STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
The Madagascar hissing cockroach has a compound body consisting of a head, thorax, and abdomen. They are oval shaped with one pair of antennae and six legs, with each leg having pads and hooks on their feet that enable them to climb smooth surfaces. Unlike many other species of cockroach, Madagascars have no wings. The exoskeleton can range in color from a light to mahogany brown or black.
These cockroaches are one of the largest species in the world, growing to two to four inches in length. Males are usually larger than females. While they look very similar, there are some sexual dimorphic traits between the males and females of Madagascars. They have pronatal humps, or bumps behind their heads, which are very subtle in most females, but appear as much larger horn-like structures in males. The antennae in males also tend to be a bit “fuzzier” and thicker than in females.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Madagascar hissing cockroaches live in a colony and have an established hierarchy. As their name states, these cockroaches hiss, making a similar noise to that of a snake, by forcefully expelling air through their spiracles or respiratory organ openings. They have multiple types of hisses used for attracting females, defense against predators, and to compete with other males. Males use their horns in rivalries similar to the way other horned or antlered mammals do, by ramming into other males. They are nocturnal and will forage for food at night.
Males pick up odors from females and will hiss and touch a female’s antennae with his own. They will then attach rear to rear with one another for approximately 30 minutes to reproduce. Females will incubate the eggs inside themselves for about two months, before the nymphs hatch inside her. Fifteen to 60 nymphs are then released. Nymphs will molt six times to reach adulthood, which usually takes six to seven months, and most live two to five years.
The Madagascar hissing cockroach is endemic to the island of Madagascar and is not found in any other locations.
They live on forest floors amongst leaf litter, logs and other detritus.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are opportunistic decomposers and feed primarily on fruit and plant materials that have ripened and fallen to the forest floor.