Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bug du Jour: Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Maybe I should start doing Bug du Jour posts?

Back when I worked at the nature museum in Chicago, I had a special fondness for the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. I would often introduce these large buggies to girlscouts and other museum visitors--hissers are slow and gentle and are also quite interesting. Folks are often disgusted by them at first because of their assumptions that cockroaches are dirty disease-carriers... but most people that I introduced to the hissers would come around after being charmed by these huge, shy scavengers.

Something that I found really fascinating when I hung out with the hissers was that they often carried mites that you can see with the naked eye (although the photo below shows the mites under an electron micriscope so you can see their shape clearly). These wee mites do not injure the cockroaches, but instead nibble debris from the surface of the roach, and especially from around its breathing holes.

I also think it's quite exciting that a female hisser carries all of her eggs in an egg case that is located inside her abdomen, and the eggs hatch inside of her before she releases the babies into the world. The babies are perfectly white.

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