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Hisser Factoids

Origin

Island of Madagascar

Max Size Three inches

Sexing

Males have blunt “horns”

Work Shift Prefers nights 

Temperature

75 to 85.  High end for breeding.  

Attitude

Peaceful except when breeding

Comment

Males fight more when crowded 

Substrate

Bran best.  Plenty of others okay.

Security

Anything to hide in or under

Foods

Vegetation, fruits, dog food

Housing

Tightly covered container

Water

Clean water with sponge or rock

Breeding Age

Six months

Longevity Two to five years

Incubation

About two months (internal)

Brood Size

20 to 60 nymphs

Comment

Excellent lizard food


LA

LA
Nasty looking at first but harmless.

Origin.  Madagascar (just off the east coast of Africa) abounds with fascinating critters.  Hissing roaches live on their forest floors and eat vegetation and whatever else falls to the floor.  They digest it like our dogs and earthworms and help build their soil.

LA
Iowa roaches are disgusting little beasts.  They come up our drain pipes.

LA
Madagascar guy bigger and plumper.  And possibly tastier.

LA
Ventral view.

LA

Size.  Male hissing roaches top out at three inches; females stay a bit smaller.  Our Iowa roaches rarely exceed two -- no matter how much we feed them, voluntarily or involuntarily.

LA
These two hissing roach males butted heads hard enough to knock this cork cave around.

 

Sexing.  Male hissing roaches grow blunt “horns” on the front of their heads.  They also grow hairier antennae.  Males also like to fight by butting heads.  Funny we never see these guys butting heads with Mountain Dew drinkers.  Hissing roaches get quite involved in their arguments.

LA
Usually the youngsters hide in a different area from the breeders.

LA
These little guys usually run at warp speed.

Temp and Humidity.  Hissers will survive a wide range of temperatures -- probably coinciding with the day and night temps of Madagascar.  They breed best at 85o and want to fight a lot at 90o -- male hissing roaches butt heads.  Hissers go into a non-breeding phase below 75o.  They like humidity, but misting can encourage mold.  At Aqualand they breed like crazy in July and August.

LA
Little roaches tend to run (and escape) a bit more than the big guys.

Handling.  Unlike our U.S. roaches, hissing roaches will sit on your hand as opposed to running away faster than you can dance the Stomp the Roach Polka.  Hissers probably cannot survive in our locale because of their non-fear of humans.  They certainly can’t survive an Iowa winter.  They have no snow shoes.

LA
Hissing roaches on display at our Des Moines "Night Eyes" Zoo.

Nocturnal/Diurnal?  Most roaches prefer to work the night shift.  You (and you know who you are) see them scurry for cover when you flip on the lights.  Hissers prefer less light than you like.  Some come out during the day.  Hissing roaches prefer to spend their days in hidey holes or under anything.  Day or night, you rarely see hissers scurrying.  They usually lumber.

LA
Paul keeps his hissing roaches over (and in) Lizard Bark.  It teems with them -- all sizes.

Substrate.  You can keep hissing roaches atop nearly any substrate.  Research indicates bran enables you to see the babies (nymphs) more easily when cleaning their cage.  Contrasting colored aquarium gravels or sands should make for a more colorful display.  You need not try to duplicate the look of forest floor litter, although you can easily do so.  Obviously you want to avoid cedar chips.  And ground corn cobs mold too quickly.  Dirt and potting soil both make a hard-to-keep-clean mess.

LA
Sorry for the clutter.  Paul's 10 with lid shows the essentials:  food, water, cover.

LA
Paul set up this hissing roach habitat for Aqualand in about 10 minutes.  

LA
Add substrate and 20 breeder hissing roaches, then stand back and admire your work.

LA
Hissing roaches can climb glass.  Use locking clips cause they're strong little rascals.

LA
Make sure you add a lid.

Container.  Critter cages with snap-on lids make ideal containers for hissing roaches.  Hissers cannot fly (no wings) but they can crawl like crazy -- right up plastic or glass and on out.  You don’t want the wee beasties escaping and stampeding about your domicile.  They’d love a nice warm spot under your refrigerator.  Ten-gallon tanks with screen covers work very well also.  Add the locking clips.  Paul says his breeders can easily lift screen covers.  Glass tanks also provide more stability.  Light plastic cages seem to get knocked about a great deal.

LA

LA
This wooden hamster hut makes a massive roach condo.  Newly shed to the right.

Hidey Holes.  Bugs (especially roaches) always find a place to hide.  You can treat hissing roaches like crickets and give them paper rolls or egg cartons.  Both provide lots of hiding room.  Even a piece of wood or bark will work.  Better yet, add a little style with a colorful ceramic cave or painted plastic palace.  We used the natural looking cork bark caves.  No point in building a bug slum.  Gentrify it with some plastic plants.  Hissers would probably eat live plants.

Water.  Provide a low water dish with a sponge in it.  Foolhardy nymphs will wade out past the safety ropes just like any kids.  The sponge provides a hissing roach Personal Floatation Device to prevent their drowning.

LA
Pelleted iguana foods contain much more nutrition than hissing roaches find in the wild.

LA
Hissing roaches seem to like these baby carrots best.

LA
Hissers enjoy pelleted parrot foods also.

LA
Parakeet pellets work even better.

LA
Especially once they figure out where it is.

LA
But they don't all get the memo at the same time.

LA
They do like carrots.

