The Madagascan Giant
Gromphadorhina portentosa is a great elementary school pet or traveling
exhibit for the classroom. Kids are very impressed with the size while its
slow movements and inability to fly reassure the more nervous sorts (teachers
included). This page has been created to share my experiences with raising
and handling these cockroaches with other people who might use them to introduce
children to insects...and show them how wonderful they are!
Do your hissers ever get broken antenna? If they do, have you noticed if
it is males or females?...old or young....dominant or not? I'd like your
input and I will post the results. Jenn S., who works at a small zoo, has
looked at different populations and found that males, especially older
ones, seem to be likely to have broken antennae. I have the same impression.
I have not seen one break but jousting matches might be the most likely
The Pet Arthropod Page of Scott Bullington is where you want to go for the details
about these animals. Great
photos and information . Go here to look for more detailed answers to
Supply Company's information sheet is well done.
Information about the mite that
lives on the hissing cockroach and help keep it free of parasites!
Literature citations and summaries and
Photos by Bill Styer accompanied International Journal of Acarology articles
by J. A. Yoder; J. A. Yoder and Nathan C. Grojean, Dept. of Biology, Illinois
College, Jacksonville, Illinois, U.S.A.
Kid art: leaf rubbings
turned into insects and why insects are super art subjects.
Teachers, students...list your school and projects
using hissing cockroaches....see end of page.
Mrs. Tracy Trimpe of Havana Junior High, Havana, Illinois invites
you to visit her
Science Spot web site which includes a hisser section.
She writes "My 7th grade science students created a
roach maze out of plywood and 2x4's. The maze was designed so that they
can change the layout by moving a few inside boards. The students are
still collecting data and trying to limit variables. We are trying to
decide if they learn the maze (and remember it) or if they just get more
comfortable with the material and increase their speed. Sparky holds the
speed record to date - 1 min, 18 seconds. Gerdie, our large female, holds
the record for cheating - she usually climbs over the top to get to the
end - lettuce leaves." Check it out for their conclusions.
Allison and Ashley of Cary Academy
did research to establish "Do Madagascan Hissing
Cockroaches prefer junk food or healthy food more?". What do you think?!
Page....this is a new page established by a middle school student
who is a very successful cockroach breeder. Good overview of cockroach
family , as well as tips on keeping.
The following is a list of possibly
useful things to know:
Raising these cockroaches:
- they don't breed as freely as you might fear, or want, depending on
your point of view. I was told by a local nature center person that 2 or
3 broods a year is good and that seems to be what my bunch cranks out.
- The other day I became tired of the pine
shaving aesthetic of my cockroach tank. I gathered some of last fall's
oak leaves to pile in there as a place for them to hide, instead of using
the tinted vitamin bottles that they love to jam into but you can't see
them in there. Now they cling to oak leaves or hug the tank's glass wall
where a leaf leans against it. This makes for much better observations.
The cochroaches do munch on the dry leaves (it sounds like Tostitos) but
none seem worse for wear because of it.
- they grow from the 3/8" size (when I usually see them) quickly
enough to be useful as a classroom observation project; they are almost
as big as the parents in a few months; great graphing project for fourth
- Note: most articles say they don't have
an odor. I think they certainly do, although much less than a mouse
cage. It reminds me of the vegetable decay smell you get off lettuce when
it goes slimey in the frig...(if you know what I'm talking about.) Not
necessarily bad...but distinctive. I never notice it walking by the aquarium,
only when I have my nose over the edge being snoopy. I have put a piece
of cardboard over the top occasionally to contain smell when sensitive
nosed little kids will be closely examining the cage. This smell is there
even with a real tidy and clean cage if you have a bigger colony. It does
get intense if you let it go a few months (you know how it is...cleaning
the 'roach tank is not on the top of my priortized list!) Laurie D. writes
that she notices it, too, "when I have my nose hanging over the tank.".
- when they are young they have the tendency to climb upwards on the
aquarium wall and wedge their little flat bodies into the cover cracks,
so if your cover lifts off expect to have to brush a few roaches back into
the tank so they don't get squashed when you reseat the cover; (I realize
I may be having larger broods than I thought since they could be abandoning
ship when I'm not looking) Two roach wranglers have been kind enough
to write and tell me to smear a band of petroleum jelly around tank top
to discourage and foil this behavior! (This works
great...phew!) It is also rather funny
to watch the adults with greasy feet slowly slide down the side. I don't
think a top is necessary with a good vaseline band, except to keep out
- they like it warm; place a roach tank on a cable TV box to keep it
around 80 degrees and put their "cave" at the spot of maximum
warmth; this temperature is needed if you want to breed them; while they
will live at cooler temperatures (complaining ,I'm sure!) they will be
slowed down the cooler it gets; a slow roach might be wanted for display
or handling reasons, not that they are very zippy at best of temperatures
once they reach adult size; the top of a frig that exhausts up is good,
too; I keep 4 buckets up there and they reproduce well.
