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.
The female hissing cockroach produces eggs and then keeps them inside a special sac inside her body. The eggs stay inside the female until they hatch. The tiny nymphs emerge alive. Scientists use the word ovoviviparous to describe this process. Depending on the species, a female hissing cockroach can produce as many as 60 nymphs in a single batch.
Male hissing cockroaches have thick antennae and horns that project from the pronotum behind their heads. They use the horns in combat with other males. The horns make the males easy to identify. Neither males nor females have wings, so they cannot fly.
There are several species of hissing cockroaches. The one that is most common with people who raise cockroaches is Gromphadorhina portentosa. It is commonly called the Madagascar hissing cockroach. Adults of this species can reach 3″ in length.
Other species include the dwarf Madagascar hissing cockroach, Elliptorhina chopardi, and the V-horn hissing cockroach, E. laevigata. These cockroaches are similar to the G. portentosa, but they are not as well known.
Scientists think that in their natural habitat, these hissing cockroaches live on the forest floor and eat fruit that has dropped to the ground. They are very popular with people who raise cockroaches. In captivity they usually eat dry pet food, fruits, and vegetables.
Breeders caution that although these roaches cannot fly, they can climb smooth surfaces. They suggest putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly at the top of the container to keep the hissing cockroaches from climbing out and escaping.
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.