Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa, is home to several species of cockroach. They are unique among insects because they make a hissing sound. Most insects, like crickets, make noise by scraping parts of their body together. However, these roaches squeeze air through special vents in their body to make the hissing sound.
There are actually several species of Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The one that most breeders raise is Gromphadorhina portentosa. It is also called the hissing roach and the hisser. This is a very large cockroach. Adults can reach almost 3″ in length.
In this species, it is easy to tell the males from the females at a glance. The males have thick antennae and horns beside the head. The female's antennae are smooth and there are “bumps” instead of horns.
Some of the other species include the dwarf Madagascar hissing cockroach, Elliptorhina chopardi. This roach can reach almost 2″ in length. The V-horn hissing cockroach, Elliptorhina laevigata, can be almost 3″ in length.
In their natural habitat, these roaches live on the forest floor in rotting logs and under piles of leaves. They make the hissing sound when they are startled. This may be used as a defense against predators. The males also hiss when they compete for females and during the courting process.
In the wild, these Madagascar hissing cockroaches are considered beneficial. They recycle decaying plant material. They also eat fruits that fall from the trees. They are very popular with people who raise cockroaches. In captivity they eat pet food, fruits, and vegetables.
The female roach produces eggs that she keeps inside her body until they have hatched. The tiny nymphs emerge alive. The female roach stays with the nymphs for some time after they emerge. At first, the nymphs feed on the droppings of the adult. As they develop, they forage for themselves and find their own food.
Although these roaches cannot fly, they are excellent climbers. They can easily climb smooth vertical surfaces. People who raise them suggest applying some petroleum jelly at the top of the container to keep them from escaping.