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!)

hissingroachs

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.

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.)