Creature Feature: Hissing Roaches

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Gromphadorhina portentosa

Reptiles Alive Name: Too many to name

Hissstory: Our first few hissing roaches were donated to us by Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, VA.  Within a few months, we had lots, lots more.

RA Diet:
 Chopped leafy greens, vegetables, monkey chow, dog food, fruit, leftovers. (Hey, they are roaches they like leftovers!)

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Natural Diet: Roaches are scavengers – they will eat dead and decaying plants and animals laying on the forest floor.

Range: Madagascar

Habitat: Hissing roaches live in the tropical rain forests of Madagascar.

Size: 
Hissing roaches are a relatively a large roach, growing to about 3 inches.

Lifespan: Hissing roaches live for about two years.

Reproduction:
 Male hissing roaches have two large bumps on the tops of their heads. They use them to battle for females just like goats do. After mating, females will keep the eggs inside her body until they hatch. Gestation is 60-70 days. Females have about 30 young

Conservation: Cockroaches are one of the most important species on our planet!  As decomposers, they create soil by eating decaying plants and animals.  Without decomposers like cockroaches, plants and trees could not grow.  Without plants and trees, animals and humans could not survive.  So, you might not want to live with, hug, or kiss a cockroach, but cockroaches are a super important animal.

Cool Facts: Hissing roaches produce a hissing noise by pushing air through holes in their abdomen. There are at least five different hisses.  Different hisses are used in courtship, to defend territory, and warn of danger.

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?

haitianroach

Range: Florida, the Caribbean,  and Central America

Habitat:
 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.

Reproduction: 
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.

My First Experience with Black Flies!

I had heard stories of the black flies that live in the north, but I never believed that they could be that bad.  I was wrong.  I am trying unsuccessfully not to scratch as I write this.

Last week I went with my Dad and Kay to Mont Tremblant, a mountain resort area in Quebec, Canada.  It was a fantastic place, full of gorgeous rivers, lakes, and mountains.  We went fishing for trout, hiked on great trails, and ate LOTS of fantastic French food.

The area is full of lakes carved by glaciers that retreated long ago.  The lakes are full of frogs and fish.  I saw green frogs and heard their calls, along with the calls of gray tree frogs, bull frogs, and spring peepers.  I did not see any reptiles, but I was lucky to catch a speckled trout on our fishing expedition.  During our time on the boat, there were no insects to be seen (or felt).

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I was on the dock of a very nice restaraunt, petting a cat, when I had my first real taste of what black flies are capable of.  They were swarming all around my face and head.  I brushed them away and figured they were kind of like gnats – annoying, but basically harmless.

I went back inside the restaraunt to place my order for dinner (grilled venison, yum!), and noticed I was bleeding around my chest and neck.  The waitress who spoke mostly French, noticed, and began to explain what black flies can do to a person.  She said they liked to crawl under your clothes and hair where they bite throught your skin ans suck blood.  Their bites will cause bleeding, then later, the bites swell and become very itchy and in some people, very painful.

I excused myself from the dinner table, went to the restroom and shook all my clothes out.  I then noticed that I was bleeding from many, many bites on my face, neck, and back.  It was a bit gross.  After the bleeding stopped, I went back to the table and enjoyed a dinner that was magnifique.

A day later, all of the bites had turned into large red welts that itched like mad! I knew I had to avoid getting any more black fly bites.  I now had respect for them.  These were no gnats!

It turns out, black flies breed in clean, fast running creeks and rivers.  The larvae cannot tolerate pollution or still water.  The larvae and adult flies are a major source of food for trouts, birds, and many other insects and animals.  The adults typically come out around mid-May and stick around until the end of July, but the actual “black fly season” depends on location and weather conditions.

Black flies are a major problem for livestock.  Because black flies like to crawl inside nasal passages, cattle an other livestock are sometimes smothered by the swarming flies.  The flies can also spread disease and cause such stress to animals, that they die.

I had a great time in Canada – and I would love to go back.  But this time, I’ll remember to bring the bug spray!

Black_Fly

The Unheralded Hissers

“AHHHHHHHHH!  Gross, or EEEEEEK,” are probably the most common responses to our guest today.  Meet the roach.  Labeled as one of the most undesirable animals to be found in the kitchen, this insect sure has one bad rap.  Pest control companies have convinced everyone that roaches can make you sick.  While, I would not be thrilled to have an infestation in my kitchen, this is simply not true. “Although cockroaches carry disease organisms, they are not known to transmit it to humans.” Clay Kirby of the University of Maine.

hmroach

I have even had a few keepers refuse to even touch the creepy crawlies.  Of course, the little guys with their cute little antennas eventually would wriggle into their hearts.  (Figuratively! Sheesh, you people are gross.)

There are over 4,000 species of roaches scientifically discovered.  There are probably just as many left undiscovered on the planet.  Less than one percent of all these species are known to dwell in human domiciles, the rest want nothing to do with us. http://blattodea-culture-group.org/content/cockroaches-amazing-diversity

Roaches are important decomposers in the ecosystem.  They are able to eat tougher things than worms and many other decomposers, turning dead plants into rich, dark soil.  Without the roaches, plants would have a tough time getting the nutrients they need from the soil.

Our own Malagasy Hissing Roaches are one of the most fun group of animals to watch.  They are more like little goats than bugs.  The males would constantly play king of the cardboard mountain, pushing rivals back with the shiny black “horns” on their exoskeleton.  Each night, a new battle would begin.  Hordes of roaches would crawl out from their hiding places in a fury of hissing and head-butting in attempt to dethrone the king. One tenacious little bugger would perpetually guard the food dish.  Only the tiny fingernail sized nymph could sneak under his radar unnoticed for a bite to eat. We ended up scattering their veggies all over the cage after that.hissingcockroach

One night working late I heard a strange scuffling noise coming from the roach enclosure.  Looking in I noticed a large male wriggle his body around in a sort of dance.  For a minute I thought he had watched too many episodes of Seinfeld with Elaine dancing at a party.  Then I noticed a few females watching him with interest a few inches away.  Either he was making a huge fool of himself, or these guys get on the dance floor to woo a cute girl.

After the wooing, these roaches make wonderful mothers.  Hissing roaches lay a perfect stack of long oval, bright yellow eggs like a line of jewel cases for cds sitting all in a row.  She then sucks the eggs back into her abdomen for safe keeping.  Some roaches even care for their soft little nymphs until they molt a few times and their shells harden.  Good girl!

Find out more about the shy bug that cannot bite, hisses like a snake for defense, and tastes delicious!  (Don’t take my word for it, ask the lemurs.)

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We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade class.read more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work there.read more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive LLC visited our 1st grade friends and did the “Reptiles Alive!” show. They exceeded all of our expectations and were excellent at keeping the students engaged. The students have talked about it for days after, even repeating some of the facts they have heard! I would highly recommend Reptiles Alive!read more

Brittney Gjorgjievski

Brittney Gjorgjievski

16:12 14 May 18

Reptiles Alive was a MAJOR hit at the Mattie Miracle Walk & Family Festival. Rachel was incredibly professional, engaging, and clearly loves what she does. She made the show and meet & greet fun for both kids and adults. Can’t wait to have Reptiles Alive back next year to our event. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests and we were thrilled to see how well attended the show was at our event. Thank you Reptiles Alive!!!read more

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

01:58 22 May 18