Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is brown, with orange markings on its abdomen. This giant roach does not have wings or wings pads at any stage in its life. The Madagascar hissing cockroach has small holes (spiracles) for breathing along its back. If the hissing cockroach forces air out quickly, it makes a hissing sound similar to snake.

It makes a hissing sound when threatened or to establish dominance between males. The cockroach is nocturnal and generally active at night. When fully grown, the male and female cockroaches look different. The male grows two humps on the front of its body to use in ramming other males when establishing or defending its territory.

The cockroach is considered one of the most primitive creatures on earth. Some are immune to high doses of radiation (that would kill humans), and some can survive up to a week after losing its head. Interestingly, a cockroach will die from dehydration.


The Madagascar hissing cockroach is an herbivore and eats rotting plants, fallen fruit and vegetables, and decaying animals from the forest floors. It is a scavenger and plays an important role in the nutrient cycle. The cockroach is invaluable for recycling a large majority of the earth’s dead and decaying plant and animal matter. Without the cockroach, tropical forest would smother from and die from dead and decaying vegetation.


The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is native to the island of Madagascar, located off the coast of Africa. It is found living in large colonies among the underbrush on forests floors.


The Madagascar hissing cockroach has many enemies. Birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and even other insects will eat the giant cockroach. Not only does the hissing cockroach have to watch out for these predators, but it also has to deal with a parasite, called the cockroach mite, that feeds on its body.

Social Structure

The Madagascar hissing cockroach lives in large colonies. Within these large colonies, several smaller colonies exist. One male will dominate and hold a territory with several females. No other male is allowed in. If another male enters, it is pushed out of the territory by the dominate male. Females may come and go within these male dominated territories.

Birth & Offspring

Cockroach mating can occur year-round, but only if the climate is warm. When a female is ready to mate, she emits a special scent to attract males. The male circles the female, hissing and touching her antennae. The pair begins body stroking. The pair attach to each other, turn rear to rear, and remain this way for 20 to 30 minutes. The female lays her fertilized eggs in a long yellowish egg case called an ootheca. The ootheca will be kept inside the body for at least 60 days, at which time 15-40 cockroach babies, called nymphs, will emerge. Nymphs are ¼ to ½ inch long and flat. Nymphs stay with their mother for about 6 months after hatching. Nymphs will molt six times in six months, before becoming a sexually mature adult.

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