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Check out the roaches

This article first appeared in the 10/4/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Check out the roaches

One of the Central American giant cave cockroaches we have at Explorit. Photo by Sara Thompson.

Check out the roaches


By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise



Explorit has an abundance of fun and interesting animals to see at our facility.  Some of our most popular with guests are our cockroaches.  We have three species that visitors can look at and learn about: Madagascar hissing cockroaches, orange-spotted cockroaches, and Central American giant cave cockroaches.


The Madagascar hissing cockroaches are probably the most recognized of the types we have as they are often portrayed in movies and are easy to keep. They originate from the island of Madagascar, which is off the coast of East Africa.  This species of cockroach can grow to about 2-3 inches in length and live about 5 years.  To produce the well-known “hissing” noise, the animal pushes air through its spiracles, or the holes on their body used for respiration.  The dwell on forests floors in their natural habitat and eat the dead and decaying vegetable matter found there.  Males are easy to differentiate from females by the “horns” located on the top of their exoskeleton near their heads, females lack this ornamentation.


Much smaller than the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, our orange-spotted cockroaches rarely reach more than 1-1 ½ inches in length.  They are from Central and South America and prefer climates of warmer weather and higher humidity.  They feed on plant matter, preferring sweeter varieties, such as fruits, grains, and semisweet vegetables.  This species of cockroach is somewhat short lived, spending only about 6 months as a nymph, with the adult living only another 1-2 years.  Adult males and females are very distinct, with the males having a set of wings that cover their body and the females only having small forewing stubs.  Despite having fully developed wings, the males do not fly, but instead use their wings for controlled glides in laboratory tests.


Central American giant cave cockroaches, as their name suggests, are some of the largest cockroaches in the world, with adults ranging in size from 3-4 inches, with the females being larger than the males.  Native to Central and parts of South America, this species of cockroach prefers a habitat of high moisture and low light, with caves fulfilling those requirements, but under rocks and in hollowed trees also being appropriate.  Both male and female adults have wings and can be used for small flights but are used mostly as a controlled glide when descending from a height.  Their lifespan is typically under 2 years, averaging about 20 months or so.  Like most cockroaches, their diet is detritus, or decaying plant material, however, giant cave cockroaches do feed on higher protein substances, such as carrion or guano.


At Explorit, we often feed our cockroaches the leftover parts of the vegetables we feed our lizards, such as the rind from butternut squash or the stems of leafy greens.  We also give them dried pet food for some extra protein and nutrients the vegetables do not provide.  We have our cockroaches displayed with our other animals in our new and improved Animal Alcove.  If you would like to meet one of our cockroaches, or any other animal, just ask an Explorit staff member.


Explorit's coming events:

  •           Sponsorship opportunities still available at  Sponsorships could help us add more exhibit content, replenish activity supplies, update our pollinator garden, or to help with keeping our animal enclosures up to date and functional.
  •      Become a member of Explorit.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership or call Explorit at 530-756-0191. 
  •         Explorit’s Nature Bowl team is now enrolling for the school year.  This is an afterschool science team from students grades 3-6.  Call (530) 756-0191 to register.  The $25 fee covers weekly meetings and a t-shirt.
  •            Spooky Science will be one night only this year.  Saturday, October 26, from 6-9pm.  $1 off admission price if you come in costume.






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