Hissing Cockroach at Louisville Zoo

Hissing Cockroach

Island of Madagascar (off the eastern coast of Africa)

Forest floor, on or near rotting logs.

Adults are 2 – 3 inches long, and about 1 inch wide.

May live 2 – 3 years after they reach maturity. Maturity is reached at 5 – 10 months.

Young roaches emerge from an egg case which is retained inside the mother’s body.
The egg case is about 1 inch long, and whitish in color. It is divided into many compartments which contain 1 egg each.
Gestation is about 60 – 70 days, and the female gives birth to 20 – 40 babies (nymphs), over a period of 2 days. The young, which look like miniature adults, are about the size of a watermelon seed and are very flat.
They cluster around the mother for a few days, she protects them by raising her body so they can crawl under her.

Wild: Dead organic matter, decaying meat and animals, feces, and occasionally, dead or injured members of their own species. One of nature’s garbage men.
Zoo: Dog meal


  • These nocturnal roaches are known for their unique ability to produce a loud hiss.
  • This is accomplished by forcing air out through modified spiracles (holes in insects’ abdomen used for breathing). This hissing is used as a defense posture, or is used by the males during courtship and mating.
  • These gentle roaches do not bite or fly — they have no wings. Rather than relying on sight, they use their antennae as tactile and olfactory organs, and they have organs on their legs as well, which respond to vibrations.
  • They have hooks and sticky pads on their limbs to help them climb.
  • They are able to flatten their bodies out and zoom to safety under or into cracks and crevices. Their waxy, slick coating enables them to slip out of the grasp of an enemy clutches.


  • Through study of the fossil records, scientists have learned that roaches were quite abundant during the carboniferous period, 250 million years ago.
  • They have an amazing ability to survive. If frozen, will just crawl away when thawed.
  • While astronauts black out at 12 gn, the cockroach can withstand 126 gn. They can endure 100 times the amount of radiation we humans can.
  • Hissing cockroaches are one of about 4,000 species.
  • Hissing cockroaches exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males have pronatal humps on the thorax, and females have very small humps or none at all.
  • Male roaches defend territories, hissing and ramming humps.
  • Females get along with other females and males both, when all grouped together.
  • One can observe, upon close inspection, the tiny mites that live on the roaches. These are species-specific, and as such, will not live on humans. Their purpose is to keep the cockroach clean.


Carolina Tips—Carolina Biological Supply Article
Ranger Rick Magazine, Deborah Churchman