September 20, 2006
The science teachers at Broken Arrow Elementary in Lawrence, Kansas, originally ordered from Carolina Biological Supply Co. a shipment of ladybugs. What they actually received in the mail was a shipment of fear. Instead of sending the delightful Broken Arrow children some harmless coccinellids, Carolina Supply botched the order and sent the youngsters a strain of E. Coli. Luckily the vial that turned up in Lawrence contained "Escherichia coli K-12 slant culture," a harmless strain that students often observe under microscopes. (E. coli 0157:H7 is the dangerous strain currently motivating the nation's War on Spinach.) Nonetheless, the Broken Arrow brass wasn't taking any chances. "When we noticed it was the wrong shipment," said Superintendent Randy Weseman, "we got the district's science people over there." The bacteria were then dispatched. Carolina Supply recommends doing the deed "by using double bagged autoclavable bags and autoclaving 121°C and 15 psi for at least 45 to 60 minutes," or, if incapable of autoclaving at precise temperatures and pressures, by dumping bleach on the specimen--which Broken Arrow did. Gadfly, the reprobate bachelor, wants to know: what happened to the ladybugs?
"Schoolkids sent E. Coli instead of bugs," Associated Press, September 13, 2006