From the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa, these cockroaches can be found in rotting logs. They reach 2 to 3 inches at maturity. They are wingless, good climbers, and can scale smooth glass. The nickname , hisser, comes from their ability to blow air through holes on their abdomen. The males are identified by their thicker, hairier antennae as well as the “horns” on the pronotum. The females carry the egg case, called ootheca, internally. Their young are released only after the eggs have hatched. Parents and offspring remain in close physical contact for extended periods of time. These cockroaches feed mostly on vegetable material. They can live, in captivity, up to 5 years.
The hisser has been featured in many Hollywood films. One was Bug in 1975. They set fires by rubbing their legs together. They also played in Damnation Alley in 1977, where they were post-nuclear mutant armor-plated killer cockroaches. They were popular in several others such as, Starship Troopers, Team America: World Police in 2004, Fear Factor, and Men in Black as aliens in 1997.
At Six Great America amusement park in 2006, they granted line jumping privileges to anyone who ate a Madagascar cockroach. This was part of the Halloween Fright night theme. Contestant tried to beat the last world record of 36 in one minute. That individual would win season tickets for 4 for the 2007 season. It was very hard for anyone to brake this record because the roaches contain a mild neurotoxin that numbs the mouth making it difficult to swallow.
Some people keep Madagascar cockroaches as pets. They cannot fly, are not aggressive, and don’t bite. They can live off of fresh vegetables. They also feed off any kind of pellet food that is high in protein. This can be dry dog food. Madagascar cockroaches are dark reddish brown to black, with a hard exoskeleton.
Use a 10-15 gallon tank to house several of the cockroaches comfortably. You must use a secure mesh lid. Aspen wood shavings (1-2 inches deep) can be used for a substrate (don’t use cedar or pine). Provide some hiding places., These can be as simple as cardboard rolls from toilet paper, pieces of cardboard egg cartons, cork bark, driftwood, or small cardboard boxes.
Some state require that you have a permit to keep them as pets or breed them. The state of Florida requires this permit. Only males are allowed to be taken out of the lab at the University of Florida’s Department of Entomology and Nematology. They don’t want to release a female into the environment causing uncontrolled breeding.