The Hissing Cockroaches of Madagascar

Cockroaches gross people out. They live in sewers, dumpsters, and other filthy environs. We associated them with all things unclean. However, not all cockroaches are pests. Indeed, most are benign and some have evolved some unique adaptations in their race to survive. One of those species is the Madagascar hissing cockroach.

How big are Madagascar hissing cockroaches?

The Madagascar hissing cockroach, while not an overly large insect, ranks among the largest cockroach species in the world. They can measure up to three inches in length and are sexually dimorphic. Males can be distinguished from females by the presence of hornlike protrusions on their thorax and their more heavily built antennae.

Where do Madagascar hissing cockroaches live?

As their name suggests, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are native to the island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. They like to live in rotting logs and feed primarily on decaying vegetation. Hissing roaches are often found in groups consisting of related individuals, as the females retain their eggs internally before birthing their young live. There are 20 species of hissing roach in the genus Gromphadorhina and all but one live on Madagascar. That one species is endemic to Europa Island, which just off the Madagascan mainland.

Do Madagascar hissing cockroaches actually hiss?

The cockroaches of genus Gromphadorhina are unique in the way their produce sound. Since insects lack vocal chords they rely on stridulation, physically rubbing parts of their body together, to make noise. Hissing roaches do not do this, instead they force air out through the breathing holes in their abdomen, known as spiracles. There are three described cockroach hisses. Two are produced solely by males, one to attract females and one to challenge potential rivals. Both sexes hiss as a defensive measure when interacted with by a predator.

Do Madagascar hissing cockroaches make good pets?

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is one of the most popular insect pets due to their docile nature and ease of care make them ideal. They often hiss when handled, which adds to the appeal. Captive roaches can live for up to five years and thrive on a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dog kibble. Because they can climb glass, it is recommend that the bottom few inches of the enclosure be coated in something like petroleum jelly to keep them from escaping. The most common species in the pet trade are G. portentosa and G. oblongonota, which is sometimes known as the wide-horned hisser.