Status: Not yet evaluated.
Description: Madagascar hissing cockroaches are an insect and therefore possess three body segments (head, thorax, and abdomen), antennae and six legs. They are one of only a few species of cockroach that do not posses wings at any time during their lifespan. They are also one of the largest species of cockroaches and can grow as large as 2-4 in. long with males being larger than females. An exoskeleton covers the body and ranges from dark brown or black in juveniles to a golden brown color in adults. The heads of the cockroaches always remain black.
Habitat/Range: The Madagascar hissing cockroach is only found on the island of Madagascar located off the east coast of Africa. Their habitat consists of the lowland rainforests. They live on the forest floor under leaf littler.
Diet in the Wild: Decaying plant material, fallen fruit, smaller insects, and animal carcasses
Diet in the Zoo: Fruits and vegetables.
Life Span: Usually live 2-3 years, but can live up to 5-6 years.
Predators: Small mammals such as lemurs
Life Cycle and Social Structure: Cockroach mating can occur year-round while the climate is warm. Mating usually occurs at night when the insect is the most active. When a female is ready to mate, she emits a special scent to attract males. The female will lay her fertilized eggs in a long yellowish egg case called an ootheca which will be drawn back in and kept inside the body for at least 60 days, at which time 15-40 cockroach nymphs will emerge. Nymphs are ¼ to ½ in. long and flat. Nymphs stay with their mother for about 6 months after hatching. Nymphs will molt six times in six months and after molting any missing legs or other parts can be regenerated.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches live in large colonies, with several smaller colonies within them. Only one male will dominate a territory of several females. If another male tries to enter, the dominant male will push the intruder out of his territory. The dominant male will stand on his “toes” which is called stilting. This is a way for males to appear dominant and defend territory. Males have large, hard prenatal bumps on their heads which they use in fights with other males. Females often move between different male dominated territories.
- Female Madagascar hissing cockroaches provision their eggs, then carry them after fertilization until they hatch
- Their trademark hissing noise is made by depressing the abdomen and expelling air out of tiny holes called spiracles. Madagascar Hissing cockroaches will also use these holes to breathe.
- Hissing can be used to startle predators, communicate during mating season, and is used by males to defend their territory.
Conservation Messages: Although they are not everyone’s favorite animal, cockroaches are extremely important to the environment. Since their diet consists of dead and rotting material, they are called detritivores. By eating those things that may be undesirable to other animals, they prevent a build-up of dead and decaying material which can spread disease. They also help to recycle nutrients from the dead and decaying material by putting those nutrients back into the soil and allowing new plants to grow.
What You Can Do:
Make sure products you are buying products that come from the rainforest were responsibly harvested. Because of deforestation in rainforests, animals that live there have less and less places to live.