Jaimi McNair - Drummond
“It’s hard to explain to people how a cockroach changed your life and gave you direction,” begins Jaimi McNair.
“But that’s exactly what happened to me after my marriage ended five years ago – they gave me inspiration and a sense of purpose.
“I was sitting on the couch one day, not knowing what the future held for me, so I started making a list of all the things I wanted to do. At the top of that list was owning a Giant Burrowing Cockroach. I’d wanted one since I was eight-years-old, when I’d seen them on television.
“Most women would want to go out and buy a new pair of shoes, or a handbag after their marriage ended. I wanted a giant cockroach.”
When you meet Jaimi with a giant Titan stick insect crawling across her face and hair, it’s not surprising to learn she’s always had a passion for assorted creatures. Her childhood ‘invisible friend’ was a zookeeper and from the age of five, she kept a list of all the animals she would like to own.
For her seventeenth birthday she got a 6ft 3-inch olive Python called Oblena but after the third time she was attacked by the snake (which had its own bedroom), she traded her in for a series of much smaller reptiles.
“But I never bonded with snakes the way I did with the cockroaches, the stick insects, the spiders,” she now says.
Born in Melbourne and raised in Werribee, Jaimi studied animal technology at Victoria University in Werribee before beginning a series of jobs as a council ranger involved with animal management. She and her family moved to Kyneton in 2012 and after her marriage ended, she decided to return to university to satisfy her growing interest in entomology.
At Deakin University in Geelong she completed a three-year science diploma as a pathway to zoology; and along the way, she began working (one of four jobs she has as a solo mother), as a presenter for MiniBeast Wildlife, taking live insects and spiders into classrooms all over Victoria.
“It’s the perfect job for me. I travel all over the state visiting schools and educating young people about the importance of this ‘whole other world’. As humans, we need the insect and spider kingdom for our survival and I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of helping people see them differently. I love conservation n and I love opening people’s eyes to the fascinating lives of bugs and spiders.”
It goes without saying that Jaimi got her giant burrowing cockroach – two of them in fact – Ickis and Mel – and although Ickis has passed away, she still has Mel, along with all the giant stick insects, the stag beetles, the tarantulas, redback spiders, Huntsmen, orb weavers poisonous centipedes, scorpions and more.
They all have their own glass houses or insect enclosures and they all live in the family lounge in their Drummond home.
The Giant Burrowing Cockroaches are native to Australia and live in the Queensland rainforests. They can live up to ten years and grow to around the size of the palm of a human hand.
“They’re fascinating creatures,” says Jaimi. When I first got them, I was suddenly petrified of them and wondered what I had done. I didn’t even think I could handle them. But I gradually became obsessed with them. I’d even get up in the middle of the night to see what they got up to (they’re nocturnal); I suddenly became hyper-aware of this whole other world that we’re so dependent on and that I knew nothing about. That’s what inspired me to go back to university.
“It’s been an amazing few years and the best part of my work with the insects and spiders, is the parent/teacher/pupil feedback I get from my presentations. Making someone think afresh about an insect or a spider is the best part of the job.” - www.minibeastwildlife.com.au