Foods.  Any pelleted food works -- iguana food, bird food, dog food, cat food or whatever.  Roaches (including hissers) adapt to nearly any substance with a carbon atom in it.  Fresh foods like Romaine lettuce and bits of orange tempt their delicate palates.  You will want to remove excess fresh food before it molds.  Hissing roaches appear to love sliced baby carrots -- especially if you candy them by cooking them in butter and brown sugar like my aunt Ethelyn.  No, Mike, my aunt was not cooked in butter and brown sugar.  And, speaking of mold, pelleted foods mold also -- especially if they get wet.

 

LA
Young hissing roach right after molting.

LA
They start out a bright white after molting.

LA
His insides are bigger than his outside.

LA
Freshly shed hissing cockroach in the food dish.

LA
Adult male immediately after molting plus his ex-skin.  Shredded peat moss is messy.

LA
Adult just emerging from exoskeleton.

LA

LA
So much tastier at this stage.

Skin Sheds.  Lots of critters shed their exoskeletons as they grow.  Ditto hissing roaches.  Some devour their ex-skins -- especially if no other food is at hand.  The lower on the food chain (and the less picky), the more likely they are to eat their skins.  Most newly shed critters are very vulnerable (and especially tasty) at this stage.  If you insist on eating roaches, the newly shed ones taste best (but crunch less).

LA
Of course, predators happily devour roaches at any stage.

LA
Summertime suits them fine.

LA
You're more likely to spot this process if you have 200 or 300 head of roaches on your ranch.

LA

LA
Here's one on the cage lid.

LA
We flipped her lid over.

LA
Another working gal.

LA

LA
Another female cranking out an egg case on the front glass.

LA
Here's the whole egg case.

LA
They just don't quit.

LA
Here you see the individual kids hatching.

Breeding.  Male hissers butt heads to establish dominance -- like mountain sheep and Mountain Dew drinkers.  Females usually breed with the dominant males -- the best butters (real butt heads).  Typical bug breeding (birds dew it, bees dew it, even educated fleas etc), but the female hissing roach pulls her ootheca (pronounced egg case) into her back end and totes her developing litter around internally for about two months.  Timing depends upon temp.

LA
These little guys are just emerging from their ootheca and snacking on same.

LA
Momma roach plus two probably unwilling baby sitters.


After Hatching.  When she ejects the ootheca, the larvae emerge and start eating the ootheca or whatever else might be near.

LA
Most hissing roach nymphs stay away from the adults.

LA
Right after molting, your roach takes a while to regain his color.

LA
They darken usually within a couple days.

LA
Not a flying roach.  This roach was nabbed and hauled up by this little balloon spider.

Maturity/Lifespan.  The larvae (nymphs) shed and eat their skins as they grow.  They attain sexual maturity at about six months.  They live two to five years.  Female hissing roaches produce about 700 offspring during their careers.

LA
Madagascar hissing cockroaches having a party at the Omaha Zoo.  Nymphs, too.

LA
All stud male hissing roaches.  Cute or creepy?

LA
Four cute little hissing roach girls.  One shy one.

LA
Showing size variations in the adult hissing roaches.

LA
Hissing roaches do grow quite large.

LA
"Ha, Chaco-san.  My superior kung fu has defeated you.  You are now my slave."

LA
Madagascar hissing roaches -- not just for breakfast anymore.

 

LA
Plenty of snacks to go around.

LA
When they get this crowded, you'll see no babies.  Time to cull the herd.

LA
Mmm, tasty.

LA
Zebra Madagascar roaches.

LA
Spotted roach -- top view.

LA
Ditto -- underside.

LA
Death's Head Roaches -- female above with protruding egg case.

LA
Underside of same female.

Last Word.  If you can get past the “creep factor,” hissing roaches make intriguing pets.  Kids love them.  They make good class projects.  LA
 

Jenny Liedkie, Rochester, NY, February 14, 2011
Hi,  I came upon your website looking for an answer to my question...” why isn’t my Madagascar roach not shedding exoskeleton?”
Have you ever encountered this?   
I have a pretty happy breeding colony in my office and yet, I have one roach that is definitely NOT interested in growing up....he is merely getting rounder and fatter....but is not shedding.  
We are considering treating him with hormone therapy....but haven’t figured it out yet.   
Have you had this experience before?   All of my others are shedding absolutely deliriously, but for this one.....
Any info would be greatly appreciated...
Jenny, Lab Specialist, Biology
Rochester Institute of Technology

A:  Very intriguing question.  You have aroused my curiosity.  Who can differentiate male Madagascar roaches sufficiently to keep track of individual sheds?  Before I sold my 400 head Madagascar roach ranch, it never occurred to me to keep track of which ones molted and when.  Now it's too late to determine empirically because I have switched my allegiance to Dubia Roaches (far less hassle and a softer body).  I can tell you that mantids stop shedding once they grow their wings.  So maybe Madagascar roaches do the same thing (except for the wings)  They perhaps go thru their allotted instars and that's it.  American roaches go thru 6 to 14 instars -- even fewer if they get stomped on.  Madagascar roaches become adults at their seventh instar.  I cannot attest as to whether they cease molting at this stage.  If you ascertain the answer keep me posted.  I'll recommend you for the Nobel Prize.  Nobel Prizes look great on a résumé.  LA
PS 
I'll add your question to my roach page.  Somebody out there knows the answer.  They're just not talking.

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