Creature Feature: Haitian Roaches

Haitian Roach or Death’s Head Roach

Blaberus craniifer

Reptiles Alive Name: We have too many to name!

Hissstory: Our colony came from a few roaches given to us by a zoo.   They multiplied quickly!

RA Diet: Greens, monkey food, vegetables, dog food, fruit, leftovers. (Hey, they are roaches they like leftovers!)

Natural Diet: Just about ANYTHING! Roaches are scavengers living off of dead and decaying plants and animals. Hungry?


Range: Florida, the Caribbean,  and Central America

 Roaches can survive pretty much anywhere within their range.

Size: Haitian  roaches are relatively large as roaches go – they can grow to about 3 inches.

Lifespan: Haitian roaches can live for about two years.

Roaches breed constantly. Females will lay an egg sac which looks like stacks of CD’s.   She will then suck them back up into her body in order to incubate them.  Totally weird!

Conservation: Roaches play an important role in the natural world.  As scavengers, they work as a kind of “clean up crew.”  They are also an extremely important food source for tons of other animals, including birds, frogs, and even baby crocodiles!

Cool Facts: 
Roaches are sometimes used by engineers  building robots.  The engineers study how the roaches move and try to build robots and computers that can imitate the roaches’ behavior.

Giving Thankssssssssss

I would like to give thanks today for all the people who have helped Reptiles Alive this year.

Virginia Olin, Brenda Parker, Jack House and all the others who have graciously saved and donated newspapers to us all year – you help form the base of our animal collection.

Dr. Anne Hiss, Dr. Emily Hoppmann, and Dr. David Crum – thank you for helping us treat sick and injured reptiles here at Reptiles Alive.  We could not do it without your expertise in reptile and wildlife medicine.

Suzanne D’Alonzo  and the staff of the Alexandria Animal Welfare League- you work so hard to save injured, stray, and abandoned animals of all species, including reptiles.  Truly, I appreciate your being there for reptiles.


Bonnie Keller  – thank you for caring for so many of the confiscated and abandoned reptiles that have no where else to go.

Janis Geritts  and Reade Harbitter – thank you for taking time out of your busy Keeper schedule at the National Zoo to give us “behind the scene” tours.  Great Fun!

Aaron Pennington – I could not be writing this right now without all the help you give us in the computer and technology department.  You are SO KIND to help us when our computers and related equipment stop working.  We are completely dependent on you.  We are at your mercy.

Jennifer Rafter – we miss you!  Thank you for being a part of the Reptiles Alive team for so long, you were here almost from the very beginning.  We will visit you often at your new Delmarva Discovery Center.  We can’t wait to see the sturgeon, gar and all the reptiles and amphibians you will exhibit.  Turn the DDC into the Reptiles Alive Discovery Center ;)

Tony Bulmer – whew, thank goodness you are willing to work so tirelessly almost every weekend! Your skills and professionalism as a wildlife educator help to make Reptiles Alive a success.  You have been with us now for almost 8 years!  And we don’t know what we would do without you.  Thank You.

Rachel Walker – You are an integral part of our team.  Night shows, weekend shows, summer shows.  Big shows, little shows.  Cub scouts, schools, birthdays – you do them all!  You are a talented wildlife educator –  I know because I read all of the fantastic and amazing evaluations all of our clients send in.  And even though it is not your favorite, you are willing to help out in the Keeper department.  You have even spent time entering the data for our Wildlife Exhibitor Permit reports.  I REALLY appreciate that!  Thank you Rachel!

Jennifer Pennington – I can’t even begin to thank you properly for everything you have done for Reptiles Alive.  You help in So Many Ways.  Our website – yep, that is all you.  Our blog – started by you.  Facebook – you again!  Graphic design for just about everything?  Oh, Jen again!  How about your work as a wildlife educator?  Lets see, you spend tons of time preparing for and teaching a ton of after school classes.  That is hard work!  In addition, you perform shows far away, nearby, early in the morning, late at night (including New Years Eve! THANKS!!!!)  You are an amazing and talented wildlife educator, our shows would not be the same with out you.  (We wouldn’t even have Ecosystems Alive – one of our most popular shows!)  And, of  course, you help with everything else.  Keeper Work?  check.  Answer phones? check.  Taking care of the entire organization when I’m away on vacation?  Oh yeah – that too!

One last thank you – To All of our Clients and Fans – we would not be here at all without you!  Thank you all so much.

Happy Holidayssssssssssssss to Everyone from Reptiles Alive!

Creature Feature: Haitian Brown Tarantula

Haitian Brown Tarantula

Phormictopus cancerides

Reptiles Alive Name:

Hissstory: Charlotte was transferred to us from another wildlife education organization in 2004.

RA Diet:
 Charlotte eats 1 or 2 crickets every couple of days.

Natural Diet: 
Tarantulas will eat insects, birds, lizards, and even small mammals.

 Haitian brown tarantulas naturally occur in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and other parts of the Caribbean .

Habitat: Haitian brown tarantulas enjoy hiding under rocks, in burrows,  and under debris.

Haitian brown tarantulas are big spiders – they sometimes grow 7 to 9 inches in diameter!

Lifespan: Male tarantulas may only live 18-24 months, but females can live much longer,  sometimes, over 20 years.

 Tarantulas construct a golf ball sized egg sac out of silk. The female tarantula will care for her eggs by turning the egg sac on a regular basis. One egg sac may contain over two thousand eggs.

 Tarantulas biggest threat is habitat destruction.  Human fear is also a danger to tarantulas, however, tarantulas rarely harm humans.  Like most wild animals, tarantulas actually fear humans, and will only bite as a defense.  Most species of tarantulas have venom that is no worse than bee venom, so, most tarantulas are harmless to people.

Cool Facts: 
Spider silk (the stuff spiders make into webs) is stronger than steel.  No, really, it’s true!  Scientists have been trying for years to manufacture enough spider silk to manufacture items such diverse items as clothing and cable to make bridges out of.    So far, no one has figured out how make enough spider silk to make anything other than a really expensive scarf.  But maybe someday you could be wearing spider clothes while driving over a spider bridge!

Creature Feature: Desert Kingsnake

Desert Kingsnake (aka California Kingsnake)

Lampropeltis getula californiae

Reptiles Alive Name: “Reno” and “Tahoe”

Hissstory: Reno was found slithering down a street in Annandale, VA – not his natural habitat!  He was either an escaped or abandoned pet, so we gave him a home.  Our albino desert kingsnake Tahoe was an unwanted pet that we adopted.


Reno the Desert Kingsnake

RA Diet: We feed our kingsnakes delicious and nutritious frozen and defrosted mice.

Natural Diet: Kingsnakes eat snakes, lizards, birds, eggs and rodents.

Range: Desert kingsnakes are found in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Oregon.

Habitat: Desert kingsnakes may be found in rocky outcrops and clumps of vegetation in chaparral or desert environments.

Size: Desert kingsnakes grow 24-60 inches long.


Tahoe, the Albino Desert Kingsnake

Lifespan: Kingsnakes can live to be over 20 years old. 

Reproduction: Females lays 2-24 eggs which hatch in about 2 months.

Cool Facts: The kingsnake is the “king of snakes” because it will eat other snakes – even venomous rattlesnakes! Scientists believe kingsnakes have immunity to the venom of the rattlesnakes found in their own home range,  so the kingsnake can be bitten and envenomated with no ill effects.