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Madagascan Hissing Cockroach

Gromphadorhina portentosa

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

There are some noisy residents at Woburn Safari Park, these aren’t your average run-of-the-mill roach. Despite their scary appearance, these creepy crawlies are fascinating and are extraordinary to get close to. Come and see our Madagascan Hissing Cockroach in the ‘Disscovery Zone' (only open at set times throughout the day).

Distribution
Madagascar
Habitat
Tropical forests
Height
Length 5-7.5 cm (2-3 in.)
Weight
Up to 22.7 grams (0.8 oz.)
Lifespan
2 - 5 years
Threats
The forests in Madagascar are one of the most threatened of all habitats and due to deforestation and forest degradation.

Behaviour

Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches are nocturnal, foraging at night. Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches communicate by hissing, they do this by pushing air through a pair of openings in their abdomen called spiracles. This produces a loud hissing noise that can startle a predator, giving the cockroach a chance to escape.

Diet

Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches act as decomposers, eating leaf-litter on the forest floor and decaying plant, rotten fruits that have fallen from trees, fungi and animal tissue. 

Physical features

Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches are wingless members of the cockroach family. Like other cockroaches, their bodies are flattened, which allows them to crawl into narrow crevices. Their head is small, and is usually held underneath the thorax. Adults are dark brown with dark orange markings on the abdomen. Males have a pair of large bumps or horns behind their heads on the thorax; these are used in territorial fights. Females have much smaller bumps or none at all. 

Breeding behaviour

Hissing is not just to protect territory and warn of danger but is also used as part of the cockroaches’ courtship behaviour. Males are territorial for breeding and may mate with several females. Pairs communicate by hissing, or through stances and stereotyped actions. Females create a cocoon-like egg case called an ootheca and carry their eggs inside their bodies for about two weeks. They then bear living young, as many as 60 nymph roaches.

The young nymphs are miniature versions of the adults but remain white until the outer cuticle hardens. These tiny nymphs must moult their exoskeletons (outer covering) a number of times in order to grow and become adult. During each moult the nymph will split its skin at the front end and crawl out. The new covering is soft and white and allows the nymph's body to grow, before hardening and darkening in colour. The final moult takes place when the insect is about nine months old, after which it becomes sexually mature.

Threats and conservation

Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches are not listed as endangered. Overall, the global population size has not been quantified. The forests in Madagascar are one of the most threatened of all habitats and due to deforestation and forest degradation e.g. mining, slash and burn agriculture. They provide an important role in Madagascar acting as nutritional recyclers. Despite the pressures they face in the wild, these animals are popular as pets and fairly widespread. 

Fun facts

Madagascan Hissing Cockroach is most like the prehistoric cockroaches that roamed the earth long before the dinosaurs. This is a very ancient insect order, with fossilised cockroaches estimated to be 300 million years old! For this reason they are also called ‘living fossils’.

The mite is a common parasite of this cockroach. These mites form small clumps of four to six individuals at the base of the leg of their cockroach host. While it was originally thought that this mite was sucking blood from the cockroach, recent studies showed that the mite simply "shares" in a cockroach's food items.