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Frequently asked questions about the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach


What does the Hissing Cockroach eat?

Hissing cockroaches are scavengers. In the forests of Madagascar they are believed to eat primarily fruit that has fallen to ground. They do not appear to eat meat or feces.

How does the Hissing Cockroach defend itself?

Hissing cockroaches are somewhat camouflaged to hide in dirt and soil. Hissing Cockroach¬es’ thorax (which hides the roaches’ tiny head) resembles the head of a larger, more intimidating animal such as a snake or lizard. Accompa¬nied by a loud hiss this disguise is often enough to intimidate predators.

How many legs does it have?

Hissing Cockroachs have three sets of legs attached to their thorax. Cockroaches are insects. Because of their large size they are a good tool to help point out the important insect features: head, thorax, abdomen, antennae, 6 legs, and spiracles (holes in the body for respiration).

Aren't cockroaches infested with disease?

Cockroaches have a bad reputation. Out of the approximately 3500 different species only a handful pose potential problems to humans through disease transmission. The reason for this is that because some cockroaches are decomposers / scavengers they will eat materials such as feces. Some of this material can get stuck to the outside of their body. They can then bring this material into food preparation areas while looking for other sources of food. Fortunately the hissing cockroaches are scavengers that only eat plant material. Therefore they are very clean and pose little risk for disease transmission.

How old are the Hissing Cockroaches? How old can they get?

It’s hard to guess how old individuals are. Once full size these cockroaches can live anywhere from 2 to 5 years. As they grow young cockroaches molt (shed their exoskeleton) about six times in six months. Missing legs and antennae are sometimes another indication of an older cockroach.

The cockroach is having babies?!

Surprisingly hissing cockroaches appear to give birth to live babies. Technically these cockroaches are considered ovoviparous. This means they carry the eggs and then the nymphs for approximately 60 days before the nymphs make their way out. Full sized females can produce anywhere between 30 and 60 nymphs.

How can I tell the difference between the males and females?

The males have significantly larger ‘horns’ than the females. The males use these horns to fight with other males. Often this fighting is combined with hissing. Typically the male that hisses more frequently and louder is the winner. Sometimes the males will compete using only their hisses.

How do they hiss? Why do they hiss?

Hissing cockroaches are unusual because they are able to produce sound by forcing air through their spiracles. They may be the only known species of insect with the ability to do this. They use the hiss as a means of communication. They attempt to scare predators, warn others of danger, attract mates and establish dominance using their hiss.

Is this the same as the cockroach I saw in (Hawai'i, Texas, Florida)

Many warm climates have large cockroach species. These cockroaches are found only on the island of Madagascar.

What does the cockroach eat?
How does it defend itself?
How many legs?
Infested with disease?
How old?
How can I tell the difference males and females?
How & Why hiss?
Is this what I saw in Hawai'i?
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