Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center Critter Corner is home to many critters, including Mr. and Mrs. Root Beer and their family. They all reside comfortably and at home in our Critter Corner. They are root-beerish (dark brown to black) in color and can reach up to 3 inches in length, from front to back. They can also weigh up to 25 grams. This critter is native to Madagascar, an island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa. Let’s learn more about these fascinating critters.


There is a big difference between males and females. Males have raised bumps referred to as a horn along with a brow ridge on the pronotum (behind the head), and their antennas are hairier than the female antenna. Females possess small bumps on the pronotum (behind the head) and are easily distinguishable from the male hissing cockroach. Their behavior differs as well. Only males are aggressive, and females will hiss only when disturbed. 


Male encounters with other males can be pretty impressive. They use their horns to ram into each other. They also use their abdomen to push into each other during fights. Larger males usually win. Hissing plays an essential role during male-male exchanges. Winners of these encounters hiss more than losers. The hiss also contains information about the size of the male hissing and may be used to assess the opponent’s size. 


The Madagascar hissing cockroach is a large critter for its type. Although they are wingless, they have an unusual ability to produce an angry, cat-like hissing sound that can be quite startling. Hence, its name. This unique critter creates this sound by forcing air through spiracles (opening) located on the lateral sides of its abdomen. They will hiss when disturbed, fighting, or during mating.


It is believed that this critter lives on the forest floor and around rotten logs, giving it lots of options to hide from predators. Although they have a brilliant ability to climb, it’s likely that they primarily feed on the jungle floor, such as on fallen fruit, possibly decomposing animals, rotting plants, and small insects. In their natural habitat, the climate is humid and damp. 


Males will hiss during courtship interactions with females. To mate, the male pushes his abdomen under and along the female’s body until he engages the end of her abdomen. Females are ovoviviparous, which means their eggs are hatched within her body, and she gives birth to live young. The female carries the egg and neonate nymph for sixty days, and she can carry from thirty to sixty eggs at a time. The nymphs will undergo six molts before reaching maturity in seven months. Their life span is from 2 to 5 years. 


From time to time, you’ve probably seen this critter used in a television commercial or film as a stand-in for other more common household cockroaches. The reason is simple; the Madagascar hissing cockroach is larger and much easier to work with than other roaches. They are calm and less skittish, making it easy to handle and maneuver while filming. Also, this type of cockroach doesn’t have wings, so there is no need to worry about them flying off, which could be a director’s nightmare. Can you imagine? 


The Madagascar hissing cockroach isn’t your standard kitchen-invading cockroaches. This pet could be a good choice if you’re trying to get over a fear of crawly creatures. A 5 to 10-gallon fish tank will comfortably house several Madagascar hissing cockroaches. They are excellent climbers, so be sure to add a thin coating of petroleum jelly to the walls of their habitat, a few inches from the top, to prevent them from climbing out. 

Stop by Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center and talk to the staff to learn more about these critters. They will be happy to give you additional pointers on how to keep a Madagascar hissing cockroach as a pet. 

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