Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For the Love of Odd Pets

The hissers. Males are to the far left and right
I have five Madagascar hissing cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa), and yes, they do have names. The boys are Frankie and Walter, and the girls are Louise, Brigite, and Lola.I can tell them apart, but the female are much more difficult than the males. I have to examine them closely (Louise is missing part of one of her legs and Brigite is missing most of an antennae).

They are the easiest pets. They really are. They need water every few days (in the form of a damp sponge), and food just as often. They don't need any special food, and get whatever scraps we have (fruit, vegetables, bread, and dog food). They especially love apple and stale bread. Their terrarium needs cleaning only every week or two. They don't need a heat lamp or anything like that (you can provide one for them, but it will shorten their lives considerably).

Frankie eating bread. Today they got stale bread and spinach
My roaches do in fact have body mites, but it's not exactly a bad thing. The professor who gave me the roaches did an experiment where she took swabs from a colony with mites and one without, and as it turns out the colony with mites had far less bacteria on their carapaces. So, as long as the number are kept in check, the mites aren't hurting them at all and are actually benefiting them. I have had to de-mite my roackes before, and next time I do I'll be sure to post about it. It's nearly impossible to get rid of all of them since you can't use a pesticide or anything, but you can reduce the numbers considerably.

I've had them for some time now, and I suspect most of them are heading toward the ends of their lives. I got the girls as adults, and Frankie is not much younger. Walter is the youngest and I expect him to molt once more, if that. They don't molt again after they reach maturity. I had the males and females separated at one point, but I decided to house them together because I doubt the oldest will live more that six more months or so. At least two of them are around two to three years old already, and that's fairly old for them (they can live to five, but that's not super common). At least one of the females is pregnant, so I'm expecting little baby roaches any time now.

Two of the girls in their "house" hiding under the egg crate. The one on the right is the one I believe to be pregnant.
They give live birth after a gestation of about two months, and it takes the nymphs about seven months to mature. A pregnant female's body will expand to accommodate the developing you and they look "fat" when they're expecting. Males are distinguishable from females due to prominent "horns" in the carapace over their heads and thicker antennae. They are also wingless.

Today was terrarium cleaning day, and I took the pictures while I was doing that. 


  1. I was raising discoid roaches. They really are cool. Just needed a heating pad, a bit of water, frass and some vegetables. Easy-peasy. They multiplied like crazy after a certain population level.

    It was cool to get a girlfriend who was okay with them too.

  2. Don't I know it. I watched as my professor's population went from four to about one hundred. It was crazy.

    Discoids are nifty, but I think I prefer them without the wings. Even if they can't fly, it still bothers me. I blame living in a house with a lot of cockroaches and palmetto bugs when I was little. They're scary when you're five!