Offbeat

What? My Pet is a COCKROACH!

Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria. The name derives from the Latinized Greek name for the insect. There are about 4,500 species of cockroach, of which 30 species are associated with human habitations and about four species are well known as pests. But not this one, the madagascar hissing cockroach, one of the largest species of cockroach, reaching 2–4 inches at maturity and can be an amazing, exotic, and easy-to-care for insect pet!

Madagascar hissing cockroach

Hissing cockroaches are wingless, shiny brown and oval shaped insects from the island of Madagascar. Hissing cockroach facts are little different from their other counterparts. They are clean, odorless, hygienic and harmless as they do not bite, and unlike other common cockroaches are slow walkers.

Males can be distinguished from females by their thicker, hairier antennae and the pronounced “horns” on the pronotum. Gestation is usually about 60-70 days. The female hissing cockroaches carry the egg bag, known as ootheca, inside their body and release the young nymphs when the eggs are hatched. Each nymph is about 1/4-inch long and very flat. The young may remain grouped around the female for some time after emerging as she protects them by raising her body over them.

Cool hissing facts

Hissing cockroach is famed for its unique ability to produce an audible hiss. The noise produced by these cockroaches sounds somewhat like a hissing of a snake, and hence they have been christened as hissing cockroaches. They produce a hissing sound by pushing air through their breathing tubes, which are located on their abdomen.

Hissing cockroaches also use hissing as a way of communication. Hissing in response to a disturbance may signal the presence of danger to other roaches. Adult male roaches hiss during aggressive encounters to scare off predators. Male cockroaches also have the ability to distinguish hisses between familiar cockroaches and of strangers. But female cockroach and nymphs hiss only when they are disturbed or threatened..

Hissing is also part of the cockroach’s mating ritual, males hiss to attract females by showing their hissing strength. Hissing is also vital in colony hierarchy, as hissing cockroaches live in groups.

Love my pet

Hissing cockroaches can be kept as pets as they are odorless and they do not bite, and as they don’t have wings there is less chance of them escaping either. They are ground dwelling creatures and are scavengers who eat rotten logs and vegetation.

The giant hissing cockroach is a social being and they live together in large numbers. You can keep them in a large plastic container or fish tank which can be about 10-12 inches long and 8-10 inches high and wide. Remember to put petroleum jelly on the inside walls to prevent them from climbing and escaping from the top. It is also imperative to cover the top of the tank with a mesh or a net to prevent cockroach infestation.

Place the cage in a warm location, as Madagascan roaches are tropical. They need a small living area and a spot for them to hide because they do not like the light. They also need sticks because they sometimes like to climb.

Feed your hissing cockroaches with dry dog, cat, or rodent food supplemented or with pieces of fresh fruits and vegetables. Good fruits and vegetables for these insects include orange slices, banana peels, carrots, apple, grape, sweet potato peelings, potato slices, etc. Use small pieces (1 inch square or less) and feed moist food sparingly, since high concentrations of fermentation gases are harmful. Remove moldy food regularly. Provide water with a damp sponge in a small cup or dish.

Play with your roaches

Scoop your pet cockroach up, careful not to pinch its large legs. Be careful not to jerk, since the feet have sticky pads and hooks that grip tightly. If you pull too hard, you may injure the insect. Let the roach crawl from your hand to another person’s hand. It will not move very quickly, and it will not bite. These insects are not fragile, but you should always be gentle with them.

In the USA, some states require permits before this species can be kept as a pet or in breeding colonies, like in the state of Florida that requires such permit. In fact, during outreach programs, the University of Florida’s Department of Entomology and Nematology, which has such a permit, allows only males to be taken out of the laboratory. This is to prevent the possible introduction of a pregnant female into the environment.

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  1. Mic says:

    I would really like to own these but you need a permit to own them in Ontario. Does anyone know where I can get a permit for them?