He comes from the land down under to kill roaches

February 17, 1992|By Fred Tasker | Fred Tasker,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Don't, OH, DON'T invite Greg Jefferys to your cocktail party.

He'll start regaling your guests with his little cockroach facts. He'll tell them that:

* Cockroaches' favorite dining place is your bathroom, where they like to suck the sweet-tasting toothpaste out of your toothbrush.

* Cockroaches carry 50 viruses, allergens and bacteria and cause tuberculosis, salmonella, cholera, dysentery, intestinal round worm, hay fever, asthma and dermatitis.

* Cockroaches have been around for 250 million years and are probably the only life form that could survive a nuclear holocaust.

* Cockroaches' droppings, secretions and remains trigger allergy attacks in half the adults and 75 percent of the children who have allergies of any kind.

* A single fertile female cockroach can spawn 9 million progeny in a single year.

And if your guests aren't green-gilled by then, Mr. Jefferys will start buttonholing them with his solution -- his $100, patented, prize-winning Electronic Cockroach Zapper.

The zapper looks like two mating Frisbees, operates on regular electric current, sits on your kitchen floor, lures the roaches with pellets of vegetable protein and "secret herbs," then zaps the filthy little beasties with 6,000 volts.

Here, Mr. Jefferys starts to get expansive.

"Their feelers touch the top plate, their legs are on the bottom plate and -- whammo -- fried roaches," he'll tell your guests.

"It burns out their nervous systems," he'll tell them.

Then you simply open a trap door in the bottom and discard the crispy-critter corpses.

"You can take a head count and then just tip them in the trash can. It's sort of fun. I enjoy waking up and doing it before I've had my coffee."

Mr. Jefferys' top single-night catch was 36. That was when, after weeks of sterile laboratory tests back in Brisbane, Australia, he decided to give his brainchild an everyday-conditions test by dumping 200 cockroaches in his own kitchen -- "to my wife's horror," he adds with relish.

Well, his zapper zapped 'em. But it took five weeks to reduce their numbers to the point that his cringing wife could switch on the light after midnight without finding a few staggered survivors on the kitchen floor.

Yes, he's still married. But he's also on an extended trip, far from home, touring the United States to publicize his machine and find a firm to manufacture it here.

He blew through Miami early this month, checking into the downtown Hyatt Regency without telling desk clerks he was carrying one of his machines and a few cockroaches for demonstration purposes.

"I never go anyplace without my roaches," he says.

In fact, he calls himself "Cockroach Dundee."

"Cockroach" claims his cockroach zapper is safer around humans and pets than old-fashioned poisons, and more effective against roaches, too.

"If you poison the female, she knows she's dying, and she crawls off and lays her eggs in the back of the cupboard. In two weeks, even if she's dead, you have 16 new little cockroaches."

The zapper burns out the egg sac, too, says "Cockroach." But while it has an awesome 6,000 volts, it has only 12 milliamps.

"Anything under 30 milliamps is safe for humans," he says. The machine meets Underwriters Laboratories specs and is approved by the multinational International Electrical Convention treaty, he says.

Mr. Jefferys, 38, calls himself "a typical Aussie bloke, fiddling around in the garage making things."

He's not, though.

In fact, he is a strawberry, tomato and bean farmer/lecturer at the Queensland Relaxation Centre and a devotee of Tibetan dream yoga, having studied for six years with a Buddhist monk.

It was in a yoga dream, in fact, that he came up with his cockroach zapper.

"You can program a dream -- program your subconscious to tap into your creativity. I was working on two problems: how to get rid of roaches without spraying, because I had young kids; and also how to make me some money."

The zapper, launched in Australia in 1988, won Mr. Jefferys the 1991 "Inventor of the Year" award from the Australian Inventors' Association.

Encouraged by the reception for his cockroach zapper, Mr. Jefferys now is working on a mosquito murdering machine. The ones you buy today -- that glow purple on your back porch and burn bugs with disgusting little "zzzt! zzzt!" sounds -- are worthless, he says.

"They emit ultraviolet light, which only attracts moths and bees. Mosquitoes are attracted by the other end of the [light] spectrum -- infrared."

So he's working on a zapper that emits that.

He's also working on a solar-powered, sex-hormone-based, rTC industrial-strength device to zap whiteflies out of California broccoli fields.

And a device for back-patio slugs and snails.

But don't get him started on that.

Especially if he's at your cocktail party.

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