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Madagascar hissing cockroach

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Madagascar hissing cockroach
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Gromphadorhina portentosa

Gromphadorhina portentosa is a very large and unique member of the cockroach family that only comes from the island of Madagascar. This cockroach has a considerably important job in its natural habitat. Another unique attribute the Madagascar hissing cockroach has is that it can make a hissing noise by pushing air out of the spiracles on its sides. The noise these insects make can be as loud as a lawnmower. The Madagascar hissing cockroach, unlike many cockroaches, does not have wings. This insect is also kept and raised as a pet or as a food source for other pets(like lizards).

Body Design

Madagascar hissing cockroaches displaying the orange coloration on the abdomen

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is an insect and has a head, thorax, abdomen and six legs. However, these cockroaches do not have wings.[2] It is part of the giant cockroach family (Blaberidae). Its body is a smooth and oval shape and has a shiny/waxy appearance. The adults can grow from two-three inches long and about one inch wide. [3] Their coloration ranges from dark mahogany to dark brown and black. The head area is slightly darker than the abdomen. The abdomen can also be an orange color. The hissing cockroach's feet have little hooks and pads that aid in climbing on smooth surfaces. They can even walk on glass without much trouble. [2]

Madagascar hissing cockroaches display sexual dimorphism (the males and females look different). The male is bigger than the female and has large horns behind the head (the females just have small bumps.) Also the antennae of the females and males differ. The female's antennae are smooth and the male's are more feathery. [4] The holes that run along the abdomen are what the hissing cockroach uses to make their hissing noise (in comparison to most insects that rub body parts together in order to make noises).[3]

Life Cycle

cockroach nymphs emerging from the female

The life cycle of the Madagascar hissing cockroach is a little different then the life cycles of other cockroaches. They are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. This unique insect displays incomplete metamorphosis (egg, nymph, adult.)[4] The adult male uses its hissing sound as a courtship call for the female. The male with also defend his mating grounds with hissing and pushing and shoving the other males. The hissing cockroach can breed all year round but they usually do it when the weather is warm. The female produces a special scent that the male cockroach is attracted to. They detect the scent with their antennae. This scent decreases with age.

When the two cockroaches find each other, they begin by touching each other's antennae. Next they put their rears together for about thirty minutes (internal fertilization).[2] The female cockroach has an internal egg sac called the ootheca. The female carries the eggs inside for about two months. When the eggs hatch, they are released. About fifteen to forty cockroach nymphs (look like mini adults but lack reproductive organs) will come out.[5] The nymphs will molt their exoskeletons about six times before they become adults. At seven months old, the cockroach is sexually mature. The Madagascar hissing cockroach lives two to five years in the wild and in captivity.[2]


Gromphadorhina portentosa comes from Madagascar, an island near Africa. They can live in tropical rainforests and also tropical dry forests. The Madagascar hissing cockroach has a very important job in its habitat. It lives on the forest floor and feeds on decaying plant and animal matter.[6] If it wasn't for the Madagascar hissing cockroach digesting and processing all the decomposing vegetation/fruits/and animal materials, the forest would be smothered.

The cockroach has many natural predators including birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and even other insects. Madagascar cockroaches also have another rather unusual predator: a parasite called the cockroach mite that feeds on its body.[7]

Madagascar hissing cockroaches as Pets

Hissing cockroaches shown in their artificial habitat

It may seem surprising at first, but the Madagascar hissing cockroach is a popular pet. They can be kept in a glass aquarium or a plastic container. However, most people smear Vaseline or olive oil on the sides of the enclosure to prevent the cockroach (who is an extremely good climber) from escaping. The habitat for a pet cockroach must include pieces of egg carton or other such hiding places. The Madagascar hissing cockroach does not have any unpleasant odors and the habitat isn't hard to keep clean.

The cockroaches need to be fed a protein rich food (like cat food or a roach diet)and can be provided with various vegetables and fruits. However the vegetables and fruits can become moldy so they must be removed before this happens.[8] It is usually a good idea to use heating mats with a thermostat to regulate temperatures in the cockroaches habitat.[9] Water for the cockroaches can be provided using a sponge so that the bedding doesn't get too wet and the cockroach nymphs don't drown. The Madagascar hissing cockroach has no fear of humans so they are easy to handle and will sit on a persons hand without trying to get away. Most people will keep and breed these cockroaches to use as food for their other pets (such as lizards).[10]


  1. .Gromphadorhina WikiSpecies. Web. last updated: 15 August 2013 Author Unknown.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Jessee, Ashley. Gromphadorhina portentosa Madagascan hissing cockroach Animal Diversity Web. Web. Date of access: 16 December 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 . Madagascar Hissing Cockroach National Geographic. Web. Date of access: 16 December 2013 Author Unknown.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Clark, Debbie. MADAGASCAR HISSING COCKROACHES University of Kentucky. Web. last updated: 22 January 2013.
  5. Sreng, L. Madagascar Giant Hissing Cockroach Encyclopedia of Life. Web. Date of access: 9 January 2014 (specify which).
  6. . Madagascan hissing cockroach Bristol Zoo Gardens. Web. Date-of-publication or last-update or access (specify which Date of access: 13 January 2014 Author unknown.
  7. . Madagascar Hissing Cockroach The Big Zoo. Date of access: 13 January 2014 author unknown.
  8. . Madagascar Hissing Roach Care and Breeding New York worms. Web. Date of access: 13 January 2014 author unknown.
  9. Pickin, Les. How to care for Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches - Gromphadorhina portentosa Easy insects. Web. Date of access: 13 January 2014.
  10. . Madagascar Giant Hissing Cockroaches Aqualand's tips to keeping Gromphadorhina portentosa Aqualand Fact Sheets. Web. Date of access: 13 January 2014 Author unknown.