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Cockroach - Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

THE MADAGASCAR HISSING COCKROACH; sounds pretty terrifying! And, in fact, these massive cockroaches make many cameos in Hollywood sci-fi movies.  Contrary to their intimidating name and rather large size, these hardy, yet docile creatures are great as pets.  I know what you're thinking. Who would have an insect as a pet?  You'd be surprised, though. Many people keep these guys for company, sometimes for years.  That's right! Amazingly, the Madagascar Hissing cockroach can live up to five years in domesticity. That's a full year longer than an American presidential term!                                   

Yes, the Madagascar Hissing cockroach is quite an impressive specimen. So, why does it get typecast as a monster?  Besides the name, it looks pretty menacing. It is rather large, reaching up to 4-5 inches at maturity. Males have large horns behind their heads, which it uses to ram other males.  It is wingless, so it can't fly like other cockroaches, but other roaches can't make its hissing noise.   

Madagascar Hissing cockroaches have a pair of modified spiracles (tubes used for breathing) that produce the hissing sound when it quickly moves air through them.  Little is known about its ecosystem except for the fact that it probably lives in rotten logs on the floors of the forests of Madagascar.  The females give birth to live young, which is unique for the insect world.  Furthermore, offspring will typically remain in close physical contact with their parents for an extended period of time after birth.  Now does this sound like the creepy monster that its name inspires?

According to Wikipedia, amusement park Six Flags Great America, had a contest in 2006 granting unlimited line-jumping privileges for all rides to anyone who could eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach as part of a Halloween-themed FrightFest. If a contestant managed to beat the previous world record (eating 36 cockroaches in 1 minute), he would receive season passes for four people during the 2007 season. (I would have competed, but the park refused to allow me to sauté my hissing roaches in garlic and lemon-butter.) Fear Factor, the popular reality TV show, really must have liked this concept because most contestants could expect to get a plate full of hissing cockroaches at their initiation dinner.

Perhaps the Madagascar hissing cockroach should be afraid of us. I doubt any of them have eaten 36 humans!  As a matter of fact, these gentle giants are herbivores.  They prefer a garden variety, (no pun intended), of fruits and vegetables.  They do not like head lettuce, preferring romaine or other green leafy types, with a combination of dry dog food. Bon appetite!  In addition to lettuce, carrots are a fan favorite, as well as apples, oranges, bananas, tomatoes, celery, squash, peas and pea pods.  These "hissing" cockroaches eat healthier than most of us.  If you are keeping them as pets, we suggest providing water placed in a shallow dish with cotton or another absorbent material to prevent your pet from drowning.  That is unless their hissing in unison is causing you to question your sanity.

In order to make the Hissing cockroach as comfortable as possible, pet owners should invest in a 10-15 gallon tank with a secure mesh lid on top, which should be able to house a few of these guys quite nicely.  For décor, you can style the inside of your cockroach's home with aspen wood shavings, staying away from cedar or pine.  The Madagascar hissing cockroach is very particular.  Furnish their surroundings with cardboard rolls from toilet paper, egg cartons, driftwood, and places where they can hide and climb.  No special lighting is needed, but they like a tropical climate anywhere from 75-90 degrees.  I've also heard they like HD TV and surround-sound.

The Hissing cockroach does not bite, but its hissing can be scary if you are not familiar with them. The hissing scares would be predators and has other utilitarian qualities, as well.  Males use it to establish dominance over other males.  They also use it too attract a mate.  So, next time you find yourself confined in a small room accompanied by a few thousand of Madagascar Hissing cockroaches, hey, maybe they're just lonely.

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