “AWESOME” and “You’re so cute and naw your fault I love bugz!!”

Williams added: “A lot of people have been sending me messages like, you know, ‘I used to be afraid of these things, but seeing them crawling on your face definitely helped me overcome my fear.’ So I think the coolest part is showing people that bugs are not scary. “

Like a swarm of squealing cockroaches, the Bug Girl community is growing – all squealing, squealing, squealing. glory.

#easy #girl #big #bug #collection

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