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Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

At Flamingo Land we run a daily Meet a Creature session in the Education Centre. One of the animals which we are able to bring out are Madagascar hissing cockroaches. These cockroaches can live up to 5 years old and can reproduce quite easily. The females will carry eggs around with her once they are fertilised and release the young nymphs once they have hatched. They can produce 15-40 young during each season! We recently had some nymphs born and these will undergo several moults before they reach adult size. The hissing cockroach is one of the largest as fully grown adults can reach 7cm long!

As they are insects, they will moult their exoskeleton (or skin) when growing. This is because it is unable to stretch with them and by moulting it keeps their exoskeleton tough and strong.

Cockroaches can be found all over the world, but only four species are considered to be pests to humans. This includes the American cockroach, the German cockroach, the Asian cockroach and the Oriental cockroach. These are all relatively small with each around the size of a thumbnail, but species found in tropical habitats can grow much bigger with the Australian giant burrowing cockroach growing up to 9cm in length! As household pests, they are also among the hardiest insects in the world and can remain active for over a month without food. They are also resistant to being submerged underwater, can survive outside in our cold winters and are well-known for being up to 15 times more resistant to radiation than humans!

Our hissing cockroaches are found in rotting logs on the island of Madagascar. Unlike most cockroaches, they don’t have wings, but instead are excellent climbers with the ability to climb up sheer glass. They have little hairs and hooks on their legs to help them cling onto their surface. Their name comes from the loud hissing noise they make, which can either be because they’ve been disturbed, because they’re trying to attract females or from males fighting with other males. Most insects that make a hissing noise do so by rubbing body parts together, but the hissing cockroach is fairly unique in that it makes its noise by forcing air out of the respiratory openings (called spiracles) found along their abdomen. All insects and most spiders will “breathe” through their spiracles but very few can make noises through them! Males and females look quite different, with males having thicker, hairier antennae as well as protruding “horns” on their heads.

By Michelle Dennis
Education Assistant

 

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