- while the literature and many other roach raisers have always mentioned
apples and bananas as food with dog food pellets and water on the side,
I find my roaches really greatly prefer oranges and leafy greens (lettuce,
beet greens) to those; I also supply Purina lab chow and water in a sponge;
I usually give organic fresh veg; zuchinni skin is the current favorite
food during the summer. Black birch leaves (wintergreen smell) were avidly
consumed by 3 of my 4 colonies.
IMPORTANT!: Don't forget to put some dry dog
kibble or lab chow in there. They need occasional protein, which,
if they cannot find it makes them munch on a newly molted colleague! This
info was supplied by a helpful, and thoroughly grossed out, roach wrangler
who hadn't known to give kibble. Another raiser emailed me that moistened
"monkey biscuit" (available at pet stores) works well.
- when they shed their "skin" they usually eat it; but sometimes
they don't so you can eventually accumulate a cool teaching aid by mounting
the empty but amazingly lifelike exoskeletons in a display illustrating
instars; another really cool thing is that they are ivory colored for a
few hours after shedding which makes them look like netsuke!
- as an art teacher I find the cockroaches very motivating models for
a variety of lessons; drawing from nature, symmetrical paper cutting, observation
- even first graders think girls should be afraid of bugs more often
than boys; I do not allow any mock shrieks or ughs (grimaces are allowed
but not encouraged); by explaining how I find the insects beautiful, pointing
out the exquisite engineering of the leg, the color of the exoskeleton,
the fine fuzz on the antenna and so forth; most kids are sucked into a
close viewing out of curiosity or a need to be as cool about it as their
- like every 7th pet cockroach owner, I named my original pair Archy
and Mehitabel after very cool books from the late 20's and 30's by Don
Marquis. Archy was cockroach and Mehitabel a lady cat who had been around
the block a few times; Archy was in love with her (while she was having
none of it); they were friends though; by cleaning up a few of the stories
and poems and retelling them to the kids I got the kids very involved in
the story of how Archy came to learn to type, and therefore be able to
write the books...the children were quiet and patient as I toured the classroom
with the cockroach in my hand during the first "Meet the Roaches"
lesson (some kids tend to believe the story which is an interesting situation)
- set clear rules for viewing the insects the first time so nervous children
do not feel threatened; I tell everyone exactly what I will do...go to
each table of four children, hold my hand with Archy on it in the middle,
the kids can then get as close as they want; I illustrate how close they
can get by putting Archy against my nose, and I say if they feel the need
they can even back away from their seat if done quietly and slowly to spare
- consider having a Rent-A-Roach program so kids can take home a small
cage over the weekend; Roach Raffles could raise money for the school!
(Reality check: Not likely...adults are more
resistant to having cockroaches around than I could have imagined! I have
seen more grimaces on grown-up faces this last year...There have been
several teachers who have adopted classroom pairs, however. And my students
will grow up more tolerant I hope.)
- Having a tank of the cockroaches in an art room gets kids used to them
as pets...after a few months they start wanting a couple in their classroom.
A batch of baby roaches gets everyone interested. The fact they live together
peacefully also makes an impression on children ,who seem to think most
insects live a very 'bug eat bug" sort of life!. Baby cockroaches
often elicit the "ahh...aren't they cute" response (I know that
sounds odd, but children often have great empathy for the young of any
and students! Are you currently
using cockroaches in your classroom as mascots or experiments or ?
Add your school and class to this list of cockroach wranglers! A description
of your science or art projects is welcome, too.
Mr. Schmidek's 5th grade at
Nathan Hale Elementary School in Manchester CT is caring for a mature pair.
The 5th grades study arthropods.
Mrs. DeJulius's 5th grade at Nathan Hale
found an egg case in their tank...but they don't know if anything hatched
The art room at Waddell Elementary school
has a big tank full. A special cockroach castle was made from ceramic for
fun. To see some bug art go HERE!
Emma Craib, elementary school art teacher in Manchester,
Visit our elementary school art web site! Here is one of
Write to email@example.com
with questions or comments.
Want to fold an origami
Have a pre-school kid and want some good
sites to visit with them?