Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Saga of the Cockroaches

This photo was taken this past June.
I have mentioned my pet Madagascar hissing cockroaches before (five different times, in fact). Those of you who remember any of those posts may have been wondering why I haven't mentioned them since October. Well, long story short: my colony collapsed. I wasn't very surprised when the adults died, since they were all old, but the babies? I made mention on several posts of losing one or two. Within two weeks of my last post they had all died. I still haven't quite figured out what happened. The terrarium was clean, bedding was fresh, the mites were down, they had plenty of food and water. The only thing that I can think might have happened is there may have been something growing on the water sponge. It was the only thing I hadn't cleaned recently. No matter what, I felt terrible when they were dropping like flies. And they're still gone.

My journey with the hissers started during my Junior year in college. I was taking Ecology and had to do some sort of experiment for my final in lab. After much thought, I decided to do an experiment to test for phenotypic plasticity. My test subjects were a group of fifty one-week-old baby Madagascar hissing cockroaches I obtained via my professor from her colony. When the month long experiment was over, I decided to keep one of the babies. That was who would eventually be known as Frankie. I wanted to have a group of all females, and we thought Frankie was a girl. I then picked up two adult females who I named Thelma and Louise. The other females (Lola and Brigite) I also obtained as adults, and Walter came later when I found out Frankie was a boy. I got them a nice terrarium, a sponge for water, and stuff to hide under. I was living with my parents at the time, and it took a lot of convincing to let me have them. I still couldn't get agreement to get some rats, but that's another story.

The first babies were born less than a month after I initially obtained the adult females. I hadn't thought about them being housed with males and coming to me gravid. I took them back to my professor, who was kind enough to take them. At that point, I thought I just had a few females and I might get a male some time in the future. Then, Frankie grew horns. Male hissers have prominent horns that are completely lacking in the females. I separated them for about six months, not wanting to end up with two hundred roaches. Then, I thought, why not? I got Walter and put them all in the same terrarium. That's not long before my first post about them began.

I don't know if I'll be getting more hissers. If I do, it's going to be a little while. I still have the terrarium and there's a store less than a mile away that sells them. They also have discoid roaches and some other very interesting critters. We shall see.


  1. That's too bad about the roaches, they are pretty neat and I liked reading about them.

    If you get rats sometime (or some other odd critter) be sure to post a lot about them! I love rats and miss mine a lot.

  2. Oh, I will. I've been hunting for a local breeder for a while now, but no matter how hard I search I keep coming up blank. No breeder is closer than a hundred miles or so. The nearest rescue that has rats right now is over one hundred miles away. I may keep my eye on the local shelter since they occasionally get rats and other small mammals in. Otherwise, my only option is the local Petsmart and it's by far not my preferred choice. If I do go there, I'll be handling them a lot to check their temperaments before taking any home.